Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Recently I haven’t felt the strong urge to write about something in my life, something around me, that strange pull that makes you want to spill love or vitriol or just random thought. I think this is because I was visiting a city I had never been to before.

It isn’t because I was enthralled and enraptured. I wasn’t so busy that I couldn’t take a moment away to type a few quick words. It wasn’t because I was so horrified and disgusted that I couldn’t think of anything else. It wasn’t because I was falling in love with it. It wasn’t because I was growing to revile it. It wasn’t because I was bored. In fact, it was simply because I felt nothing at all.

I knew I loved Paris on that first taxi ride from CDG into the city. Bombay is in my blood – there was no question of whether I loved it or not. When we first arrived in the States, as we descended over New York City I felt that strange tidal pull that still draws me to it so many years later. I may question love when it comes to people, I may be hesitant to recognize it – but with a city…well, that stupid smile in my tummy usually clues me in.

In just the same way, I can recognize the cities I don’t get along with so well. Stockholm? There would have to be one hell of a strong reason for me to return there. Along the lines of a Nobel Prize. I found it boring and cold, even without the sheets of ice covering the place.

But Shanghai…well. Really, I couldn’t say. Nothing wrong with it. Perfectly fine city. Bright lights (many bright lights), big city, restaurants, sights…I wasn’t bored, I wasn’t disgusted, I didn’t find it cold. But equally, I wasn’t excited out of my skin, I wasn’t starry eyed and bedazzled, I wasn’t at peace. I’m sure I could find many words to describe it. But I’m not so sure I could find many words to describe what it made me feel. Unless perhaps it is just this one: nothing.

I would be perfectly happy to go to Shanghai again, perhaps even live there. I don’t really think I’d be overjoyed at being guaranteed I would never return. It’s like that acquaintance you always run into at parties – perfectly nice, and sure you’re glad you see them from time to time, but it would never occur to you to seek them out for a cup of coffee on a random weekday afternoon. Equally, you would feel bad for them if they died or had to move away, but it wouldn’t really put a dent in your own life. Perhaps at the next party you would remark on their absence. Or not.

As I recognized this feeling with regards to Shanghai, I started wondering what kind of city I am. Am I the kind that people fall in love with and want to return to time and time again – some to build a life there, some as a favorite destination? Am I someone’s Paris, someone’s Bombay, someone’s New York? Or am I the kind that people stay away from after visiting once – too loud and bustling, too boring, too hot, too cold? Or am I that other kind, that makes people feel nothing at all, that is fine, but just fine, that’s not bad, not bad at all, that is just a “sure why not” instead of a “hell yes” or a “hell no”?

I would like to be a “hell yes” of course, but if I couldn’t be that…well I’m not quite sure which of the other two options I would prefer.

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