Sorry about not writing to you yesterday. There was a slight miscalculation of time – apparently if I write when it’s an hour or two past midnight into a day, it still gets posted the previous day. Does that classify for a rookie mistake? It doesn’t matter, but that means I’m going to be writing one extra day to you! Yay!
Today is the birthday of my cousin sister and her husband – their first birthday post marriage and away from home.
In my whole family, counting uncles, aunts and cousins, we’ve shifted and had houses all over the city (now some of us have shifted and had houses even outside of the city and country). I myself have stayed in Dahisar and Versova, before finally shifting to Oshiwara for a good decade and a half. So a common question posed to many of our cousins has been “Which was the house you liked the most? The one where you really felt at home?” My answer to that one has always been Versova because I’ve seen the most fun part of my life there – friends, neighbors, cousins, colony parties, outings and Sunday mornings on the beach! (And partly because Versova is the ‘town’ of the suburbs and I wanted to show off).
But that’s not really true. Thinking back to it, friends, neighbors, colony parties and outings happened just as much at Dahisar, if not more. Coming to the second half of the question above and the point I’m trying to arrive at through all the beating around the bush that I have been doing – Where have I really felt at home? Where does anyone actually feel at home? Is it in their houses, with their friends, with the one they’re in love with, in the place of their childhood, religion, community, country, where?
And I’ve tried to find the answers where everyone eventually goes to find them – in movies! I mean, God, you and your scriptures of different kinds of faith are undeniably there of course, but every next generation has more spoiled apples ruining the whole basket than you’d like to admit and the movies? They’re damn good at spoiling us, if the generation hasn’t! Trust me! From ‘ghar aaja pardesi’ to ‘nadaan parinde ghar aaja’, nobody seemed to know exactly where home is for everyone or why there and nowhere else. But they left me with one very strong clue – Home is what you come back to at the end each time.
This was affirmed by one of my favorite love stories, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’; at the same time, the then man of my dreams said a line in the movie, which stayed with me and puzzled me further. ‘You can have roots and wings, Mel!’ How can you metaphorically justify what is so difficult to logically grasp in the literal sense to begin with? Back to the movies, a lot of them in Bollywood took to the trend of showing this very concept. Off the top of my head, ‘Break Ke Baad’ and ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ seemed to have done a pretty good job of telling you that sometimes you need to see the world to know what is back at home. A classic roots and wings piece of wisdom; which brings me to the part of my life where I gladly forgot my ‘Versova’ answer and started telling everyone that my college st. Xavier’s, Mumbai, was the first place I ever felt at home.
Apart from getting to be a part of a ‘cool’, sarcastic, judgmental, condescending cult that went out of its way to let the world know that they couldn’t be bothered to dress up or care what others think, it was the first place where I started getting to know myself much more than before. My dreams, ambitions, likes, dislikes and everything became much clearer and I became more confident. Why, the very first line of our anthem literally spelled it out for you – Xavier’s, you gave me roots and wings….. No arguing with that!
But I was wrong. I was wrong each time I answered the question ‘where do I really feel at home?’ I was wrong with every conclusion I jumped to and every undisputed statement I made like ‘No place has made me feel more at home,’ or ‘No person has ever been more home to me than this one!’ I’ve felt at home in so many places and circumstances, with so many people. I’ve felt at home in the houses of my cousins where I’ve stayed for entire vacations of mine. I’ve felt at home in college of course, as I just said. I’ve felt at home when I was writing anything that made me feel like I was breathing freely again, in my diary or at work. I’ve felt at home sharing a guest house room in Goa with my three best friends, where you walked around drunk in shorts after just having had your breakfast at 3 p.m. without brushing your teeth and NOBODY SAID A WORD! I’ve felt at home the third or fourth time that I was in Kerala with my family, with no justification – it’s not even my native place. And that reminds me, I’ve also felt at home in Karnataka, at my grand aunt’s farmhouse in Gud Kagal, Kumta. In community functions and service camps, anywhere with my ex at one point of time (even at his house with his family), at the ‘maths’ of my faith, in my college chapel, while eating a bacon pizza or a dumpling soup or the food made by my mom or two of my friends, while standing at one of my city’s fabulous sea-faces in the rain, while reading certain books or listening to certain songs or watching my childhood movies like ‘Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahi’, ‘Lion King’, ‘Home Alone 1 and 2’, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’, ‘Baby’s Day Out’ and ‘Free Willy’ …I mean, I could go on with all the moments where I have truly felt at home and never stop, in just the 25 years of life that I have seen.
Most recently, I felt at home in the village of Gokarn, where my ancestors are from. I felt at home everywhere in that village; but especially in the house where my great-grandfather lived. I’ve never lived there and only seen that house twice in life, but sitting on the stairs at its threshold I felt like I had lived there all my life. It is now occupied by this other family who had only known that one house to be their home for a lifetime and more. The man of the family was scared I had come to take his home away from him when I tried to tell him of my connection to it. And yet, it didn’t feel any less like home to me than it did to him.
I once had a dream, World, that I’d have houses all over you. That way, no matter where I went, I’d be home. But through my morning rant you made me realize that even without having houses all over you, you’ve made me live the meaning of that. When confused, seek the wisdom of the elders and a certain ‘Pliny the Elder’ summed it all up when he said ‘Home is where the heart is.’ After rambling on so much about home, I haven’t exactly given you a ‘Eureka’ moment with that ancient and cliched piece of wisdom, I know. But sometimes you need to beat around the bushes of the world to come to the point at home.
PS – Today is also Shakespeare’s birthday. The classes in which we studied his Julius Caesar? Also home. 🙂