For a while now (six years to be exact), I’ve observed that my having moved to and living in the suburbs tends to elicit certain kinds of reactions.
Commonly, there’s hilarity. A mandatory ‘gaon’(village) joke, which is usually as artful as “HAHAHA YOUR GAON (name of my gaon)!” Other comedic gems include “I’d like to do a little ‘load shedding’ of my own” accompanied by a wagging-eyebrow-glinting-incisor combo that would make Pepé Le Pew feel violated. And lest I forget that old classic, “we want to visit you, passport on arrival? LOLOL.”
After I am done disposing off the bodies in our communal tank, I’m immediately overcome by remorse - should I have tried the abandoned truck stop just before the toll naka instead? Stick the city, always enunciating its separateness from mine, with its own abhorrences? Then I remember I’m not five, or Aakar Patel. And no city deserves to be judged by its twats. Because if we know the nature of twats, it’s that they’re a tenacious lot who will always find a way to be insufferable, no matter their geography.
That said, I’ll still take the jocular ones over the Overcompensators. This set has no geographical prejudice, they want to make perfectly clear. And if it weren’t for their lazy drivers and overprotective mothers, I couldn’t stop them from coming over every weekend even if I wanted to! Apparently my suburb is THE BEST (it’s not), SO CLOSE (it’s not), PRETTY HAPPENING (far from), NO POLLUTION (HEH) and what’s the cost of realty here - maybe they should think about investing. In the six years I’ve been here, I’ve had personal visitors of a grand total of seven.
Then there are the wider social implications. Almost anytime I’m attending a gathering of some sort in town and the question of where I live comes up, one of two things happens: Either my answer is met with surprise quickly followed by the sympathetic head-cock, eyes radiating ‘oh, the travails of the poor’ compassion. Or it’s met with surprise and followed by praise for my countryside grit - God only knows what horrors I’ve had to endure on my voyage here, for who knows what lurks in the hearts of men on the Central Line beyond Sion. And would I like to be served dinner right away so I can gather my strength to begin my return journey at the earliest? Perhaps even have my wineskin replenished?
Dating is a different minefield altogether. Over the years, my dates have thoughtfully suggested we meet early in the day so I’ll make it in time to catch the late train - “Public transport is so much safer than taking a cab alone at some ungodly night hour.” The braver ones venture an “I could drop you… if you want”, eyes imploring my mercy.
But my absolute favourite domicile-related experience went down just a few weeks ago. It was a clockwork progression of all the reactions I’ve mentioned so far. A friend had carefully (really blatantly) orchestrated a social run-in where I found myself sitting beside the guy she thought was perfect for me. He’s wasn’t. But he was not intolerable either – nice bum. Conversation meandered from vintage showcases to his business prospects to my camera’s features, with him issuing a torrent of witticisms and guffawing loudly while I waited. And then it happened.
“Where’re you coming from today?” he asks. I tell him and we’re off!
Eyes widen. Check.
Head cocks. Check.
“How did you get here?” Mildly comforted when I say by car – at least I’m operating over the poverty line.
“Do you even have electricity in your gaon?! (GUFFAW GUFFAW)” Check.
“But jokes apart, I’ve heard it’s the new ‘town’.” Sigh.
Reader, I don’t think I'll marry him.