Small City, Big Heart

A typical Mangalorean lane. Photo courtesy:

I miss the way the coconut trees sway in the wind

the fronds bending over in the sea breeze

I miss the humid air

The air feels like its reaching out to me when I spin around

I miss the drawl when people speak

the way they cock their heads to one side

pleasant smiles

as you ask them for directions

I miss the fiery red of the tiled roofs

The coconut fronds graze their tips 

while the heavy branches of the mango tree stand forlornly chopped

to keep it at a safe distance

I have breathed this air for as long as I can remember

I have travelled these bylanes on two tiny feet

and then on traversed it adventurously on two wheels

The city raised me

Nurtured me

Its people shaped me

It’s the kindness I miss the most 

The new city is bigger, brighter

The roads are wider, the building taller

The people are more fashionably dressed

But they zoom past you as if you were a speck of dirt

There are no friendly smiles

Just suspicious looks

The arms are filled with shopping bags

The air with chomping noises.

The babble drowns out the silence

I can’t hear the birds chirp

You can’t stop to wonder why either

You’ll be shoved and pushed for blocking the way.

They speak a strange tongue

One that does not come easily to me

As I stutter my way through the city

I long for a space where I can relax

And let lose the words I’ve held coiled in

Words in a tongue that I never cherished before

Ignored for what I thought signified my refinement

My big-city words hang heavy in my mouth

I miss the warm air

I miss feeling just breeze when the wind came my way

and not need to cower to hide from the dust

I always thought it was a drawback

Coming from a small city

I thought my mind was fettered by its narrow borders

I longed to burst forth into the world

I am glad I did

I now realise what I had

it takes plastic flowers

to love a wildflower’s scent

It may not have a Zara

But Mangalore has my heart.

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