The first time I moved in my life was when I left Calcutta to come to the US to do my PhD, having spent almost all of my life in the same house in the same city. I know I should have been sad, leaving home and family, but I was not . I was excited, deliriously so, for I was looking forward to staying on my own, of not having to answer to a million watchful eyes, of breaking free of a strait jacketed Bengali middle class upbringing, and at the very least, for not having to hide my Pamela Anderson pictures in the C-prog-files directory renamed as P0001.dat.
Now almost twenty years later, I am aware of what I lost that day I stepped onto the British Airways flight. I lost my friends, sure we would meet again off and on and talk, but friendship comes in a context and once that is gone, histories diverge, and all you have are strangers with familiar names and weird forwards on Whatsapp. I also lost my connection with much of what had made me, Bedwin biriyani and mahabprabhu mistanna bhandar and cricket on the streets on bandh days (BBC or Big Bandh cricket), and they all changed too, without me in them, leaving behind husks of what once was known.
I have moved a lot since then, after my PhD to Detroit and then to Maryland and I was in my late 20s and never in all this did I feel a sense of loss, for I was too busy moving ahead, too preoccupied with the next big thing: my first job, my first non-shared place of residence, my first car that wasn’t second hand.
But as thirties moved into the forties, you change. You realize that defining happiness through the prism of attaining the next big thing is not only damned by definition but also doomed by reality, at least in my case, since I fail way more often than I succeed. Faced with the possibility of a permanent affliction of middle aged angst, I have come to recast happiness as the maintenance of familiarity, the comfort of routine, of shopping at the same place, knowing which aisle the produce is, the same drive every day, of familiar faces at work and familiar responsibilities, of an inoffensive social circle and anodyne conversations. I have detached from individuals, for people betray and change and move on, but I connect to the collective, because places are not as fickle, and change slowly and even when they do, not without reason.
Which is why the disruption of a move is unsettling, being uprooted is to me now like the first few minutes of Up and the last few of Coco. Seeing my daughter embracing her friends and promising to keep in touch breaks my heart because I know it won’t happen, she will move on and so will they, not that she feels any deep sense of loss, that is the blessing of being but five, but I do, in a strange reflected way because it reminds me of what I have lost, the places I will never see again, the part of me I have left behind at various places, hopes and dreams and USB drives.
Of course I know I will settle down in a few months, for time heals broken hearts and amputated limbs and a move is but a trifle in comparison.
But for now, I miss them all, all the places that I used to live in now live in me, as I stumble forward in search of the quiet comfort of the predicted life.