The Funny Side of Familiarity: Why we love our ‘area’!

“Somehow the milk here seems to have too much water” said my friend’s mother, while serving us tea. Having spent most of her life in Mumbai, she had come over to my friend’s place in Bangalore for a few days. Her identity, for all practical purposes, was not just linked to being from Mumbai, but went further to being from the suburb of Vile Parle, and she often underscored that she meant Vile Parle (East).

Her son (and my friend), a Mumbai-ite for all practical purposes, had moved to Bangalore a few years back. His wife, also a Mumbai-ite, having never lived outside, used to have similar complaints back then.

“You don’t even get decent vada-pav here. And they put carrot in the chaat here. Amazing!” I remember her saying that a few years back. She used to  complain to another friend’s wife, a Bangalore-ite, who argued “That is how it tastes best”. Finally, she had found solace in a third friend’s wife, a Delhi-ite, who complained, “Yeah – you have no idea how bad the Alu Tikki is.”

I don’t know whether it is familiarity or genuine liking. Or just pure habit. But most people who live in a place for long enough seem to take a liking to things associated with it. And this is not limited to countries or cities. It extends to suburbs, areas, even neighbourhoods.

A friend who lived in Jayanagar 5th Block in Bangalore for a few years says he just cannot quite imagine living anywhere else, even in Bangalore because “the people here are so friendly”.

I used to have friends in Mumbai who liked where they lived for all kinds of reasons. A friend was proud of living in Borivali because “all fast trains stopped here.” Another one loved Thane because “it had an identity of its own.” Those living on the Western Line boasted about it to those on Central Line. If you lived in Andheri (East), you could never live in Andheri (West) and vice versa.

Familiarity with one place meant discomfort with another.

Sometimes this extends to office places also. I once had a colleague who was extremely fond of his work desk. He was so possessive about it that he had tied his chair to the desk with locked wire. Nobody dared to ask him to move elsewhere.

A rearrangement in work place allocations is a nightmare that many people are not prepared for. Complaints abound from “being on the 1st floor is so convenient, I save time that others spend in the lift” to “this desk faces the window, so it hits me when the sun sets” to “the canteen in my earlier building was so much better.”

A friend and his wife, used to shopping at a particular place in his neighbourhood, accompanied me and my wife to a store in the area that we live in. “The vegetables here don’t look that fresh” his wife remarked.

A colleague from Chennai staying for a few days in Mumbai complained “The auto-rickshaw fellows here take me for a ride.” I heard him say later “I think the potholes on the roads here are also a bit against me.”

But the best was when I went with him to the beach. “Quite a lot of mud in the water” he remarked. “Yeah” I agreed. Then I realized how much he loved his ‘area’ when he said, “But the mud here is not the same as the mud on our beach.”

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