Whenever I meet someone for the first time, sooner or later during the conversation, the question inevitably comes to where I belong. Now, I have an answer for that, which I often give to people, though I’m not sure they always understand what it means. I usually say, I belong to all the places that I’ve ever lived in, which includes about 8 different cities that at some point in time I called home. People then ask me, how do you belong to all these places? How is that possible? What makes that possible?
My answer is – my sense of belonging!
Well, what is this sense of belonging? It must be a common experience, one which connotes acceptance as a member or part. Apparently, a simple word but one with a huge significance. I think a sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions. Some find belonging in a community, in a religious group, some with friends, some with family, and some, as we often find these days, in social media.
In my case, I have found this sense of ‘belonging’ to different cities enriching my life in a myriad ways. As children, my brother and I travelled with parents, as my dad’s job necessitated it. In the beginning, I hated the move and the sudden change in the way we lived our day-to-day lives, with new friends, new school and a complete upheaval of an old, comfortable way of life. But, gradually, I began to enjoy this change. I carried friendships and happy memories with me each time we moved, and as I grew up, I learnt that this had not only earned me some very good friendships, but had also brought in a certain sense of adaptability within me, that made me want to experience new places and people even more.
In later years, travelling became an enormous adventure, but more than the excitement of charting new path and finding new places and seeing things, it has been an eye opener in helping me not only to adjust to, but also relate to very different things, that I’ve never experienced before – as in learning new ways of living, redefining my perspectives and understanding myself a little better. All these experiences, have shaped me and made me the way I am today. This possibly also explains why I feel that I belong as much to the undulating roads in the once-pristine hill town of Kohima, to the buzzing student city of Manchester, or the rolling hills of Cliftown Downs in the beautiful city of Bristol; as much at home in the bylanes of Jaipur and the markets of Quatre Bornes in Mauritius; at once being able to relate to the second-hand bookshops of Calcutta’s college street where I spent my college years to the swanky streets of the urban metropolis that is now Ahmedabad. Each time I visit these places, I find myself a part of it, as if I’m one among the many who belong there. And yet, if you ask me, I’m happy to admit that I absolutely love my current hometown – Bangalore, where I’ve been based for the last eight years. Warts and all, I love it all the same!
For some strange reason, I have been unable to single out one place or city as the place where I belong to. In the same breath, I must also admit that taking to new people and a new culture has not always been very smooth. I have encountered people at every stage who have had very different views though, that has clashed with my beliefs. Along the way, I have met many who have struggled to find a sense of belonging and their loneliness has been physically painful for them, as they have moved from one place to another in search of that one single place they can call home. At various times in life, I have also encountered people who have sought this sense of belonging through excluding others. Yes, I have been at the recieving end of such people too, but thankfully, none of them lasted long. I carried on nonetheless, moving, travelling, learning and making a handful of very good friends who accepted me as one of them.
Now, when I look back, I often feel that the more I have traveled, the more I have continued to carry some element of each place within me, that has enriched my life and my work and continues to do so, in a way that nothing else does! And every time I meet someone from any of these places, I feel good knowing that we have a shared history that makes our connection a little special. One such occasion was meeting a fellow Write-Triber/blogger Anamika, last month. We had a lovely time catching up. Meeting her four year old son Dhruv was like the icing on the cake.
I joined Write Tribe last summer. In the initial weeks/months when I was struggling to find my feet as a blogger, I recieved a tremendous amount of support from the group members. Today, months after those days of uncertainty, I can happily say I belong here with all of you my fellow bloggers, my fellow comrades, as much as I belong to all those wonderful places that makes me who I am!
If you asked me what this sense of belonging does to me on an everyday basis, I’d confess – to me it does a lot! A sense of belonging to a greater community improves my motivation, health, and happiness. When I see my connection to others, I get to know that we are in it together, through the good and the not-so-good times.
The fact is I’m not alone. Nothing could be more comforting than that 🙂
(Linking this to #Monday Musings by Everyday Gyaan)
I can relate to your words so well.. the sense of belonging and doubts regarding it have been ingrained in me ever since I can remember… i am yet to travel .. I had been to Mysore and Bangalore for four months and that’s it.. Based at Bhubaneswar with all my schooling, college and even posting here I am yet to experience travel.. 🙂 And blogging still is uncertain in my case.. it’s been on and off.. whenever i find time and inspiration.. need to bring in some discipline into it.. 🙂 it’s good to be able to connect with you.. 🙂
Glad to connect with you Pratikshya 🙂 and even more so that my writing resonated with you! If you like to travel, do make the plan a reality soon. Best wishes with your blogging…give some time to yourself and never be too harsh!
Sense of belonging is definitely an urge or desire of one individual to be accepted in a society or by an another being. I wonder what happens to individuals who has lost this sense of belonging.
Very well narrated.
Agreed Ajay, we all do need that! I guess people who keep away from that turn out to be loners. Sad they don’t know what the human connection is capable of!
Beautiful post… I love that “sense of belonging” such a lovely way to be 🙂
Thank you so much Lori! Glad to see you here 🙂
My pleasure, Esha 🙂
It feels great when we are accepted as we are. Loved your post. 🙂
So true Payal!Thanks btw 🙂
I can totally identify with you having been in various homes and cities all my life. Yes, it is what makes you comfortable that makes you feel at home and I think people like us are lucky that we always manage to make ourselves comfortable and feel at home!
Absolutely, couldn’t agree more with you! I guess people who have travelled a lot and lived in many different places make friends easily as well and can adapt easily too! Glad to see you at Soul Talk 🙂
Every word written in this post resonates with me, completely. Now, I understand it very well how you must have felt reading my introduction post where I had expressed my similar views and why did it seem like an inexplicable connect initially. Reaching towards the end and finding my name was a pleasant surprise. Thank you 🙂
Yes, we do connect on many levels, don’t we? Your post also resonated with me a lot and it seems there are more reasons for us to feel we can identify with many of our experiences as shared experiences! Of course, I had to mention about meeting you and Dhruv or else the post would not have been complete 🙂 That’s exactly how I feel!!!
I can relate to your thoughts. Though for the first 17 years of my life, I did not move around – the rest 8 saw me move 5 times and now when I am in Bangalore, I know I belong here as well as to my hometown and all those other places that made me who I am today.
On a different note, I wrote a post about my hometown talking about what I say when people ask me where do I come from. Read when you get time 🙂
I had read that post earlier, Parul (for some reason, today the link isn’t working) and know what you mean by being connected to both places!! I knew about Azamgarh a long time from my dad’s stories (he was born and brought up in Agra) and later, while reading up on Kaifi Azmi’s life (am a huge fan of his poetry). It’s true they say – you can take the person out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the person!