The Umbilical Connection

I hate the term ‘small town’ as much as I cringe when someone makes a lame comment about a ‘small towner’! People living in so called BIG cities of the country will never know what it means to grow up and belong to a small town. I was born in Kolkata but I spent 18 years of my life in two small towns of Eastern India – Burnpur and then Jamshedpur. A little over a decade back when I left Jamshedpur for the so called BIG city for undergraduate studies, I was appalled to see that people thought Jamshedpur was in Rajasthan!! Poor general knowledge, I said and moved on! With time I realised that there was a certain antipathy towards the non metro girls in college. From our dressing sense, to choice of friends and recreation, everything was scrutinized! Frowned, laughed at and sometimes dismissed as being ‘wanting to fit in’, were regular affairs. In such a situation not every small towner survived with a smile.

I did. But I never stopped being a ‘small towner’.

In fact I made the BIG city my home in the decade that I have lived there. From a teenager, to a working woman and then living a married life…much has changed in me and the way I see the world and the environment I live in. Yes, I am a migrant in the big city of New Delhi and I have taken the next step of cementing my foothold there…we have booked a house and in a few years time our connection to the small town will be a thing of the past. A childhood memory perhaps. We are outsiders in the metropolis, and the Sheila Dixits and Raj Thakreys of the world may despise the sight of us…but yes, we are what we are!

So when my husband and I decided to leave the BIG city and opted to deliver our first baby in a small town, there were many, many, many raised eyebrows!! Not everyday does someone leave the facilities of a big city for a small one. We had our own share of reasons and quite patiently listed them out for anyone who shrieked with horror, worry or surprise. For starters, I always wanted to have my baby at my father’s house. Call me traditional or whatever, but the liberty, pamper and ease of mind that I have with my father around is out of this world. He is my Superman, you see, and so I didn’t want my superhero out of steam in a different city! If he had to truck himself to Delhi then he would have been more dependent on me than I on him…not the ideal picture for either of us!! A baby comes with a due date, but there is nothing that stops one from popping out of the womb before the release date!! Mine came 17 days before due date, perhaps my parents couldn’t have reached on time! To make matters more anchored in Jamshedpur, my in-laws live in the same town. Quite naturally they too wanted to join in the festivity around their first grandchild. Given the sizes of homes in Delhi I possibly couldn’t host both sets of parents in our house there! The third and one of the more important reasons was that I have a husband who has wheels on his heels! His work makes him live out of a suitcase for weeks and with bumped up home alone wife he was never at ease. For once, he was both sad and relieved to let me go and stay at my ‘maika’!

Nearly two months after the birth of our son I am relieved I made the right choice! And with each passing day I am convinced that I wouldn’t have had a more easy transition into motherhood as I have had here.  In case you are curious, you can read the Birth Story, if you want to know more…

The real story of my umbilical connection with the town I’ve grown up in begins right here.  It is because I have a special connection with my hometown and its people that I am at peace here. A decade since I left the town this is the longest that  I have stayed here… its the 4th month now and I am still counting! From the moment I landed in Jamshedpur to now when my son is about two months old, its the people’s support that has helped me sail through it all.  Our friends, neighbours and extended family poured in love and gifts for our baby. Our 22 year old house help resumed work to help me with the baby. Our parents’ friends stayed up nights to stitch nappies for our boy, while someone else sourced ayurvedic medicines to help me lactate better. While Vihaan’s birth was a breeze what wasn’t was what followed a month later. I fell severely ill and had to undergo another surgery. Far from being too serious, it was a medical condition that left me in a lot of pain.  I was lucky to find a doctor who stayed up all night in worry. A doctor who called me to find out if my pain had subsided…if the medicine worked. Another doctor who hasn’t taken his fee for the operation that he did just because my wound hasn’t healed yet!

What I missed out on was the big shopping experience! Not clothes and goodies for the kiddo…but mother and baby care products that are largely unavailable here. In a homely town like Jamshedpur, mothers don’t think about electric breast pumps and sterilizers. A feeding pillow is unheard of! I had to depend on my amazing sister-in-law in Mumbai who took my husband out shopping and had him buy things that would make mothering a breeze for me! As first time parents, we had to go wrong somewhere…we didn’t foresee the need for a few things and we skipped the shopping. Or perhaps it was the traditional mindset that  stopped us from buying anything at all.

Except this minor hiccup…I can’t imagine having this baby in the big city! I can’t imagine my parents and inlaws coming in for a maximum of two weeks and going back. I can’t imagine handling Vihaan alone while Aniruddha jostled between home, office and tours. I can’t imagine haggling over my two maids to help me with the baby. I can’t imagine running around apathetic doctors for medical care. I can’t imagine running to the hospital everyday dressing with a baby in tow (here I left him with my mother). I can’t imagine battling those terrible baby blues alone!

It is this umbilical connection with Jamshedpur that makes me so comfortable. I am reassured that as long as my family is here we are safe. The town may not match up to the upwardly stand of the big city, but it has its ‘small town’ warmth. Today Vihaan’s paternal grandmother is knitting her second sweater for her grandson, and his maternal grandpa is downloading lullabies from the net, while I went to the Jamshedpur Book Fair after more than a decade to buy books for my son. His first set of books. Half our town’s connections is looking for a nanny now…I know, something will come of it soon. In due course, my in-laws will move in with us in Delhi once our house is ready. My parents too will move in to the flat next door (Aniruddha and I coerced them to buy one!) or will move to Kolkata. Jamshedpur then will become a thing of our ‘childhood’ then…the umbilical connect that I have with my beloved city will perhaps finally severe! But then…I am not so sure…! I am what you can say, a ‘small towner’ for life…

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3 thoughts on “The Umbilical Connection

  1. Ah the Jamshedpur’s Book Fair , Ritu take heart that your kid might at least have some memories or something to (literally ) hold on to of that fantastical place that i only remember as childhood…i hope Vihaan enjoys his first set of books.

  2. I myself who grew in a small town in Assam could relate to every aspect of what you wrote. Life is much more simpler out there. The warmth among the people is much better. There were no multiplexes or big malls but I think that was a blessing in disguise to cope with the bustling of the big cities that we are being forced into now.

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