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Small town, big heart

Pearl Jam's haunting ballad Gone is about someone seeking to escape the rigors and limits of small town life and chart a new course. While performing the song on VH1 Storytellers, Eddie Vedder quotes another song inspired by small towns, the late Lou Reed's Small Town in which he sings 'the only good thing about a small town is you know you want to get out.' 

Outside the cocoon of 24x7 wi-fi and artificially cooled air, is a world. It may lack many of the things that cities spoil us for choice with and numb our senses to, but it is definitely more real than the Truman Show lives of sameness that we lead.

There are two ways to explore a small town. One is to hire an AC cab, zip through landscapes and people, finish whatever you went for and return.

The other is to ditch the comforts and travel in their buses, walk on their roads, drink chai in their chai kadas and listen to their stories, hopes and dreams.

We traveled to a place called Gandikotta in Andhra Pradesh that is fondly christened the Grand Canyon of India. En route, while waiting for a bus, I asked a shopkeeper for directions. He then took my palm and predicted my future, which according to him, was as bright as the sun that was mercilessly showering us with its rays. He didn't extend a hand to ask for money, just sent us with his best wishes.

A little later, we alighted from the bus and refreshed ourselves with a couple of cool drinks at a stall. A couple of days later, we found ourselves at the same stall, tired and weary and a day spent  and the shopkeeper recognised us. Seeing us lugging our bags and the fatigue that was etched on our faces like a permanent tattoo, he offered us a seat and rushed out to get us an auto. Someone we probably would never see again in our lives went out of his way to see that we got a ride to our hotel.

In a small town, there is no wi-fi but the conversations are enriching. The flavours are local people aren't sizing you up as much as they are curious to know about you. There is one theatre, one mall, one station. For all of our progress, we have come to the sad realisation that more isn't the panacea. The homes haven't gotten a coat of paint in what seems like centuries but they radiate a warmth that cannot be described through tepid real estate advertising. The fields are lush and the dusk sometimes descends with a scary suddenness. A small town goes to bed early and rises early,and life and vitality are not frittered in the numerous charades that urban living throws at us in the guise of entertainment.

Life in a small town may seem it moves at a snail's pace and makes its inhabitants yearn to be a part of the rat race to nowhere.

Eventually, the big city lights will lead us all back into the arms of a small town.


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