Archive for the ‘Small Town Living’ Category

My life in Vizag, benefits of small town living!

January 18, 2011

Recently a friend of mine posted “Manikanda Samosas” on her Facebook wall which triggered a lot of comments from her group of friends including me as we all share one common thing and that is we grew up in Vizag.

Vizag is a beautiful coastal city in the state of Andhra Pradesh in southern India. The official name of this city is Visakhapatnam. I moved here from the hustle and bustle of a major metro, Calcutta in 1983 and lived there for 12 years. My life here in this city has been etched so deep in my mind that I seek it wherever I go even today.

Vizag Beaches

Irony is when my dad decided to move to Vizag, I was not looking forward to it. Having lived in Calcutta for the first 10 years of my life, I considered myself a Bengali and spoke the language fluently. I love Ravindra Sangeet, Bengali sweets especially Rosogullas (in the matkas) and Sandesh. I was lovingly acquainted with brands like K.C. Das and Flury’s, shopping at New Market and Gariahat with shop keepers shouting “Sale, Sale”! I sported a long face during the entire train journey from Calcutta to Vizag. But within 3 months, I fell in love with this city, my new life, my school and my friends and there was no looking back.  

We lived in the city for the first 5 years in Seethammadhara. It was an up and coming neighborhood when we first moved and our rental home was close to the Eastern Ghats mountains. Many evenings after school I would go on a short hike and sit at a vantage point enjoying the scenery and loving the peaceful silence with occasional bleating of goats. It was priceless! This is not something that you can get in a big city and no amount of television can give you that fresh air!

Every day I would look forward to school which was a 10-minute walk. With my backpack and my hair braided into two pig tails, I would happily skip to school, another unheard of thing in the big city of Calcutta or for that matter any major metro today. It used to be my best 10 minutes of the day. I would bump into teachers, classmates or even friends. Sometimes, on the way back home, I would stop at my friend’s place, indulge in some milk and cookies and then go home. It was so safe that my mom never worried if I were a bit late. But I have to admit that I took advantage of that royally in my teens much to her chagrin! Believe it or not, it used to take two hours in a bus each way between school and home in Calcutta and I hated that.

Coming to my school, SFS School is a very good school with honest and committed teachers who shaped me in parts of who I am today. The school encouraged sports, cultural programs, science fairs, quizzes, debates and not merely chasing the overall percentage. The teachers seemed personally interested in our academic as well as overall growth. They gently steered us towards what we wanted to do or be in the future. A school of this kind in a metro city is either hard to find or is hard to get in.

Being a coastal town, Vizag has some beautiful beaches on one side and Eastern Ghats on the other with scenic overlooks and myriads of picnic spots. It is called the “Goa of the East Coast”. Every Sunday, my parents and I would take walks along the coastline of RK Beach and I can still remember the fresh ozone filled cool air, the moonlit nights, the sunset against the horizon, exquisite! Some excellent picnic spots and beaches to jog your memory are Rishikonda, Silver Beach, Kailasagiri, Gangavaram, Araku Valley, Dolphin’s Nose etc. Best part was one did not have to travel far before you can actually find these treasures.

Dolphin's Nose Vizag

Dolphin's Nose

Araku Valley Vizag

Araku Valley

 

 

                                                                                                                                                               In our 6th year, we had to move to a small township built for Vizag Steel Plant employees which was about 35kms from the city center as mandated for my father by his company. This meant that I had to start traveling for over an hour each way to reach my school/college in the city and eat cold lunches once again. But I was older and I did not mind it at all. This one hour was great to collect my thoughts or re-energize myself with a short nap or talk non-stop with my friends who would take the ride with me sometimes. My father did not want me to ride the bus and forced me to have a chauffeur-driven car just for myself. Awesome luxury! But I was also teased because of that and I could not make my dad change his mind. Actually, no, I stand corrected, I loved that comfort so much that I did not try hard to convince him. 🙂

This Steel Plant Township was called Ukkunagaram and it literally translated to “Steel Town” in English. The town was divided into sectors and pretty much I could walk to my friends’ houses in the neighboring sectors. The only attraction at that time was the Ukkunagaram Club which became a central place for the young and the old. My friends and I would hang out there playing ping pong or at the library or just at some corner, gossiping, a blissful occupation of a teenager! The Club would air movies every week and have Bingo nights. It hosted so many parties and festival celebrations including the most sought after New Year’s Eve parties.

But as a teenager I was not satisfied about living in Vizag even though I cherish every minute of it now. This is a common affliction among small towners with big dreams. On one hand this was a city where I made some friends for life. But the city at that time was not hip or a happening place like Bangalore or Delhi. There were no cool places in the city for teenagers to hang out.  There was just one place called “Baker’s Inn” and we would flock to that tiny joint at the drop of a hat to indulge in their yummy black forest cakes. I wonder if it still exists!

Soon it was time to leave Vizag as my father retired and moved to Bangalore. I too finished my post-graduation and took up a job in Bangalore. I was really looking forward to enjoying all that I thought I had missed. But life was a complete contrast. I felt lost in the big city of Bangalore. I missed my friends. Yes, I went to parties and discos, hung out in cool places that I so much craved for as a teenager but it was not the same. The people I met were fakes or opportunists and everything was related to a “need” with a “use and throw” mentality. But eventually I met my husband and some very nice friends and its not that bad when you know people but I still miss Vizag. 

Added to that, I missed the comfort of our township life with no power outage or water shortage. Unfortunately such basic necessities are still a problem even in the metro cities of India despite all the advancements the country has made. This is an accepted profound reality of India where day-to-day life weaves along a patchwork of contrasting examples of progress and backwardness.

Anyway, I think my 12 years in Vizag has made me a small town person and I am proud of it. In fact I fell in love with Phoenix because it remined me so much of it like the heat, mountains, clear skies, beautiful sunsets etc.

Phoenix sunset

But can we really stop progress from happening with the world’s burgeoning population? Vizag is no longer a small town and neither is Phoenix. Either I have to keep looking for smaller towns until they run out or strive to keep my small town characteristics alive and survive in today’s rat race. As of now, its the latter but I hope some day I can settle down in peace by the coast preferrably!

                      Wish you all a very Happy New Year!

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