“…some people have mountains in them while some have the sea… even if they are born in flatlands, [they] cannot be parted for long from the mountains. Anywhere else is exile. Anywhere else, the ground is too flat, the air too dense, the trees to broad-leaved for beauty. The color of the light is all wrong, the sounds nothing but noise.”
- The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy, P. 6-7
Do not get me wrong, I am a New Yorker through and through, however I cannot help but thinking that I am better suited to some other place. Somewhere that has an air of old-world beauty. This place- where daily functioning embraces unique lifestyles and zero chance that a person will be donning the same attire.
Recently a Buzzfeed published quiz that comes with an immediate result-output, has gone viral. The quiz is titled “What City Should You Actually Live In?” The quiz is already limited to the geographical taxonomy of cities which means that one automatically cannot associate themselves with remote locales circumventing urban epicenters populated by the Internet Cafe’s that are so characteristic of the developed-world.
Furthermore, the quiz assumes that everyone drinks alcohol, which irks me. Forget morality and faith as the reasons for my being turned off and instead try and zoom in on a memory of mine that invoked the same reaction:
I was sitting in a senior year seminar for my major. The professor was speaking about something or the other and then made an analogy in order for the students to understand just how impossible that scenario she was talking about was: “It’s like saying that there is a person at the U. of Penn. who has never drank alcohol for recreational purposes in their entire life.” The students broke out into laughter as I sat silently, feeling ostracized by a people who thought non-drinkers didn’t exist.
I took the quiz out of sheer curiosity. I tried submitting the quiz without answering the drink-preference question. Try as I might, I could not leave the question blank - mine was an invalid response. I ventured to guess what type of drink, by name and reputation, would most closely reflect my type of person. I forgot what I had answered immediately after answering it.
In the second that I was waiting for my classification, I presumed to be matched with New York City. Instead I was matched with the Spanish city of Barcelona.
Suffice it to say, I was satisfied. I’m half Puerto Rican, my mother’s grandparents were from Spain, and so I felt a sense of self despite the pointed questions. I was thankful to not be matched with any other European or Australian city, that is for sure.
In the past year I have traveled more than ever before. I went to our nation’s capital for a weekend, the west coast for another weekend, and aside from visiting my brother on occasion in a city that when considered being traveled to from New York, the journey is bisected by the home of my alma mater, Philadelphia. I had also traveled to Istanbul for all of three days, a memory that leaves a harsh bitter taste in my mouth but that I equate with an experience from my past, causing me to grow as a result.
Since these travels from these months’ past, I have become incredibly more patriotic in terms of identifying myself as not just a New Yorker, but an American, born and raised.
I like not having to observe the jarring dichotomy between mansions or dripping in marble palatial-like religious establishments and slums with tin and mud thatch roofed huts. I like that the standard of living for the middle social strata, though not always sophisticate as a consequence of its inherent access, is the safety haven that enables all citizens to go to a pharmacy or the supermarket.
Though we may have our own separate paths - distinct by ethnicity and locale, and the middle finger goes up one too many times on the road, the camaraderie among us citizens standing on line at the self-checkout weighing our own perishable items, shoveling snow in sub-freezing temperatures, and walking around the mall without a care aside from picking up free cinnamon pretzel and terriyaki chicken samples, warms my heart.
I’m an American and I sound like one.
I do not enjoy entertaining the idea of an extended family living arrangement and I am more than ok with that.
I absolutely detest the idea of afternoon naps or siestas.
I deplore the lethargic memories of people sitting in the rain on their veranda dunking fried culinary treats in the steamy and wonderfully aromatic froths of milk during the middle of the day.
I’ve been told by immigrants that I do not understand, but neither do they.
I suppose I’ll never really know what place in this world would suit me.
Trees that are decadent with pine needles and spring-like summers that reflect in pools of earth-sprung water a mountainous terrain, is what I have always pictured as the backdrop of my dreams. When I see pictures of a family trip to Kashmir, prior to my birth, in photo albums filled with pages of glue slowly dissolved so that Polaroids are haphazardly placed, I displace myself there.
Curiosity has heightened to such an extent that I have quite possibly viewed every documentary on the highly contested valley that are available online. I’ve read novels, non-fiction accounts, and articles about the fragile political climate in that region. The journalistic resources about Kashmir are manifold, now thanks to the most recently appointed editor in chief of The New York Times’ India Ink vertical.
If I were to ever settle down in some corner of the Earth that is at a high altitude, seemingly locked in by mountains but surrounded by clouds and sky that feels so perceptibly nearby, I know that at some point in time I would want to step down on a fire escape of branches.
I enjoy the tropical or more climatic delicacies not available to a mountainous terrain. I cannot imagine not being able to smell the basil and mint leaves my parents planted in the backyard during the summer time. I already miss those days in high school, when we knew were not set to move and planting still took place: I would be sent to the backyard with scissors to cut off mint and basil leaves that would be made into a pesto sauce for dinner’s pasta dish.
I’ll miss having mangoes for daily shakes that cool my insides.
I now understand the validity of what one of my college roommates had told me: You decide how you want to live. Your lifestyle is not preordained by the environment you’re in. If you want to preserve a culture and traditions, it won’t be taken away from you just because you live a world away from the traditions’ birthplace.
I have to believe that she’s right.
After all, mango trees do not grow in New York and I have never gone apple picking.