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What is home?
For some people, it is a person. For some others, it is a place. And then there are those who are still trying to find what home means to them.
I am sure you can guess the bucket that I find myself falling into.
For a long time during my childhood, I didn’t consider the house in which I was born to be very peaceful. Naturally, I couldn’t associate it with the beauty that people associated with the word “home”. And so, many years back, I set out to find my home.
The first time that I found something worth considering home was my hostel room. It was truly a place where I could just be myself, without anyone judging me or watching over me or telling me what to do. I could just be … myself. I was too fond of my room and was not very enthusiastic about leaving it to wander around, except for long walks in the campus, mostly alone, when it had just rained and the weather was just the right amount of cold. Anytime I was somewhere I didn’t like being, I just kept wishing that I were back in my room, either working or listening to music with the lights turned off or reading something or just lying down. My hostel was closer to the boundary of the campus and I could clearly see a lot of greenery right outside the window of my room on the 2nd floor.
“Woh kehte hain na, ki neend toh apne bistar par hi aati hain, sach kehte hain”
This was my first home - a place.
Then, I found a home in a person. I started understanding the meaning of “I want to come back home to you”. But it turned out to be a temporary one. Nevertheless, when it broke, it left an even bigger hole than what was present and I became even more desperate.
Once I graduated, it was time to try finding a home in a new city - Mumbai. You can imagine how easy it must have been to find a decent, spacious place to live in within my budget. By spacious, I mean just enough space for me to comfortably walk from my bed to the door of my room. I was living with some random people with whom I didn’t gel well. For the introvert me, that meant that my flat was basically restricted to my room. Plus, the washing machine of our flat was also inside my room itself. Anyways, in spite of everything, it did become a place where I really looked forward to coming back at the end of every exhausting day (a.k.a. every day) to simply lie down or read something or listen to something soothing with the lights turned off. Maybe I didn’t have any other option as well and so, I simply adapted to find joy in whatever I had with me.
A major shift occurred for me in 2020 when I left Mumbai and moved to Bangalore. And my home in Bangalore is something I’d never even imagined in my wildest dreams. No thanks to Mumbai for that. It has so much space that I can literally play a game of cricket in it. Plus, the walls are painted in precisely the color that I find peaceful. Our society is a little secluded and hence, away from all the noise. Plus, there is greenery all around our flat. It just seemed perfect the first time I saw it and I’ve been grateful to be able to call this place my home for almost the past 2 years. Sure, it is quite far from all the hip places in the city. But it is a place where I found the kind of peace I’ve been seeking. It usually requires a lot of motivation for me to want to leave my room. I’ve had some of my happiest moments in this room - most them being either reading a book, listening to some soothing music with the lights turned off or just lying down. I guess some pleasures don’t change! 🤷🏼♂️
I recently watched this movie called “My Neighbor Totoro” and was completely taken away by the culture and overall mood that was on display. The protagonist went around being excited about drying clothes, exploring a supposedly-haunted house, waving everyone she came across during her travels, and writing letters to her mother who was admitted in a hospital describing how her day went. People were generally quite passionate about helping each other with the little things. When one of the other protagonists saw a mysterious character and described it to her father, he wasn’t dismissive of what she saw and instead said that she was the lucky one who got to meet him. I kept wondering if it was actually inspired from a place that exists in reality or is it completely an act of fiction. I certainly wouldn’t mind living in such a culture that is so deeply embedded in nature, beauty, simplicity, community, harmony and wonder.
I am back in Kolkata now with my parents, grandparents and brother. Although some of the elements which prevented me from considering this house a home are always going to stay, surprisingly, I think I’ve become quite indifferent to them and I’ve started focusing on the things that I love about being here and everything I miss when I am away. This shift in perspective has taken a lot of time but I am glad that it has happened and is happening. In every subsequent visit, I find myself being more grateful than the previous one about being able to come here anytime I wish, to be with my family. With a set of people who’ve seen me grow ever since I was born 25 years ago. I am slowly beginning to fully grasp the importance of having a family. That too, a loving and caring one. Whatever might concur on an every day basis, I don’t have a sliver of doubt that these people deeply care for me and I am lucky to be able to experience that.
One of the best parts of coming back here is having a community of friends who trace back to my childhood. With whom I share a deep bond. One which no longer needs a lot of conscious effort to be replenished. We know that we’ll always care for each other and wish the best for each other. Meeting them, talking about how things have changed, how things used to be, what we are looking forward to, gives me a sense of community that I’ve been searching for, for a long time. Something as simple as meeting a group of really old friends over a drink or lunch carries so much warmth, love, smiles and care. For a moment, it makes me forget about all my existential angst.
But the part which makes it really hard for me to leave this city every single time is letting go of the warm embrace of my mother. After 8 years of searching, I’ve realised that my true home has always been right beside me. I was just too immature or unaware to not recognise and appreciate it. A simple thing as a hug can be so important to someone. I really miss being able to regularly hug someone whom I truly love, especially when everything seems to be falling apart.
After a long time, I don’t feel any rush to leave the city any time soon.
I’ve always hated Kolkata for the most part of my adult life. But maybe, just maybe, I’m actually beginning to like it here! Is this real?
Here are some words that touched me!