This is end of December and despite all climate changes fogs are covering Delhi and surrounding lands as usual. In early mornings or late evenings Delhi`s suburbs look like other such Asiatic city suburbs, like Tehran, Cairo, Shanghai. Good for imagination and pondering.
This brings to my mind one guilty thought I have carried with me for years and years. Here it is. When I travel and visit other places in India, like rural areas and small towns of the south, or Punjab or Uttar Pradesh, etc and see the life there, I see and understand and even have a passing fellow-feeling and a sense of belonging. But at the same time I am aware of a sense of something like condescension , as if this particular province is somehow left behind by the central site of the Current Times ; as if these people and places , charming and interesting yes but crucially relegated to a status of lesser , um, significance! And I have always felt ashamed of this feeling.
I have also always wondered why I feel this way. Is it just the well known big -city snobbery , assuming that it itself inhabits the capital of the universe?I have mostly lived in Delhi and Bombay( now Mumbai). Is that it?Is it that tacit assumption of tone and framing in the programmes of Discovery and National Geographic channels as if New York or London are the sites of sensibilities that matter and from which one looks at the quaint world ?
When I visited New York and London I felt the same way about them too! They were impressive and instructive yes, but quaint and somehow equally , well, provincial as Indian hinterlands.
Hinterland. Perhaps this word is the key. In a sense which is very strong in Naipaul`s books perhaps every place where one arrives at must carry this enigma – the enigma of being both a destination as well as an hinterland. For someone born and bred in big cities , without an ancestral village or a “native place”, his/her city is a perpetual exile , and in compensation every other place is hinterland.
As the world moves on into unfolding history, everyone is getting exiled and the whole world is getting to be a vast hinterland.
I have not been able to work this out fully.
Perhaps it is nothing more than a little pose of mine, what Shakespeare would have called my conceit and phant`sy.
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