As I grow up the effects of time and place as psychological dimensions and determinants become more and more apparent. Last week as I was packing bags to leave my remote student town of Manipal in Karnataka, India, for the summer, I paused and took a few moments to absorb and acknowledge the changes that were going to take place – and surely, there have been plenty. Little did I know then, standing amidst the royal mess of a hall in my stuffy 2 BHK apartment, the extent of introspective opportunities I would encounter by only changing latitudes and longitudes!
Manipal is a secluded coastal town on the Western Ghats of peninsular India. Year after year, students swarm in like flies, bags in hand and a smile on the face, clad with an aura only the aggression of youth allows. To imagine Manipal picture an aerial shot of one student surrounded by hundreds of thousands of others fighting the urge to not become a clone, to stand out instead. To imagine Manipal think of a single bright ray of sunshine sometimes defeating, sometimes being defeated by, a single angry cloud. Manipal is an epitomic physical representation of duality, of bipolarity and thus of co-existence.
The humidity of Manipal left no one dry, be it the prickly heat or the torrential rains, and now here I am in Kathmandu, three flights later, applying lotion repeatedly, almost obsessively, to beat the barrenness of the city air. No matter where I go the hills keep up with me, never once leaving me unprotected. The saline taste that once engulfed my tongue as I moved closer to the beach has been replaced by indefinite layers of debris and dust on my face as I move deeper into the city. Where once stood tall coconut trees now stand jacarandas showing off the sweet shades of lavender they flower. Roads became pavements in Manipal as students rushed in a massive crowd to eventually scatter to the food courts or the many but limited restaurants for lunch. In Kathmandu, walking down the pavement I awkwardly shift in strange, nervous actions to make space for the fast approaching bikes that are sure to knock me down should I refuse to comply. Manipal had me playing hopscotch on a near permanent basis to either escape the puddles or the vast spaces exposed to the sun leaving only tree shades as havens. Here, the city plays hide and seek with me as I cover my face with the mask which, might I add, really helps me adjust and seep into the local life. Let’s face it – the mask is the unspoken, unofficial uniform of Kathmandu inhabitants.
While the differences are many, as you may have already noticed, Manipal and Kathmandu aren’t innately that contrary to one another. Both are home to rusty corners where action never ceases to exist. Events and activities happen all through the year that keep both places charged and electric and yet, Manipal and Kathmandu are instinctively laidback with the personalities of the places never once overshadowing ours. All earthly motifs adjust to our rhythm and psyche and when we switch off the last light in our room and discard the day’s burdens, Manipal and Kathmandu too, with us, pull up the blanket to similarly indulge in the innocence and vulnerability sleep permits.
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