The Homecoming Dilemma: When Nostalgia Clashes With Reality
You thought your birthplace was the absolute best place on Earth. And now you feel you can’t settle there?
I know it’s an unpopular thing to say and may seem counterintuitive. But both can be true. You will soon find out.
As a kid, I believed Cuttack was the best place in the world! Not that I had seen many other cities. But teenage confidence makes you feel you know what you’re talking about.
Maybe you’ve been there too. Those days when your birthplace felt like the centre of the universe.
Cuttack Chronicles: Playgrounds & Street Food Galore
Growing up in Cuttack meant having multiple playing fields and mouthwatering street food. At that age, isn’t that all you need?
Living a mile from Barabati Stadium and 500 metres from Jawahar Lal Nehru Indoor Stadium was a bonus. You could walk to catch a game to avoid the vehicular traffic around the parking area.
A five-minute walk from home led you to the best Dahibara Aaludum you could hope to taste.
On the way to school and back, Jena Baramaja tantalised taste buds with the best Odia Namkeen. Not to miss Kaalia Chat at Tinkonia Bagicha, worth every mile or minute of the drive or ride, depending on the vehicle you use to get there. From mutton chops to chicken rolls, Cuttack was a foodie’s paradise.
Leaving the Nest: The Big Move to Delhi
But then, life pulled me out of my comfort zone. I moved to India’s bustling capital, Delhi. It was green, had wide roads, and boasted incredible weather between October and March. However, change is the only constant. Pollution crept in and ruined much between.
So, how do I feel now?
Delhi’s polluted air can be a big downer. But one thing’s for sure: Delhi knows how to do food!
Dining out with family? I am spoilt for choices, even if I walk just five minutes from home. It’s a food lover’s paradise, with countless options to explore. The food scene has certainly evolved. And how!
And though the green cover has reduced since I got here, there are pockets where it is still lush green.
Experience is a function of exposure. Only when you experience more you know what you are missing.
Here’s an example: 18 years ago, I drove a Maruti 800. I was content. For a long time, I had not driven any other automobile brand. One day, my car broke down on the way to catch a film with Gargi, my wife-to-be. A dear friend, Monica, rushed to offer me her car so that we wouldn’t miss the movie, while she kindly arranged for a mechanic to fix it. Driving her Opel Corsa enlightened me on what I was missing.
I know I’m comparing a small car to a sedan and a small town to a big city. But once you find comfort, you miss it if it’s not there.
The Homecoming Dilemma
A few days ago, Roopa Ma’am, my daughter’s schoolteacher, asked me at the bus stop, “Will you move back to your home state at some stage?”
Her question got me thinking. I had now lived longer in Delhi than in Odisha.
Returning to Cuttack is always a mixed bag. Everything I cherish, from the street food to the playgrounds and the iconic Barabati Stadium, is still here. But can I go back for good? Doubtful.
Cuttack’s got its share of issues — congestion, encroached roads, and sanitation troubles. The city’s vital problems are like a maze of narrow lanes that’ll test your driving skills, reflexes, and patience.
My parents shifted to Bhubaneswar two and a half decades ago. Bhubaneswar transformed into a tech hub, a cosmopolitan paradise with a blend of cultures and opportunities from every corner of India. It’s flourishing, but Cuttack is struggling with problems that seem unsolvable during my lifetime.
So, dear reader, as we wrap up this nostalgic rollercoaster, here’s the takeaway: Nostalgia’s a powerful force, but it doesn’t always stand the test of time. Our hometowns hold a special place in our hearts, but sometimes, we must admit that the grass might be greener elsewhere.
Cuttack is still my beloved, but it’s time to let it be the memory it deserves to be.