Leaving, but not yet

I’ve always been the one who leaves people behind, moving on to newer places. I’ve very rarely been the person who stands at the gate, waving goodbye to someone jetting off. I’ve lived in eight cities, travelled to a thousand others, and think of leaving ‘here’ all the time, thanks to a father who has a ‘transferable’ (what an Indianism!) job. Which is why, this moment in life stands starkly against all previous experience, however little or lot that may be.

Towards the close of my post-graduation, I finally managed to cement a few friendships that seemed like they’d last forever. We were a group of six, of which two were a steady couple. And it seemed like we did everything together. Eat, sleep, drink, smoke, get high, play cards, travel, dance, party, study, cheat on exams — basically, everything you’d expect a gang of college kids to do. We laughed, cried, spent whole days together, told each other our deepest secrets. It was wonderful and more. But then it began to, very slowly, imperceptibly, break.

What happened? Nothing tumultous, nothing catastrophic. No big showdowns, no wars, no egos. Simply life. Work, love, more college degrees took us apart. Better prospects, as we love to call them here. These wonderful opportunities were to be found in Bombay, Dubai, China. One by one, all but two of us migrated. They all seemed so happy to be leaving. And now I saw that gleam of hope, of excitement, of anticipation in every one of their faces. And I missed it.

It’s not like no one’s ever moved out on me before. Now that I think of it, this has happened at every step of life. When we finished with school, my oldest, closest friend left for Mangalore to become a dentist. Five years later, another school friend got married and moved to Pune. A dear friend from college now lives in Bombay. The last I spent quality time with him was when we were in Chennai together.

I miss them. All of them. Sorely. I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of those moments when some small thing takes you back instantly across a vast expanse of time and space, and you glide over the life you’ve lived like an eagle, watching it whoosh past in front of your eyes. This happened to me earlier today while I was on a bus that crosses my school — I saw that red brick building that I fell in love with on a cloudy afternoon 14 years ago and — whoosh! There it all was, there they all were.

Seeing as we’ve lived quite the nomadic life, trucking around the entire country, with a couple of years of stopovers, Delhi/NCR is what I can actually call home. And now, it feels like high time to move on.

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