Parts of a Whole: All the Places I Have Ever Lived

Like birds that go from one place to another during different seasons, my family of four – my parents, sister and I – moved from one place to another periodically.

My father worked at a bank, a transferable job requiring me to shift schools every two or three years. When I joined a new school in Class 8, it was my eighth school.

My parents were helpless – they had no other option. Once, for a year, my mother, sister, and I tried staying with my grandparents while my father lived alone. It did not work out. Food was the main factor – my father lost a considerable amount of weight. So, at the end of the year, all three of us went there and joined him.

Of the eight schools that I have studied in, the fifth was Our Lady of Fatima Secondary School in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. I was in Class 2. This was the only time I had to move out of Tamil Nadu.

The first time I realised I was in a completely different place with a foreign language, I got excited and nervous.

I did not know Hindi; I could barely speak English at that time. I can still remember how a group of my father’s friends came over to our place one evening and started talking in Hindi. I closed my ears, ran out the door and went to the terrace. There was loud music playing at the opposite house, and I sat there looking at the night sky. That scene from my two-year stay in Aligarh is still fresh in my memory.

The problem with jumping from one school to another is not just missing your old school or taking the time to make new friends. There is no sense of belonging, even when you are part of a group. The people in the group have a history of shared experiences; they have their own inside jokes, stories from the past. Even if someone explained the joke to me, I always felt like I was on the periphery of the circle; almost like a guest.

Also read: Within and Without: A Northeasterner on the Sense of Belonging

After months of being with that group, you form a connection, share secrets, and think you will be friends for life.

And then comes another transfer. Your physical self has to move to another place. But your emotional self and those secrets you shared, they stay behind.

A part of me always has always stayed back at all the places I have ever lived.

Since many of these transfers occurred before the advent of smartphones and social media, it was not that easy to stay in touch or find those friends I missed.

But there is a bright side to this constant change of places in my life. I have experiences that I cherish. I have learnt Hindi. I’ve travelled a lot, seen many different cultures, and met many sorts of people.

All these experience have made me what I am today. The things I learnt from my friends in school No. 7  affect some of the decisions that I make today. That is what one’s life should be all about, learning from your own experiences. These experiences should make up a significant part of one’s whole self.

School No. 8 was the last new school that I had to enter. I studied there for five years, from Class 8 to 12. The friends from this school have become a part of my life.

There is a song by Drake that goes something like this,

“… some days I wish I could go back in life, not to change things, just to feel a few things twice. ….”

These lines are exactly what I feel about those change of schools of mine. When I look back, I have tears in my eyes, but I think they are tears of joy.

Gautham Selvarajan is a student journalist at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty