“It’s funny how things never change in this old town”
Updated: Nov 15, 2020
I didn’t want to grow up here. Not in this excuse for a town – a half-hearted compensation for something big.
I hate the roads. They all lead to some place I know. Take a right turn and there’s my school. Walk straight ahead for seven minutes and you’ll reach my best friend’s place. Twenty steps further then duck below that awning– that’s where I got kissed for the first time. The three roads that lead home. The potholes I jump over on my way to gran’s. The alleys where I hid with my best mates. The crossroad where I turned back to look at him. I hate that I can walk down these with my eyes closed. I hate that they always bring me somewhere I’ve already been. I hate that it’s never somewhere new – never somewhere I can escape myself.
I hate most places here. They all have a story to remind me. The coffee shop I used to be a regular of. The bookstore mapped into my head. That field dad drove me to while I sang at the top of my voice. The shop where the owner has smiled at me all through my Pringles to my Marlboro phase. That classroom where I broke the rules. The garage we drank our beer in. The places I’ve eaten so many times at, I could probably recite their menus from memory. The terrace where I came out. The backyard where I first saw him. The bakery where the employees know my favourite. Every place is a part of who I am or at least used to be. I hate that they remember – that they’ll be reminiscent of who I already am and don’t want me to have second chances at making decisions.
My mother once asked me why I hated this town so much.
“Because everything bad that has happened, has happened here.”
“Everything that has happened, has happened here, sweetie.”
I hate this town, and there’s no changing my mind.
I hate that sometimes when I spend the night on the terrace, I can tell the time by the colour of the sky.
I hate that I know when the Azaan is going to start and wake dad up.
I hate that I know there’ll be thirty seven homeless people waiting by the Gurudwara every Sunday, waiting for their meal.
I hate that I used to let our clock tower remind me of the Big Ben.
I hate that the fairgrounds have imprints of my footsteps by now and the Ferris Wheel has gotten used to my screams of every year.
I hate that there’s a smug grin on my face when my sisters complain of the sultry weather in their cities.
I hate the shops that sell my team’s jersey. I hate that little park by the apartment of the guy I used to like.
I hate the songs I’ve heard on the radio when I was thirteen. I hate all the times I’ve missed out on some indie band show.
I hate how there’s always fireworks going off – every night.
I hate all the parts of the city I’ve learned on my own and kept to myself.
Sometimes when I’m running back to my place in the rain, I force my clumsy legs to co-operate and slow down – I hate that the city somehow looks pretty when it’s drowning.
People here are supposed to be interested only in their own lives. But, then a kid will lose both her parents and there’ll not be a single soul holding off their aid – I hate that we never stick to people’s idea of us.
There was this one time the teacher asked us to write about our city and how we’d like an outsider – a person who is yet to see the mountaintop from their window– to see it. When I got my work back, she looked up and said, “You quite love this city, don’t you?”
“I don’t. I just pay a little attention.”
“Whoever told you that they’re different things? Don’t you think they’re the same thing? Love and attention?”
I’ve tried to run away. I’ve tried to change things. I can’t wait to get out of here and begin my life somewhere else. I cannot wait to learn the lanes and corners of another town. I cannot wait to see who it lets me become.
I hate that when someone names my town, I will always think of home.