"So, where are you from?" A colleague of mine asked as we were having lunch.
"Dehradun," I replied.
I was well familiar with the kind of response my hometown evoked from people. A small town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Dehradun had managed to inspire awe from all quarters since time immemorial.
"Oh wow! That's such an amazing place! Must be shitty living here, coming from such a nice place, isn't it?" she said.
I nodded half-heartedly.
For, the corporate vultures were slowly taking away my hometown from me and there was nothing I could do about it.
I was in Dehradun for 18 years. A majority of my teenage life was spent exploring every nook and corner of the city. And over the years, I fell in love with each one of them. I fell in love with its simplicity. I fell in love with the fact that it was so minimal in its existence.
Soon, it was time for me to leave in search of greener pastures (read: higher education) as a bigger city beckoned with promises of bigger lights and shinier skies.
And just like that, I became a migrant.
The town that had nurtured me for 18 years of my life, was now a vacationing spot for me as I tried to find time to pay it a visit.
But instead of overwriting my sensibilities with its glitz and glamour, the one thing a metro city did was to make the trips to my hometown even more endearing.
Or at least that's how it was for the first few visits.
With each visit, the city became a little less recognizable. The hilly routes that were once epitomes of peace and serenity, had now been burdened with cafes and tea stalls.
The small bakeries and shops that were the hallmarks of an era gone by, were falling victims to the mall culture.
The city, as I knew it, was dying.
And that wasn't the case with my hometown alone. It was the story of every small town kid who used to go home to seek some well needed comfort. To seek a sense of familiarity.
Instead, all we got was a watered down version of the exact same city we were coming from.
"But it's development. Don't you want your hometown to get developed?," the permanent residents would argue.
I agree. I want all the development in the world to happen in my hometown. But development should not come at the cost of robbing it of its soul and essence. Development should mean better roads, a better organized traffic, better water supply and better standard of living.
It doesn't mean constructing malls at every corner, setting up shady cafes and pouring blaring music out of discotheques on every street. It doesn't mean razing down every vestige of your childhood memory and then replacing it with homogenized variants of a metropolis.
Every small town has a story to tell. Don't rob it of it.
I'm going back to Dehradun next month. And as always, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.