On The Move

Marilyn Monroe with wings street art by Pegasus

I am leaving London today. Not travelling for a spell, like I usually do, but moving away. With my things in storage and no plans to return for the foreseeable future.

There are a number of things I’ll miss about the place. One is how truly multicultural it is, and multicultural in an integrated way. I live in a neighbourhood with many Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. In Cyprus they may be divided, but here they co-exist peacefully.

I will miss the famous British wit.

cash machine in London with 'Johnny' added by stencil above

I will miss the window displays at Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly.

artistic creative window displays

artistic creative window displays

I will miss the fine quality of street art in my neighbourhood.

London street art, women street artists
Street art by Bambi, Shillingford Street & Cross Street, London N1


London street art, Marilyn Monroe with wings
Street art by Pegasus, Upper Street, London N1

I will miss the BBC. Even though I rarely watch television, I’m happy that my license fee pays for quality programming with no advertisements or sponsorship.

I will not miss the weather.

London snow weather on building rooftops
The view from my window – more often than I would wish.

When I moved back to London after several years of working in India, I had sighed with relief. Not because I didn’t love India madly – I did and still do – but because I felt safe in London. Not personally safe as such (Bombay felt safer in that regard), but safe in an abstract way. That if the banks collapsed (again), then I, as a British taxpayer, would be refunded by the government. If something calamitous happened to me, I could take it to the courts or my MP and be heard. I don’t envision a coup or regular electricity blackouts or political strikes disrupting my life.

I am moving to Dhaka, the place of my birth and residency of my mother. There is not much stability there. Certainly not politically at the moment. Anything could upset the financial sector. Even for those of us cocooned from poverty and other obvious extremes, it still feels to me like a precarious and fragile place.

There is also a lot of baggage attached. Some people call me by a name I haven’t used for 23 years. It is filled with relatives who have known me since I was a baby – and often still treat me like one. It feels regressive.

family photo of young girl on Cox's Bazar beach c 1965

This past year and a half in London hasn’t been easy. Maybe it never was. It’s like a decent, solid man who seems worthy of commitment, but I’m just not feeling the love. It feels cold (in all senses of the word), and isolating.

While here, I got chronic neck and shoulder pain that made me rush to see several specialists. My skin broke out in a way it never has my whole life. I gained weight. There were weeks when I couldn’t get out of bed due to depression. What was I not facing? As Anaïs Nin said:

‘When one is pretending, the entire body revolts.’

And what I learnt is that I need to listen to myself. But not to the chatter in my head. Now, I was trained to be cerebral. By schools, by society, by my very expensive university. I believed intellectual reasoning and rational thought were my allies. But over-thinking is circuitous and it kept me paralysed.

I have since learnt to get out of my own way.

Now I operate more from my ‘gut’, or my core. My core doesn’t even understand that layer of rationalism my brain comes up with to justify something (i.e. staying in London because it’s ‘safe’).

‘Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.’ — David Whyte

And, all said and done about Dhaka, I do feel love there. Because that’s where my mother is. And that’s the comfort my heart needs right now.

Maybe my task is not to see the next phase as being in a place I already know. But to get to know it as I am now. Who knows, maybe it will surprise me.

7 thoughts on “On The Move

  1. I’m a floating butterfly. I grew up in Sydney with my family and as life moved on, I felt myself running away before I drowned myself in depression from various life situations, be it love, work, family. So I moved to London, then back to Sydney.. and now to Dhaka. I’ve been in Dhaka for almost 3 years now. Got married here a year ago but now i’m finding it increasingly claustrophobic and limited. I’ve realised i’m searching for something deeper or more of a sense of fulfilment. I know when I move back to Sydney, being surrounded by my parents and extended family will not be enough. I’ve become a traveller and a wanderer by heart and the prospect of settling in one place after marriage is making me very anxious. It’s something that my beloved culture would not understand with all its expectations and narrowness. Thanks for posting, I think i saw at least some of what you feel.

  2. Its so wonderful that u can share your thoughts about your feelings in such a wonderful way. U know that’s a blessings just like having the capability of ‘painting’ or ‘singing’ or may be dancing. It’s a way of ‘expressing the thoughts’. I hope u will find Dhaka as an interesting place with interesting people. Many individual with their individuality and creativity is living in this city. May be some day you will meet them and feel ‘at home’ again.

    1. Lima, it’s very moving for me that anyone wants to read what I write! Thank you for your very kind words.

      I think the ‘problems’ I had with Dhaka were more about problems I had with myself – it was just easier to blame Dhaka instead of dealing with them. This time around it’s already far more interesting and rewarding – just by my being more open and receptive to what it is. It is feeling very much like home, I’m very pleased to say.

      Also, the TEDxDhaka talks (where Rubaiya spoke) was a great example of just how many spectacular and fascinating people there are here, doing so many brilliant things. So, yes, very important to hear and experience all different types and get inspired!

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