Burning the Bridges

A friend of mine used to often say "burn the bridges". What is "burning the bridges"? It just means, forgetting the past - the past relationships and memories. It's mostly referred to as a thing with individual relationships but I think it's a loaded statement with a bigger meaning. It's not as easy as it sounds. Though I don't believe in the concept of burning the bridges much, the idiom did seem to be attractive to me. It's not that all of us have to be ready to burn our bridges always but it "is" an important thing that some of us have to learn to do. It would be good in the long run if we could do it easily in certain aspects of our life. I have not been very good in doing that nor do I find it very difficult always. I don't know how good or bad you are in doing that. :)

All our literature and movies keep reminding us not to forget the past. They have made even those of us who hate our native places and people out there to like them by repeatedly stressing that they are holy and we have to respect them at all costs. It's kind of an unknown attraction that we have with the place where we were born and the people with whom we spent our childhood. It's become part of our culture and a trait of our land. Even if we are jealous of someone's success, we criticize them by calling them as the ones that forgot their past. We make it a big issue as if they looted someone else's money to get to that place. It's not as bad as that, right? But, such allegations still work with our people. Basically, we are very emotional people so there is nothing to be surprised about it, right?!

Why does English alone have such an idiom? Is it because the westerners do that (burning bridges) often? Or, is it because they are not able to do it well so they are often asked to do it? But, I think, it's generally a very easy thing for them to do. In a single life, they easily burn many bridges and build new bridges. I mean, the marriage bridge! It's not so easy for us. But, somehow, I think, we should learn to do it when required.

We always have that attraction for the land where we were born and the people with whom we grew up - throughout our life. Even after coming too far away from them and getting used to (or addicted to) a totally different lifestyle, those memories keep coming to our mind in black and white. We keep dreaming about going back to the same place and living the same life adding some additional spice from what we learnt in the outside world. But, it's better to keep them as just dreams. That's more joyful than making it a reality. Most of those who went to make it a reality came back running saying it's not all that worth. They don't find the reality as 'feel-good' as the dreams. They only regret that at least the good memories would have comforted till the end if they had remained in the place where they had got used to.

Why is it so? The simplest answer is, our new lifestyle is more lavish, sophisticated, 'out of place' in our original place, something that those people cannot afford to, something that makes them envy us and a big show-off. Once we come out and get used to different lifestyles, we become irreversible to the old lifestyle. We can't lead the same life as theirs. It's almost like putting a dry-fish back to the sea and asking it to swim like earlier. Dry-fish... swimming... is it possible?

So, burning the bridges is easy for only westerners. It's easy for some of us, too. Whether we like it or not, it's only those people who can do that easily succeed in life easily. I just mean the materialistic success. If you are a guruji who defines 'success' differently, please excuse. It's a bitter truth for ordinaries like us. Those who love their families never leave them to explore unknown territories in pursuit of their goals. How will you discover new oceans if you can't lose sight of the shore? It's only those people who don't get addicted to these kind of attachments succeed because the success never knocks your door. You have to get out of your house to get it. That's why most people in our small towns keep saying, "as long as he is here, he won't achieve anything!".

On one hand, our literature and movies sentimentally bind us with the our land and childhood connections by portraying them as holy. That becomes our comfort zone. On the other hand, it's seen as a useless trait in real life. There are lots of people to list the reasons for why we have to be attached to our motherland (My dear patriotic countrymen, please note that I am not referring to India as a country here. I am just talking about one's native place or the comfort zone!) and people. But, let's see why it's an useless trait and why we should burn our bridges and get out of our comfort zones. I am not saying that we should disrespect our land or people but at the same time we should never get addicted to them in a way that it affects our progress. What is wrong in burning bridge that is only pulling you back from growing? By doing that, who knows you may even get an opportunity to build a better bridge in the same place sometime later. Then, why not? Hope you would understand what I really mean.

I met a senior citizen in the cantonment railway station sometime back. We were discussing about our backgrounds - where I am from, where he is from, etc. He happened to be from the same region from that of mine. He even knew some of the lecturers in the college I studied. He spent most of his life in Delhi and is living in Bangalore after retirement. He has some connection with Chennai also but not much with the native place. That day, he was going to his native place. I was asking him if he didn't feel like settling in his native place after retirement. He said, "It's a myth. If you make good friends wherever you go, every place will be your native place. I still have some connection with my native place and I go there once in a year or so. I am happy!". I don't think I can forget that discussion so easily.

So, there is nothing called native place. It's against the nature of mankind. The change is constant and that is what is natural. If I have to go one step ahead, there is nothing called 'natural'. Everything is artificial. Wondering what happened to me suddenly?! The human beings have legs to roam around and the hands and brain to make that job easier by inventing something new always. In the long journey of mankind, all lands become useless at some point in time. Due to weather, drought, flood, people from everywhere flooding to one place due to its abundant resources, or the human mind's constant need for change, a land may become unlivable. It may become less resourceful than earlier. In such circumstances, people start migrating to other places. It has happened many times in the history of mankind. Sometimes they are small - to nearer places; sometimes they are big - from continent to continent.

What we all call our native place today is not our native place to any of us. One way to find out the oldest native place is our 'family deity' concept. The place where one's family deity is located is their native place. All our forefathers have migrated to better places in times of droughts. But, there is a complication again. Some communities carried some mud from their family deity's temples and built the same temple near the place where they migrated to. Or, someone or a team of people went back to the original place after settling down in the new place and brought mud to do this construction. So, if your forefathers had done the same thing, it becomes all the more difficult to find out what really is your native place. Because, even the family deity migrated along with them to a new place and future generations wouldn't have kept track of all these.

The descendants of the people who migrated from remote villages to cities like Bangalore and Chennai few generations back are calling one of the old areas in these cities as their native place. Their kids living in some western country say that India or one of these cities is their native place. Though they say so, they keep doing everything possible to make the new place their home. They leave no stone unturned to make it more friendly for their living. After a few centuries their descendants would be settled there and become its sons of the soil. Their siblings' descendants back here would be a different community and race here. At some point in time, one of them would even wage a war against the other under some circumstances without even knowing that they are their distant cousins. Has this not happened in humanity so far?

My understanding is that this is how the mankind has been living so far. Once we realize this bitter reality, I think, burning the bridges would become easier. The moment you start loving the place where you went and accepting everyone as your relative, you wouldn't have a need to look back, right? You wouldn't have to yearn for the love of your people back home. Absence of something in the new place is what takes us back to our roots. Once we start having it right here, why would we go back there? Why would dry-fish jump into the sea again? What do you say? But, everyone should think like that. Those who are in a place for longer times should accept the new comers as their own people. Nobody should get second class treatment anywhere. If everyone everywhere becomes open to everybody, burning the bridges would become easier, I guess.

Above all, childhood memories would always be there with us. Should be there! We could meet all our relatives when we go to see our family deity every year, enjoy the few days with them and have lavish parties but should come back to the place where we are to share all the good experiences with our friends back here and start focusing on work - the purpose of our life. I think, that's more joyful than going back permanently and burning the fingers. The later you burn the bridges the more painful it would be. If possible, let us bring them all to the place where we are and expose them to a bigger world and better lifestyle. That's even more joyful. Instead, if we go back to their places and start living a life that is of no use to them and irritates their eyes, I don't think it would be so joyful. It's only joyful in dreams and talks - not in reality!


  1. This is a very thought provoking piece but is too long. May I suggest that you break them up into smaller ones for easy reading? Or give them sub titles for visual ease.

    I agree about the family deity concept of harking back to one's native place and no matter if you carry that deity with you, you will still go back to the original one at least at some point in life. We keep going to Swamimalai though there is a replica of it right in Delhi called Uttara Swamimalai.

  2. Thank you. Yeah, I have been getting this feedback from a lot of people but I am still not able to be short and sweet. Sub-titles is a good idea. I have already done that in the other post and I am going to do that in all my future posts.

    Cool. I didn't know about this Uttara Swamimalai. I wouldn't be surprised if there is an American Swamimalai also, now. :)

  3. I completely agree with you. We can tell our mind to ignore those thoughts, we can not stop the thoughts from coming.

  4. I know. It's easier said than done. It's actually about my own internal conflicts. :)

  5. Profound, I agree it's not that easy burn down something when it's was a part of your life. And, even in moving on, we carry a part always with us. Its a different thing we speak about it or not.

  6. True. And, I didn't write this for individual relationships. I know, the memories of some relationships could never be wiped off. Mine is more about burning the bridges with our comfort zones. Your comments apply to both type of relationships, I guess.

  7. that was an interesting thought - the bit about there is nothing called a native place. its strange because like you wrote, we are brought up to have a sentimental attachment to the place we are born & grew & also when we become "rich" we are appreciated if we give back to our "native place"

  8. Yeah, even I have a lot of plans to give back to my society that brought me up. To get to that level, I have to burn my bridges with my place for sometime now. If I was so addicted to the place, I would have got stuck to that place itself. :)


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