Sunday, October 30, 2005

Home

Home. Fabulous word this. Amazing what this four-letter word can conjure. Two days left for Diwali and I sit here, in the office, working, when all I want is to be at home. Ah, home!
This post has its genesis in a conversation I had last night with a friend. But a little rewind of the memory, and I zero down on two months spent in a foreign land -- alone -- not so long ago, and to the true birth of this post. Two months during which I believe -- in hindsight -- I grew a lot emotionally. Two months during which 'home' metamorphosed from a nice word to be reserved for special poems, to a much-missed sense of belonging, to a place I derived my personal identity from, and then to an abstract idea of the mind in which I seek comfort.
Home to me, like with everyone else, always has a pysical connotation to it. When I was young, I would always feel this warm, fuzzy feeling spread through me when I returned home after a month-long vacation at my grandparents' place. The familiar roads with the route home mentally mapped out, the welcoming houses on my street with their unchanging, reassuring shapes, the smell of the sea in front of my house, the milkman with a 'welcome-back-missed-you' smile plastered on his face -- all these reinforced and moulded the physical entity that 'home' came to represent for me. And on a quiet day, when I close my eyes, all these images come flooding back, and I feel the same warm, fuzzy feeling spread over me...Over time, I've come to understand that 'home' -- on one plane -- has associated with it, an unstated sense of belonging, which I tend to take for granted at times.
Cut to four years ago. I moved from my 'home' of 17 years to a 'house' near my college. That was when I lost touch with the concept of 'home'. 'Home' became a place where I lived with my family and returned to every day from college. It meant nothing else. To be fair, it was a lovely place -- nice and quiet, but I just didn't feel at 'home'. What followed was a mundane existence, and even though I lived with my family, I didn't feel I belonged there. I would sometimes argue that I was biased towards the city -- where I lived initially -- and that I was dumbing down the countryside -- which was where we had moved to -- but I knew that this was not the case. I have been to places much better than the city -- in aesthetic terms -- but never felt quite at 'home' there either.
The more I thought of it, the reasons for this disparity became apparent. When you spend so much time at one place, like I did, you become a part of the place. You carry a part of it in your consciousness -- the air, the water, the trees, the streets, the people, the colours...every element is ingrained inside you until it becomes difficult to separate it from your being. And when you shift 'home', the new 'home' often pales in comparison to the true 'home' and in our desperation to cling on to our sense of belonging, we seldom let the new 'home' take over. I've found the same to be true with friends too -- some of my best friends are the ones I've known for a long time, from my childhood. They are my "identity-recall", as I like to classify them -- they remind me of what I was before I became what I am today. So, the 'true home' continues to live inside us, even though we go in search of newer and greener pastures. This could possibly explain why a lot of people come back to their roots to spend the last days of their lives. The pull of the 'homeland' is strong.
Of late, however, I've realized a newer dimension to 'home' - the mental one. 'Home', on certain occasions, has to come to mean a mental situation or an environment, where I feel comfortable in and am free to be myself without reservation. A classic example is when I'm on the streets or in a playground, playing Cricket. I am possibly closest to my true self only when I'm playing Cricket. I've always believed that you can know a great deal about a person from the way he behaves on the field -- it's a pity that not a lot of women I know play Cricket! Anyway, to quote Ayn Rand, "No man likes to lose" and I'm no exception. On the field, where my abilities -- physical and mental -- are probably optimally utilized, I feel at 'home', I feel a sense of belonging, a primitive sense of familiarity...I feel everything that the physical 'home' makes me feel in this 'virtual' 'home'. I call it 'virtual' because I could be playing on the streets or on the computer or even watching the sport on T.V. I am comfortable in this 'jungle' and I know my way around. And it is exactly this feeling of comfort on which my 'virtual' 'home' is founded.
Another example - Working with the Aussies in their premises, I felt at 'home' because their values and methods -- when it came to work -- matched with mine, and I didn't have to play any games to learn from them or get my work done. A quest for perfection was what bonded us together. It is such a pleasure to work with such 'like-minded' people, and I don't think I can say the same of certain people I know. It is this 'like-mindedness', this matching of 'wavelengths', that my virtual definition of 'home' rests upon -- an abstract idea of the mind I seek comfort in.
These days I find that my yearning for 'home' has begun to lean towards the the 'virtual' one, shifting away from the 'physical' one. Ideas have started replacing places. And this shift, I firmly believe, is the beginning of my journey, a journey which I'm sure is going to lead me to some very interesting places and, I hope, people.

5 comments:

Brood Mode said...

*grin* am i imagining it or do i see more to this post than meets the eye??? *grin*

. : A : . said...

Great post on 'home'. That one word means so much.

Dinesh said...

I cnnot agree with you more on whatever written. I completely identify the 'faraway from home' crisis.

Anonymous said...

A very good post. But you kind of started off saying that you did not feel home in a foreign land (I presume Australia)...then you finished off saying that you felt very home down under...Did you feel a change while writing?
-Prakash

musafir said...

@ brood_mode: *returning the grin* You know what? Maybe there is! But to be honest, I didn't write it with any undertones, but I can now see what made you say that :)

@ .:a:. : Hey, glad to see you back, and thanks for your words - appreciate them. Yes, 'home' means so much!

@ dinesh: Thanks - I guess a lot of people identify with what I've written. And you always miss things you took for granted!

@ Prakash: Thanks!

I can see where your question is coming from. Without trying to be defensive, I didn't seek to convey the impression that I didn't feel at home in a foreign land (I'd been to Perth) -- it's just that I was alone over there, and I had an opportunity to reflect on what 'home' meant to me. I quite liked the place, in fact!

And in the end, when I said I felt at 'home' there, I was referring to the work environment there, their systems and values -- the 'virtual home'. I find such an attitude missing here in India at the place where I work.

Again, thanks for your comment -- feels nice to be questioned!