I’ve always lived in Mumbai. There, social, religious and economic differences coexist and create my reality. I witness opposites juxtapose, yet uniquely complement each other. Although I live in 3-storey bungalow dwarfed by adjacent towering high-rises in a quiet suburb- Juhu. At 6am daily the voice of Azan from the Juhu Mosque chimes with the bhajans from the Iskon temple. On the bend to Juhu beach the waft of tantalizing “chaat” (street food) blends with the aroma of international food at beach eateries. Accord even in discord – that is Mumbai.
Soon after moving to Claremont, I missed the small things about Mumbai. It was not really homesickness because I did not long to go back. On the contrary I was very engaged in classes and the college life here. It was a strange discomfort of being pulled out of a routine I’d been part of. It was this weird sensation of unfamiliarity and foreignness.
Many mornings, while walking to classes, I would reminisce about my school carpool with my three close friends (we carpooled to school and back every day for 13 years). We loved listening to music on our way back from school. Not from our phones, but on RedFM 93.5 the best Bollywood radio channel. It used to be the background cacophony to the intense riff-offs on afternoons after school or the soothing melody on quiet exam mornings.
The little things like that were no longer a part of reality and it was dis-orienting at times. While adjusting to life here it became more and more clear to me that there were too many of these little things about Mumbai that gave me a sense of belonging. But there were too many exciting opportunities and unexplored dimensions here that I would not get back home. I was confused and overwhelmed at the same time. I started finding ways to Claremont seem like Mumbai. Whether it was watching hindi movies with friends and subtitles or making a stronger effort to connect to Indian culture in general. Soon, I truly understood the essence of sayings like home is a feeling and not a place.
Although I don’t think I can ever call Claremont home, it is beginning to come close.
- Aashna Saraf '21
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