Do you have books that you have found yourself returning to again and again? One of my favorites is The Little Prince. I can’t really remember at what age I first came across it, suffice to say that even as I am at the cusp of my 40th year I still hold dear this book and look forward to what it shall reveal on my next reading. Recently my 9 year old nephew read it and again, a new lens was applied and an old story refreshed.
I often think cities can be like that too. Like stories or books, how you inhabit the city, what you see in her – changes with you as much as the city changes around you. I remember being an angry 13 year old uprooted from Delhi to Bangalore. My petulant little self could see no good come of this move. I stubbornly pointed out everything non-Delhi about this new city to my parents even as I secretly felt bereft without what was most important and anchoring to me at that age – my peer group. As I grew up my world expanded beyond the immediate neighbourhood and slowly new ways of looking were stacked on. My social work education especially challenged my middle class self by sending me to people, places and spaces that constantly took upon themselves to humble, surprise and teach me much.
And just like that many years on one late mildly cold evening I found myself counting, listing and mapping trees on a by-lane of Bangalore that we were attempting to save from wanton road widening. I patted the dusty bark of a tired looking Silver Oak, whispered words of encouragement and comfort to her, looked up at her gently swaying canopy and realised that our roots were shared. I was home. And had been for a while. Who had changed – the city or me?
One of my favorite quotes from The Little Prince is this nugget shared by a fox who befriends him. “And now here is my secret”, the fox says, “a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” It seems a simple secret but seeing from our hearts, seeing what is essential, is no easy task in a complicated world. It takes concerted effort to peel away and build ways of seeing and being.
This month at TCC, do join us as we continue to explore some of these ways in which we can reconsider, revisit and renew our relationship with our beloved cities!