When I waved goodbye to Pune, my home for twenty-eight years, there were many predictions. A majority thought I would come running back with my tail between my legs because I would not be able to adapt to life in the US. Yet others felt I would miss Pune too much and want to come back. I had given myself two years to decide whether or not life in the US would suit me. But deep inside me I knew. I knew I I would adapt. I knew I would not miss Pune. I knew it was right for me. And luckily for me I have a large family in the US who rallied around me to be my support system.
I am not heartless and unpatriotic. I do miss my life in Pune but there is an expiry date for everything and my time in Pune had come to an end. As a single woman in the city, it was just not the same anymore. No matter how much Pune progresses, at heart it is still a small town. A town for families, students and the elderly. I love the city but it no longer provided me the enjoyment of previous years. I knew I would miss the people but technology has shrunk the world. Between Whatsapp, Skype, Facetime, Viber, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I am more connected than ever. And luckily I return to Pune frequently enough to stay in touch physically too. People today are world travelers so funnily enough; I meet people in New York who I did not see as much in Pune!
New York. The city of my dreams. As a US citizen, the choice of where to move was quite simple. It is right up there among my favourite cities of the world. The top slot is London but New York comes a close second. What is it about New York that Pune could not provide? I think most importantly the ability to be free and not judged. I am in sole charge of my life. It is empowering. I do not need to maintain a certain type of lifestyle and yet enjoy myself. I travel by public transport regularly. As a museum junkie, the city affords me the opportunity to visit many different types of museums. There are shows galore. I attend musicals plays, concerts, impromptu gatherings, and book readings. And the restaurants. There are big ones, small ones, famous ones, nondescript ones, experimental ones, organic ones, gluten free places, steakhouses and grills, dessert places, cafes, wine bars, rooftop places and the list goes on.
On the flip side I know I can get shows, restaurants and events in Pune and I did enjoy that life. But the choice is limited and unfortunately I do not speak Marathi so I lose out on a total cultural experience in that genre. But Pune offers something New York does not: friends and family. I miss dropping into homes for a chat and chai or a glass of wine. I miss the concern. I miss the caring. I miss the nurturing. I miss the company. Life in the US is lonely. There is a lot to do and unending stimulation but finally the reality is you are alone. I resist going to see doctors because the health system is screwed up. I do all my medical stuff during my frequent trips to India.
I know I want to return eventually. It may take a while, but I want to grow old in Pune. Old age in the US scares me. I observe people here and as long as you are mobile and able todo things for yourself it is fine but if you are ill, hospitalised or immobile, the quality of life changes drastically. This is when being single can be a noose. My family is large but dispersed and everyone has their own life. I cannot expect people to drop everything to care for me. In India I can have house help. Doctors make home visits. Friends drop in regularly with meals or just to visit. Relationships matter. It is a part of our culture. No matter how far I travel, at the end of the day my heart is desi.
I may have waved goodbye to the shores of India, but once my wanderings are satiated, I will be back to stay.
Monika Patel – Monique to her friends – is now a permanent resident of New York City, but her heart is permanently in our city, her home for 28 years. Monika’s Musings will appear every Friday on Pune365.