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For all, the city where you are born, grow up and start working defines your comfort zone. It's only when you step out of your city your hometown that you realise, 'mahn! The world is huge and very different!' My journey began when I left my comfort zone-Mumbai - my muse, my janma bhumi and also my karma bhumi only to be called an outsider in a small town of Gujarat, Porbandar. Though myself is a Gujarati, but Mumbai doesn't let you be. You become a Mumbaikar first and then a Mumbai-ite next. Though an outsider initially, you tend to blend with the locals in Gujarat. They are simple fun and food-loving people. The blending in Gujarat begins with food. One can never go hungry there. Life isn't this simple and straight, right! For us, life was shrinking. We were transferred to even a smaller town - Pipavav (yes, it exists on the official map of India!) It's only when we went there that we realised it isn't that remote and isolated. Thanks to huge industries on lines of ultratech cement,reliance defence and shipbuilding and sintex, it has become a cosmo-hub. Yes, you read it right- a Cosmo hub. We had neighbours from UP, Nagpur, Jharkhand, Chennai, Jaipur, Bhopal, Hyderabad and off course, the locals! After having lived in a gujju-centric locality in Mumbai all my life, this was quite surprising. With this plethora of cultural diversity around us, we flourished culturally! Our palate widened from dhokla and thepla to litti and pysam. Pipavav is a very small town in Gir region of Gujarat. Apart from the sabji market,one theatre and one super store and a few local eateries, there is nothing. literally nothing!but that's when the fun begins! You have nowhere to go so you spend time with the people around you. You bond with people around you And not in your contact list. There were approx. 15 houses in my lane of the colony with around 20 children from different communities. My daughter was 9 months old when we moved there but she has had the best time. The children played together day in and day out- fighting, patching up, taking my daughter to their house to play with, giving her their toys, cycle rides, teaching her rhymes and songs many more things. The children played physical games and not on cellphones. We celebrated all festivals together, pot-partying, dancing, eating and sharing. Each lady would get something for the kids, be it chocolates, ice creams, arranging music with stereo, organising games, and so on. Once a local neighbour invited all kids for lunch, out of the blue. The children enjoyed the local treat! The festivals were fun. The outings were awesome. As there were no malls or good restaurants to go to, we 5-6 ladies and 4-5kids used to somehow fit into my tiny wagon r and roam around town- be it from enjoying movies like dangal to eating pizza (with chat masala and cheese topping) at Kutchi King to planning trips to sabji market and Mehta super store to going to beauty parlour. It was fun.
And yes, the best part was every Thursday. It was the official load shedding day! One must think this lady is insane to call load shedding day as the best day of the week. Yes it indeed was! The day used to begin with the music ( the irrigating humming noise of motor of waer pump-a mild white noise) of everyone's water pump being switched on since 6 am as power would be turned off by 8am. Then every one would quickly try to finish off daily routine-evidence being towels and other washed clothes being hanged on the clothes line by 7-7.30am. Then the power would be off and we all used to literally sit outside the house or go up to neighbours houses and chat, enjoying juicy conversations and cool breeze from nearby fields. The best thing was that all would keep their cellphones aside-power cut from 8am to 5pm, so you have to save the battery, right! The children would play at each other's houses in vacations and we would hear screaming and crying and running around after some mischief. We all called it the 'Bonding Thursday'. Market trips were planned on Thursday as we would pass time going there and also enjoy some AC in the car! That is not cheap behaviour at all, okay! Thursday afternoons were the longest and soon as dim power would resume around 3pm, everyone would gradually start disappearing. By 4.30-5 PM when full power would be resumed, all would go inside the house and the white noise of the pumps would start again to get the tanks filled. Again in 15-20 mins people would come out with their respective chairs, to sit and gossip even more as cellphones would be kept on charging! The children refreshed with 10-15 mins of fan-breeze would be out again and the day continued.
Now I am back to a big city - Kochi - but i really miss Pipavav, the speck on India's map where I found awesome company and my daughter found lovely Playmates. It will be a cherished tenure of my life as my daughter's first birthday was celebrated there. A small house party on a Thursday (😜14th July 2016) with just 20 kids of all ages and simple food of bread jam and wafers and off course, cake, waiting desperately for power to resume which did start at 3.30pm and party was from 5pm onward. The children were anxious for the barbie cake and bursting balloons. It wasn't a swanky party at McD or BK or Dominos, but a simple house party with some music, games and fun. My daughter did cry on her first birthday as usually the kids do. But it was when all were leaving after the party and not because she was uncomfortable or anything. That really surprised us.
Pipavav tenure taught us to be humble. To adjust to whatever life offers you and never to underestimate anyone or anything. A very small town with big hearted people. It taught us to live simply. The power cuts hepled us to value the comfort of electricity that we enjoy and the paucity of restaurants taught us to love homemade food even more. I can proudly say that my 2 yr old daughter can adjust anywhere with or without the comfort of air conditioner, fan or malls or palyareas. She has learnt to sleep without clothes on a thin mat without fan and the best lesson learnt is- she mixes with all- young, old, kids, any language speaker as she has played for hours without me at neighbour's houses. And for me, it was an enriching experience getting to know people, their lifestyle, rituals, their traditions, food, and above all the lovely hearts of gold they possessed. Being comfortable outside you comfort zone is the best compliment you can say about a place. I really thank my fortune to be at this place, though for a short period of 10 months only. I will always cherish it and Pipavav will hold a place of gold in my heart.