Jammu. I am in a love and hate relationship with this city.
I have always maintained that I don’t associate the feeling of being home with any city. Home for me is where my family is, the people I love are. Only now do I realize how wrong I was. The city does matter to me and this hit me only after I moved out of her boundaries. When I use the word ‘homesick’ now, I am not just referring to missing my mother, father, or say my room. I miss Jammu, my hometown. For the last 19 years of my existence, this city is all I have ever had. The first time I opened my eyes, it was this city I saw. The first time I fell down while running too fast, it was this city that bruised me. Jammu has given me friends and she has given me foes. She gave me my first crush. She has given me my own special nooks that I love to escape to whenever I require the company of my solitude and solitude alone. I identify with this city. She’s a part of me- a part so inseparable but equally undemanding that I never bothered to acknowledge her importance.
For all that Jammu has given me, all that this city has taught me, I love her. I love her for being my home. I love her for always being a protective mother to me. I love her for never hurting me. And it is for this reason that I hate her as well. She has made me a cripple in so many ways. She has been my shield owing to which I was never let free to recognize my own weapons, my strengths. On those off days, when I wanted to go invisible and lose myself in the crowd, she did not let me because every face, every turn that this city has to offer, I am deeply familiar with it all. She gave me the best of people which led me into believing that everyone is basically nice. She has given me wide, open roads with minimal traffic at all hours. She has given me a star-lit sky to stare at each night. Jammu is a separate world in herself, and the day you step out of this world, you are faced with a reality much different from the one you had been living till now. You find yourself in a concrete jungle with no stars to keep you company on lonely nights. You find yourself thinking 10 times before crossing the road because the traffic is alarming. You find yourself striving to become self dependent, an exercise you find very hard because all this while you never had to fend for yourself. You meet two-faced people but it takes you eternity to recognize them because all this while, you thought that nobody would even think of harming you. It was only when you moved out of your city that you meet the hypocrites. You realize that there are those who want to get along with everyone, even if that means drowning under a shower of brickbats each moment. There are those who will use you as a disposal bin on days they have no other place to be at, all this while telling you how important you are to them. These people, they will drain you off the last drop of your emotions. Peacemakers, they call themselves. The truth is, they are hardly at peace with themselves. But you hardly faced any such hardships in your city. Your city was no less than a genie, fulfilling every wish of yours as if she were obligated to do so. You find it extremely difficult to come out of your comfort zone. You crib, you whine. You curse your city.
I might love Jammu or I might hate her, it all comes down to the fact that I feel for her. She is important. And like everything important, she is not something I can hold onto forever. I will never be whole without her but I cannot complete myself with her either. She is a muse whose memories will stay etched in my heart. But a memory is all that she will remain because that’s the only way I can grow, I can discover myself.
I don’t deny that even now whenever there is a plan to go home, my excitement levels shoots up. I imagine myself running down the street shouting my happiness at the top of my lungs. But no. Every minute spent away from home is a constant struggle. It means crappy hostel food, selfish strangers, confused questions. It means waking up each morning to the same miserable reality. It means making your cell phone your best friend and trying to keep in touch with familiar souls. It’s accepting the fact that in the beginning you are going to feel lost and there will be wolves trailing not so far behind you. So every time when I finally reach home, I don’t run or scream as I expect myself to. All I do is hug my mothers really tight, sit back, sigh a sigh of relief, and go for a walk in the outskirts of the city.
Having said that, the truth is, I have shed my leaves and I need to find a way to grow new ones.
For now, I am an outcast.
Jammu will always remain home for me, but a home I can’t hold close and there sure is no home away from home.