Much is said about how a city grows around you. Mumbai and Kolkata have been portrayed as protagonists in novels, from Shantaram and Maximum city or films like Mumbai Meri Jaan or Dombivali Fast and Amar Prem, Devdas or Kahaani set in Kolkata.
The city comes alive through the writer’s vision and the director’s perspective because it’s so huge and lively, it actually gets a character of its own. It has its flashy façade, the hullaballoo of the working class, the underbelly of dark streets and mysterious corners and the fun of the financial districts.
People flock to these cities for their own towns or villages offer no chance of survival, let alone a better life. Then I wonder what sets my city apart? In fact, does it deserve a role, even a side one? For it’s a small city. But then just the other day, someone said to me that we’re lucky, Belagavi people. I wonder why they don’t make themselves lucky.
To all those who’ve decided to make Belagavi home, it isn’t just a happenstance of birth that we’re living here, it’s because we’ve chosen to live in this city and not migrate elsewhere. And we’ve not done badly. We own homes, we drive good cars, we eat tasty food, travel at will and enjoy clean air, well most of the time!
A common pattern emerges of late, young kids graduate and move out of Belagavi for better jobs, buy homes in skyscrapers or gated communities, parents stay back for a while, unable to uproot themselves. Then age catches up and they reluctantly move to the big city to be with the kids.
Bigger homes, bigger cars and exotic vacations later, when the kid hits middle age, he looks at Belagavi to say that familiar line to his friends back here “You guys are lucky!” He glances at his potbelly, remembers his commutes back home shaving hours off his day which were rightfully his kids’ time. He misses the laid back life of this city and then wonders why he left in the first place.
The lure of the city is perhaps the mirage of afterhours- shopping, restaurants, the sprawling airports or the glitzy ambiance of offices and the multiplexes, none of which Belagavi has. But Belagavi breathes on its own. It does not have to make time for it. It feeds itself. It can walk on its own feet.
You can also walk to work if you want to. It does not deny its citizens a roof on their heads just because they don’t own a home in development zones. I’ve seen the steely, greasy faces of joggers and loungers in Lodi gardens at Delhi and I compare them with the chatting, ‘laughing- out- loud’ groups in Shivaji garden, the latter happier any day.
Big city, big fat salary, high positions. No complaints if you wish for it. But the opportunity cost exposes itself when you inhale all that polluted air, feel unsafe all the time, spend more time travelling than with your loved ones and benchmark joy with the money you spend.
It is time you tell your kids Belagavi is not a city to come back to after you’ve repented leaving it. It is time Belagavi lures back its youth. The policy makers and the smart city folks up there can ensure they create opportunities right here. It is time we admit, we’re actually feeling like that kid whose parents are fighting for custody but forgetting he needs to grow and be happy amidst all that. Bring in the companies, hasten the business processes, ease out the logistics.
It is time we have a campaign of our own, not to attract people from far away, but to bring back our own kids who’ve left.