An Unfinished Love Letter to the Place I Call Home

Surabhee Arjunwadkar - Ecuador


August 14, 2018


पुणे.
पुनवडी.
पुण्यनगरी.
माझं शहर.
माझं घर.


Sometimes, I wish I had found you sooner,
felt your magic,
seen your beauty.


I remember, two years ago,
when two foreigners thought
that a rather unimpressive, dirty bridge was beautiful,
I thought it was absurd.
Now, as I pass that bridge, it reminds me of them,
of their culture, of their idea of beauty
and I try to replicate it.
I try to see you in their eyes.
I try to see how and why the most tattered architecture could be beautiful.
And I feel it.
The history.
And the years.


I am proud to call you my own.
I am proud to belong to you,
To be one of the thousands and thousands that call you home.


I am the lit-up eyes of the rikshāwālā when I say thank you to him.
I am the rush of the bus driver when he barely stops for people to get on.
I am the smile that lights up the faces of women when I smile at them.
I am the appreciation when I see anyone wearing a saree.


But I am also the male-gaze that follows every woman and girl 
and makes her think how her outfit could be “less provocative.”
I am the motorbike that doesn’t follow the red light.
I am the faded zebra crossing that no one pays attention to.
I am the dirty, barely existing sidewalks.
I am the old wādās that are torn down to make newer, uglier buildings.
I am the children selling cheap toys at signals.
I am the flower garlands,
and the breastfeeding women on buses.

 

When I think of you,
I think of Shivaji Road, my favourite place in the whole city
and how it scares the shit out of me.
I see the sex-workers on that road and it takes me to a place that makes me think of all the things that are wrong in this world.
I think of how it takes 20 minutes to travel the distance of less than a kilometre.
I think of the pollution.
I think of how women wearing sarees can show their stomachs and backs and no one gives them a second glance.
And yet, when the western culture takes over and girls wear crop tops, their stomachs are considered uncultured, un-sanskari.
I think of the hypocrisy and the corruption that hangs in the polluted air.

 

I love you with all my heart
and yet, I absolutely hate things about you.
I hate how fast you are growing, expanding.
I hate how people don’t speak Marathi that often anymore.
I hate how everything is in English and how English has become the unofficial official language of India.
I hate how I prefer English over Hindi.
I don’t like the way you are changing.
Yet, I can do nothing but to accept you as you are.

And now I leave you,
for another country.
I will learn new things, meet new people.
All the while, I will be thinking: “माघारी वळणे नाहि मराठी शील”
And I will not give up.
Because you give me hope,
you give me strength.

 

Wherever life takes me,
Wherever I am,
I will be thinking of you.
I will remember the time two women on the bus asked me what book I was reading.
I will think of the traffic jams and the broken streetlights.
On Thursdays, I will naturally assume there won’t be any electricity.
And when homesickness washes over me, I will think of the tree
right outside my window that I can look at for hours and hours,
of the few rays of sunlight that reach me in the early hours of dawn.

 

There are so many things I wish I could say.
And when the time comes, I will find the words to say them.
This isn’t goodbye.

 

निरोप घेते तुझा.  
आणि येते.  
आणि जाता जाता एकच इच्छा व्यक्त करते, फक्त एकच अपेक्षा —
बदलू नकोस.

Surabhee Arjunwadkar