Tag Archives: cities

Lizard’s Tail

25 Feb

It’s fascinating to watch the morphing of an entity that has been severed or disconnected from a larger part. Whether it is a country partitioned from its old composite avatar or a person who forsook their religion because of marriage, they seem to be propelled toward polarization, creating identities more extreme than otherwise necessary. This has happened, I chose this, now I must take a stand and be different, stand up for my act of separation, perhaps even justify it. Ignore the sameness. Ignore the city streets with approximately the same amounts of garbage, because there is a heightened sense of Another Religion in the air. Ignore how nothing has really changed about your food, your clothes, your very colloquial exclamations, because now you are Married Out.

While some are compelled to change, feel an obligation to become The Other, a few dig their heels in and stoutly choose to be driven by factors that prod us to take these steps. Still fewer others fling themselves between identities, but who likes the dissonance that produces? One over the other is easier, safer, infinitely more convenient than duality.

In the rarest of cases, it is a personal blessing for those who never really belonged to one space to begin with. A chance to seize the molding clay of circumstances and fashion from it at will. Those who say I will not be driven, pushed, compelled. Who acknowledge that many factors may change external situations, but we choose to renew our identities-or not. Even as I hear the constant drone of “change is ever-shifting” in the background, I am intrigued by the endless buffet of change, what whets its appetite, what platters we pick from, and the choices that fill our senses and identities, keeping us alive, moving us forward, nurturing stability, dulling our nerve endings into half-burying ourselves into the ground and sticking Velcro-like to the comfort of our original realities.

What do you fashion for yourself? Does your sky take on a different hue? What drives you to be still or shed layers? Do you see it as a necessity, inevitable, or a painful metamorphosis? When you throw off your tail, does your yoke get cast off with it? Or is it warmer to wrap a familiar milieu around your being and rock it close all the live long day?

I thrive between answers. So from the looks of it, I am in no tearing hurry to grab the nearest available one. Let me go arrange a bowl of flowers in the meantime. Nothing like petals and stems to dissipate a whorl of question marks. 🙂

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Seduction of Cities

3 Dec

Long before there was Sex and the City, urban landscapes unleashed their siren calls to populations, who, glazed-eyed and entranced, followed trails of grit and dust toward the lure of money, a life of relative anonymity and the opportunity to reconstruct their history. Cities, those giant sprawls of architecture, social alchemy and the human narrative, were levelers and dividers in equal measure; entities that made humans offer their sweat and spirit in return for bestowing on them the gratitude of belonging. Cities were power centers, hubs of every cog in the wheel of humanity, save perhaps, agriculture and animal husbandry, and legions of our race responded willingly, increasingly, and near-slavishly to the piper’s call, as the 19th century played host to this giant global phenomenon—the rise of the heterogeneous, indifferent-to-differences metropolis, where you were as worthy as your last contribution.

The world over, cities became shrines to human endeavor. To dreams, to plans, to architects of destiny.  Throbbing, expanded versions of village squares and coffee houses, they became repositories of social dialogue, justice movements, and battlegrounds for human rights. As decades hurtled forward, they turned into hubs of industry, agents of rewritten reality, organic farms of political thought and social sub-institutions. Cities, these nuclei of power and vibrancy, were only as strong as their denizens, and it is here that the human spirit rose to meet the challenge of morphing a maze of streets into megapolises of learning, expansion and culture.

Developing at different paces, cities found their niche. Their size and demand based on what they had to offer, cities became the textbook examples of macroeconomics and cultural anthropology. A majority of them operate in a blinding vortex of speed and urgency and the Next Big Thing. They pulse with things to do and targets to achieve. Entertainment is measured, pre-slotted, with chunks of time dispensed toward preserving sanity, lest existential angst get out of hand and run amok amidst our overloaded mental circuitry.

And yet, few complain. For the City is a charmer. A seductress. A deceiver. And we willingly succumb to its wiles for what it throws our way. In eliminating our uniqueness and personal history, the City invites us to belong. In disregarding our past and turning a blind eye to social strata, it allows us to blend in. It acts as Provider. Protector. Benefactor. With a dark and ugly side that we choose to take in our stride. It smiles non-committally when you call it Home. It shares its bounty ungrudgingly. To the winner go the spoils, and someday that might even be you. You can partake of its history and cloak it as your own. You believe in its script and mouth its lines earnestly. You are of its culture. Of its space. Of its zeitgeist. You give and receive and don’t keep score. You may be among its earliest settlers, or a train dropped you off  just yesterday, in a city, a sliver of space can always be yours, simply because you become that space, one of the headcount, you are, you exist, and living is not denied.

Without its montage, I cannot see my own existence, identify the entity that is me. Some may consider it a curse, but it is a trade-off I am extremely comfortable making. Without the City, I am contextless. Without the City, I am half a soul. Being born into the City and born of it, we are forged. For better or worse, richer or poorer, Home or half-spaces, without the City, there is no me. Cities distort the concept of Home. Wring it and hang it out to dry. You find it in yourself to belong to another. Fully in some, half-heartedly in others. Cities make your identity easy to whore. Today, it’s this one; tomorrow, another. Even amidst their extreme difference, you find yourself able to negotiate space and identity, and that is the ultimate gift of being of the City.