I remember that my reaction was a smirk. We had gathered round a crackling fire, the women stylishly wrapped in Pashminas and the men in woolen suits, to keep ourselves warm on that foggy New Year’s eve, in Lutyen’s Delhi, about a dozen years ago. After the initial introduction, air kisses, pleasantries, and a general discussion on the weather, the conversation had inevitably turned towards what lay ahead. For some it was the ‘next’ job, for a few it was the ‘next’ holiday, some sat wondering about what would be the best ‘next’ car or the ‘next’ house, ‘next’ Diwali and even the ‘next’ New Year’s eve came up as some waited for their ‘next’ drink to arrive. And all I could do was smirk at all of them with a ‘holier than thou’ halo around my head. Those were the days when I was still trying to settle down to a new life in a new city so for me the word ‘next’ was Hebrew, somehow too alien to fathom for my simple, change-fearing vocabulary, as I was already struggling with a host of changes in my ‘new life. I was busy frolicking in my new found Utopia, the new house in the new city, with its bare walls, large windows and a broad balcony had me charmed, thus I may have easily shrugged off the delusion of chasing ‘next’ and naive me told myself that it would never affect us.
But before I know it, the goal post had moved and within a few months of my arrival the new city adopted me as its apprentice and taught me that life should not stop at ‘now’, it must move on to ‘next, because ‘next’ always promised to be better. It was slowly initiating me into the way that drove its people, a constant race to strive for ‘next’, a hope that the future was going to be far better than the present, a search for the next Utopia. I was fast waking up to the transience of ‘now’. Change was the only constant, nothing seemed permanent anymore, the house, the address, the car, the mobile, the television – everyday there was a better, newer version being launched, newer models to upgrade to, the ‘next’ ‘better’ property launched with ‘better’ amenities than the previous – it was every where, each hoarding, each advertisement, in the paper, on television. Success was an ever changing goalpost. The address to Utopia seemed to have changed to somewhere else, further down the road.
Amidst this blitzkrieg came the announcement from the Bee that we were about to move. Was I happy? Yes, I was. Because here was my chance to arrive at the next Utopia. And very soon I found myself in the ‘next’ country, in a desert city. The multi-million dollar company had already dictated the new address, the new car, electronic gadgets et al. If Lutyens’s Rajdhani had initiated me to seek and aspire for change, the desert city taught me to keep upgrading, keep changing and keep abreast with the changing world order.
My current address, the Maximum City, a city governed by shooting per square feet prices, the city whose limits start at Cuff Parade and ends a little beyond Dadar, where whatever one achieves is never enough, where the tinsel town rules the heart as well as the mind and dictates the rules of living, eating, clothing and praying is my new Utopia. Am I ready to hang up my shoes? Has the search ended? Can I say that I have arrived and this is going to be my permanent address hereafter?
I don’t think so. I don’t think that I’m ready to give up my search for the next Utopia. Who knows what it has in store for me? A bigger house? A broader balcony? The latest SUV? A host of new friends?
I look up at at a hoarding reaching up to touch the sky over Maximum City. It asks me “Next is what?” … I smile and draw a writing pad from my purse to jot down a few things I wanted next.
Read it on my TOI blog : Freeze Frame