This year, the one that began in October 2019 and is going to end in November 2020, my fellowship year, I have been moving across North India, living out of a suitcase (and a rucksack and another bag, because let’s face it, I’m not that minimalistic, yet) because of the unique opportunity presented to me, with India Fellow. And while I had been wandering in and out of cities, some big, some small, I realized that I’d developed a certain attachment, imagining them to be living-breathing people instead of mere geographical spaces…
If Udaipur was a person, I’d say it would be someone breathtakingly beautiful. Someone you’d definitely want to see more of. On your first day out, they’d probably order some expensive coffee with a dash of vanilla essence when all you’d really want is phiki kullhar chai with Marie biscuit. Udaipur would be much tempting, seductive and enigmatic–holding out doors for you to enter into a world built in Rajputana glory, shining brighter than the sun during the day and radiating grace during any full moon night.
Udaipur would also be extremely self-aware, with eyes full of disdain for others who failed to appreciate the worth of their company. If they were already enjoying yours, they would not think twice before turning away guests who’d show up at the door unannounced. When they’d walk into a room, all heads would turn their way, mesmerized by the persona that they’d carry in with them.
This would make you feel intimated to such an extent that you’d think of them as someone like Midas; you’d fear of turning into gold if you touched them. If it were up to them, they’d ask you to stay forever, promising exotic ways of passing the time, traveling, eating and roaming around with not a care in the world. All of that you’d know for sure would be said in good faith. However, in the end, you’d also know that behind all of their beauty and charm, Udaipur could be cold and stoic from within, and perhaps not a perfect match for you after all.
While they would be accommodating and there would be some genuinely nice evenings spent by the banks of lakes, deep down you’d know that Udaipur doesn’t really have a heart. And even if it does, it’s probably locked up in a jar somewhere, sculpted out of marble, exhibited for the world to see and not touch. You would never be able to tell them any of this of course. When it would be finally your turn to leave, you’d simply let them watch you walk away.
Delhi would be someone who is very sure of themselves. Confident, smart and quite frankly – too busy. Delhi would never tolerate you slacking or missing deadlines if they ever employed you. They’d breathe toxic air into your lungs (literally) if you made them cross. If your relationship was personal with them, they would be very demanding.
The moment you’d arrive, they would start throwing accusations of never staying long enough to work on your issues and of making bizarre assumptions about them. They’d also be upset about your friends’ constant complaints about the state that they are in. Waving their hands animatedly in the air, they’d ask why on Earth then these people even bother staying if they’re ultimately so disheartened by everything!
Delhi would then turn your attention to you, with a grim face they’d ask you point-blank, why, after all that, they are offering you, are you not committing to them completely? You’d keep running out of excuses to provide; you’d know that they’re, at the end of the day, right. After a series of arguments, they would let out a sigh and remind you that time is of the essence.
So, the two of you would decide to finally put an end to all the quarrelling and go out. Delhi would make sure that despite all the conflicts, you know that you are also treasured. During your time with them, there would be instances when moments would pass you by, frozen in time. You two would watch them together; you’d realize that Delhi is ultimately someone who might not always be good for you, but will be a very important part of your life. Lost in all these thoughts, crossing corners that seem too familiar now you’d suddenly find yourself standing with your luggage in your hands, leaving them once more for wherever the next destination is.
As for Lucknow, it’d be someone who would waltz into your life when you’d least expect it. As soon as you’d lay eyes on them, you’d know that they are trouble. At first, you wouldn’t want to acknowledge their presence for long by ignoring their invitations. But then they would do something so enticing and mysterious; you would give in.
Eventually, you’d have to let them cast a spell on you. But no big deal, you’ll tell yourself. You’d promise to enjoy the stolen glances and some occasional flirting that they would throw your way, receiving them with grace, but before you’d know it, you’d be blown away by everything they are and have to offer.
Lucknow would make sure to treat you right, keeping in mind your attention to detail and a knack for appreciating the finer things in life. They’d always be aesthetically dressed, effortlessly carrying years of history stitched into clothes and brooches, some of which are told and some untold. Every time you’d meet them, you’d be left wanting to discover more. It would drive you insane actually, the kind of hold they would have over your heart.
Lucknow would not only present themselves in various colours to you to impress, but also show their vulnerable sides. In doing so, they’d actually hold up a mirror for you to take a peep into your own soul. You’d start asking yourself those questions you thought you’d never have to dig up and tucked away mental notes would once again reveal themselves to you.
Jumping across eons consisting of stories, Lucknow would show you the best of times. Whatever self-preservation techniques you had in store, maybe it would be good to revisit them again. This is why you would always want to get to know Lucknow better, but there would never be enough time on your hands. Instead, you’d eventually leave with a heavy heart, wishing them all the luck and love in the world.
About the author: Titash is a 2019 India Fellow. Through the year, she is supporting grassroots organizations with communication, documentation and outreach across Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Titash is trained in several Indian classical dance forms, Manipuri is her favourite.