By Alok Joshi
Nobody can decide one’s place of birth. Some say it is destined. Others think it is all about timing. But almost everybody can decide his/her place of final settlement after quitting work or retirement from active service. This important decision of life depends on a lot of factors. For me, it was simple: just listen to my heart.
My parents belonged to Uttarakhand but my birth place was in another state. My entire education happened in a small city of another state plus Europe, and my professional career took me to the north-east, north and west India, Africa, UAE and China.
As a child I used to complain to my father about not getting a chance to step out even to the neighbouring New Delhi. He would say, “Son, your time will come.” He was so right. Once I left the doors of my parents’ home to build my career, I kept moving from one place to another. For work or holiday, I travelled to almost all corners of India and more than 40 countries.
It was time for me to hang up my boots and return home to take care of my old and lonely parents. But God had different plans. I could not give them the happiness of my “ghar wapsi” for a long time. Sadly, they left soon, one after another.
After all the running around, I had to find a place to settle down with my wife. Like many others, my children went abroad. Even though I grew up as a city boy, my heart was always close to nature. I wanted to return to my roots and remain grounded. The hills of Garhwal beckoned me.
My childhood memories overshadowed the glitter of city life. I missed my maternal home in Joshimath. Every two months of summer vacations were spent in the palatial house of my grandfather, who had settled in Joshimath after serving as the Rawal of Badrinath for over 22 years. As young city brats, plucking fruits from trees, buying pakori and sweets from Bhattji’s sweet shop with little coins or taking out our grandma’s cattle to graze in neighbouring fields was great fun. Occasional road trips to Badrinath or trek to Hemkund Sahib with my Mausa are still fresh in my mind as if it was yesterday.
I returned to Dehradun after three decades. Life had come full circle. In 1985, I had started my career as a young executive from ONGC, Dehradun. My mother always wanted me to buy a small apartment in Dehradun where she and dad could stay with me in their old age. She also wanted to be near her younger sisters who had also settled in Dehradun. Now I have my own place but my parents are not with me. In my silent prayers I do tell my mother to forgive me for being late in fulfilling her wish. She still lives with me, in my heart.
Many people ask me the reason for choosing Dehradun. My answer is simple. I belong to Uttarakhand and love the beautiful Himalayan ranges. I feel at home. At this stage in life, what matters is peace of mind, health and happiness. I have seen enough unrest in the world, be it Naga insurgency, Delhi riots, Yugoslavia war, Sudan conflict and Darfur crisis, or Indo-China border skirmishes and tensions.
The city of Dehradun might have changed but most people are still the same. They are simple Paharis in a world that is crowded with fake people. I have given up my expectations from old friends and acquaintances. They have a right to be busy with their own lives. New friends have entered my life. My old uncles and aunts still love me.
Uttarakhand is developing fast. It is celebrating 24 years of its existence on 9th November and its Silver Jubilee next year. Dehradun, the old sleepy small town of the ‘80s is now growing in every field. There are new opportunities to give back to society, to the people of Uttarakhand, particularly the youth. As life goes on, I am back to where I belong. Like always, I once again listened to my heart which keeps singing “Bedu pako bara masa”.
(Alok Joshi is an HR Advisor, motivational speaker, freelance writer and author of two books including “12 Sweet & Sour Years in China”)