I was three when I nurtured the habit of looking out of the windows.
Misty mornings made way for warm sunshine and jaunty evenings waltzed into starry skies.
But the lofty green mountains remained strong and the bougainvillea trees stood still even in the shadows of darkness.
I was four when I felt the salty aroma of air engulfing me as I stared at the endless blue sea.
I collected shells and souvenirs and stood with my toes in the sand as the waves gently lapped me at the shore.
Even as the tides got stronger and the waves, higher by the night, the distant lights always lulled me into a strange quietness.
I was five when I cycled my way through the wide roads to a library my mother visited every evening.
The mischievous world of Bapu and Ramana, the mystical world of Viswanatha Satyanarayana, the mysterious world of Chalam enticed me into their realms.
Oblivious to the value of those writers, I cycled home with the joy of spending another evening annoying the librarian.
I was six when I discovered how the city was surrounded by mountains greener than the greens of my crayons and I was seven when I realized this was home.
I was eight when we moved to a different city, and to another, and kept moving.
It took me more than 8 years and yet another long stay to understand this city is more than just home.
It is first steps and first discoveries. First beach rides and aquarium sights.
It is first friendships and first fights. Of innumerable skating classes and injuries. First movies and first brush with literature.
The first rush of teenage and walking fearlessly into darkness without a speck of doubt.
Over the years, the city is growing older with grace.
Natural disasters have only made it stronger.
The lovers of the beach have slowly made way for the lovers in the beach.
The nooks and corners are flanked with the cosmopolitan glory.
The otherwise conventional people learned to coexist with the modern ones.
So much has changed but the air is still salty and the evenings placidly wander into starry nights.
On the roof of every home, a child like I once was dreams high of becoming big, someday.
To explore the world behind the green mountains and beyond the greenish blue waters.
To travel the cities without mountains around walk in the beaches with a different scent in the air.
Yet come back home, from distances far away.
Maybe it was only that distance that made the heart grew fonder.
After all, home truly is where the heart is, isn't it?