[This has turned out a strangely self-indulgent post, one suited more to a private diary than an online journal. I set out to write, on our tenth anniversary of arriving in Germany, an account of these last ten years here, but what got written, almost unconsciously, was a different score, cryptic and inward-looking.]
When we arrived there was no life plan. The move to Germany seemed like an interesting opportunity, although I do not remember trying to express – or even think about – why this was so. It may have been the allure of a new place, something exotic and unfamiliar. The little I had seen of Germany on a couple of previous trips had appealed. At a deeper level there must have been, although I wasn’t aware of it, the realization that I was doing what my father had done almost thirty years previously: take up a “foreign assignment”. But the similarities end there; I had it much easier. I was simply riding on a wave of Indian emigration westward; his move, in the early Seventies, was an exception. My destination was an advanced Western nation that provided a host of benefits; his was to a town in a small West African nation. I travelled with my wife; he had mother next to him and me, a six month old baby, in his arms.
He lived there four years before returning, with mother and a more talkative version of me, to India. I have stayed ten, and although I know I will return, a date eludes me. He looks back at those years as the happiest in his life – the relaxed and carefree attitude of youth was, during those years, not yet burdened by the ambition he acquired later, at middle-age, and, going by his stories from that period, he had lived well, lived fully. My ten years here have been wonderful, and sometimes I wonder if I do not wish to let go and return, only to reminisce, like him, at this phase as the happiest in my life.
There is more to it than returning. Like him, I find a steadily growing discontent within that I cannot put a finger on – is it, I ask myself, the same ambition that crept into him and made him leave his job and embark, in the end not very successfully, on a path where he could be his own master? It would be foolish to assume a link between our destinies – such a link, if it exists, can only be explored in retrospect, or within the borders of fiction – but I’m beginning to see a pattern in our intent, a texture that reveals common threads of rebelliousness, ambition and, perhaps foolishly, a belief that one person can make a difference.
In my younger years, when I saw his independent ventures fail and his pride wounded and all the financial difficulties and emotional turmoil this brought upon us, I used to wonder why he hadn’t stuck to his nine-to-five job, why he had thrown away his secure position and ventured into the unknown. Surely we all would have led a more stable and comfortable life, and there would have been none of those money problems. Now, in my late thirties, I know better. I find myself at a similar, if not identical, intersection. There is a growing murmur of restlessness, a voice that questions the meaning of continuing along the path I am now on, a voice that asks if I shouldn’t be taking that next approaching exit. Where that exit leads to I do not know, but take it I must, the voice says. If not this one, then the next. But there won’t be many more.
It is an affliction caused by opportunity, ambition and self-belief. Opportunity that tempts, ambition that instills desire, and self-belief that gets you started. And once in its grasp, it is impossible to break free. Experiences of others may guide and suggest, but cannot dissuade or substitute. I need to find my own answers.
This, then, is what ten years of stability, comfort and sameness have wrought. There still is no life plan, only a vague notion of things to explore. For the next ten years.