I never expected to be writing on this theme. But having gone through this phenomenal experience in my life, I couldn't hold back from expressing it.
The context for this particular blog piece is that I have been away from home for over 4 years and just got back to my lovely Garden City a few days ago. Of course, I have been making periodical visits during these last 4 years, but the feeling of being back in the place where I belong is something else. It’s hitting me quite hard and I also see this place so differently now. I mean, the old landmarks are the same, the roadside corner shops are still the same, the tree-lined street near my house is still the same, the sense of familiarity and happiness while cooping up in my old bed is still the same (if not, enhanced due to the home factor!). Yet...there are changes.
The changes are in the way I view my lovely hometown now. Bangalore is not what it used to be. It no longer is the pensioner's paradise that it used to be. Reams of paper have been spent in writing about the growth of this silicon city of India. But for a local like me, the change is apparent - growth has both its pluses and minuses. And more importantly, having been away from home for a while, I view home differently now.
Quite differently, actually. There is a great sense of appreciation for home. There are a few million things that I had to do all on my own in the last 4 years in the different places I stayed in - all of which are just taken care of down here at home. No need to run around in paying bills, no need to hunt for a house, no need to save up extra cash, no need to pay rent, no need to hunt for a reliable servant...the list is endless. And these are the charms of life back home that I have begun to appreciate even more than I did before. Possibly because, I had to not only manage my career, bosses, clients, teams, what have you, in the last 4 years, but also had to manage my own self and things associated with my life outside of a career.
But, those experiences of having struggled through the last 4 years and having been through my own set of unique experiences, has taught me the value of going through that phase. It has convinced me that everybody needs to have a stint outside of his/her home, in order to learn about many things in life. It is not that these things cannot be learnt sitting at home, but the learning curve is steeper and faster, if one moves out of one's comfort zone. There are experiences, which maketh the individual and contributes to the shaping of a personality. Staying away from home has taught me many things - while the list is quite long, the ones I immediately recall are that I have learnt to manage myself better; staying away from home has taught me to manage my finances; it has inculcated the good habit of saving for a rainy day; it has made me learn the meaning of investments; it has made me extremely self-reliant; I have become very, very confident to tackle life; staying away has made me learn that everything in life is not offered on a platter & that one needs to work hard and literally, "earn" one's living; staying away has taught me that the world is full of inequalities and imbalances and imperfections; that situations are circumstantial; that things change at the rate of knots; that there are things one can exercise control over, and there are things that one can do nothing about.
In the course of staying away from home, I have learnt to speak to people from different backgrounds. I have tried to see how different people approach life; how their backgrounds, compulsions and experiences contribute to the way they see the world. The simplest example, I can think of, is the assumption I had of laptops and computers being the ‘common-est’ thing possible. But no, there are places and people, who find it hard to get a phone and manage it. There are people who don't know English (another thing I had thought to be the most common thing possible). There are people who are uneducated. There are people who cannot afford the luxury of even a budget airline in the country...like I said, staying away from home has taught me many, many things - the list is truly endless.
I grew up in the comfort of my parents' abode, where we had all the facilities in the world, thanks to my dad's employment in good positions in India's biggest bank. There were so many things I took for granted - car, driver, servant maid, good houses, great campuses, access to facilities, etc - am not saying that I was a spoilt child, but I did not necessarily understand that there is a world beyond this where there are millions of people who are deprived 2 square meals a day. That is what I have learnt, having stayed alone for the last 4 years - I mean, I always knew it, but having survived and having fended for myself, I now know the meaning of hard work.
Having been through all this, in the first quarter of my life, I am convinced that each individual needs to see life in its elements for himself/herself - and staying away from home is one of the greatest ways to learning all that. Not everybody can do that - some people come from the privileged race and may not necessarily be accommodating of the lesser privileged (am not generalising here, but just stating that such people exist). Others, may not be able to do it i.e. stay away from home, due to compulsions in their lives. But, it is important to see the world. It is important to know that there is a big world out there, full of imperfections and things that many of us just assume to be so normal. For me, at least, staying away from home for 4+ years, was an eye-opener. I am a much improved person now in terms of my ability to understand things and look at alternative opinions and feelings.
I am extremely tempted to join the Teach India initiative that the Times of India has started. I don't think I want to let the hard lessons learnt in the last 4 years, go wasted.