City Lights – A Story of Belonging & Reassurance

City lights on the opposite mountain.

I’ve always been a solitary person. Happy in my own company.

Even when I was in the city, when my girlfriends went out on Friday nights, I’d choose to stay home. On those nights alone, I’d spend hours staring out of my bedroom window looking at city lights. Millions of those colorful dots that lit up the whole world. Vertically on buildings, on hoardings, as street lights and in thousands on cars that drove from under me in a golden blur.

Every once in a while, when I liked a car I’d play this little game of imagining the inhabitant of that vehicle. Who could it be? A man, a woman or even a whole  family. Where are they coming from? The International airport. Where are they headed to? A beautiful house in Carmichael road. What is their home like? Minimalistic, clean, with white walls, high ceilings, large windows, black marble countertops, reclaimed teak wood furniture and golden lights. What is their profession? An international lawyer of sorts or a diplomat or a travel photographer. What would they be eating for dinner? Hot mushroom soup, breadsticks and stir fried vegetables served in ceramic white dinnerware. What is their family like? One daughter in an international school, a son starting university in the fall, a spouse with an artistic career and set of loyal auxiliary staff who’ve been with the family for years.

Sometimes, when I started, I could play this game for hours – building up these cool imaginary people with amazing imaginary lives, who perpetually lived in my imagination.

If ever I felt any semblance of loneliness, this game would easily dispel it. Because like those millions of tiny dots that lit up the city – my window and my life too – comprised of one of those dots. And whether knowingly or unknowingly – I too was part of what made the world come alive. In someone else’s imagination, perhaps I too led a fancy and fabulous life.

All I needed was a set of lights, and just like that I was reassured that I wasn’t alone; I blended in, I belonged.

When I moved to the mountains from the city ten months ago, and people asked me how I dealt with a such a change in my surrounding – my answer was always the same: I was always solitary, so the transition was easy.

I must have repeated this answer about a hundred times, but lately, with each retelling I feel like this answer is starting to feel less and less real.

What changed?

The other day as I was returning from my walk after sunset – this view caught my eye. Under the soft glow of the silvery-gold moonlight, these tiny lights of champagne, red and gold twinkling brightly in the faraway distance, triggered something inside me.

Looking at these lights I realized maybe it’s not the city that I miss, but the proximity it provides that I do. Maybe its not the people that I miss but the stories they spin that I do. And mostly it’s not the city lights that I miss, but the feeling of belonging that it provides that I do.

Being solitary, I require to be in the presence of people even if I don’t personally know or interact with them. Because I like mentioned before, as long as I am just another glowing dot in a sea of other dots – I am reassured.

It will be a while before I go back to staring at the city lights from the corner of my bedroom window – but till then I have these lights shining on the opposite mountain. And, knowing that to them I’m also another faraway light – another home on another mountain – for me, for now that is good enough.

What I love about this picture is how clearly I can see those twinkling lights with no trees or rocks obstructing them. Just the distance between us and the silhouette of the mountain on which they shine.

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