The Debt of Belonging
I moved to Greater Noida 2.5 years ago to start teaching at a university in the middle of Dadri. This is my first time living, working and discovering all the stereotypes of life in Western UP. Moving to any new place comes with its challenges but the challenges of Gr.N and Dadri are of a different order altogether. Gr.N is still barely populated, the roads though wide and the fields of paddy, wheat and mustard inviting, the word is that it is not “safe” to venture out solo. So no intrepid photo exploration of the place I inhabit to stake the most basic claim of belonging: “I know this place”. The challenge of being here is precisely in the difficulty of feeling that one belongs. Gr.N is socio-economically complicated — agricultural land is being turned into apartments for the rich — so I understand that it cannot be an unexamined, uncritical occupying of space where I have landed, as if, out of nowhere.
Since my move into this edge of the NCR many more of my colleagues at work have moved closer to where I live. I can now claim a community of friends. And together we have started exploring the place for its oddities and gifts. The kaash flowers that blossom every autumn and take over all the fields is on top of the gift list. I have a new appreciation for large trees, their odd shaped fruits and startling flowers. I discovered a street lined with Jacarandas that blossom and rain purple flowers in April. The migratory birds and the migratory shepherds who camp in fields near my house with their goats, sheep and donkeys are becoming a rhythmic consonance of time that my body is learning to keep. This new rhythm with its predictability is becoming familiar, becoming what I know, becoming what I belong to.
If I live here for longer, I think the place will yield to me as I yield to it. It won’t be in ways I have known before. And when it does I’d have accrued some unpayable debts. I’d belong, and I wouldn’t be able to buy myself back.