Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Hearth and The Heart


It is the season of home-comings. For the past one month she’s been observing people come home or go back home, and this has of course set Esther thinking, and she concludes by finding complexities in the construct of ‘home’.

For one who has been perpetually displaced, ‘coming home’ can be a very problematic phrase. I spent a large chunk of my life in a small town, waking up to familiar noises and smells. However, when I came to the city, the romantic notion of this place that I carried here with me, was in a desperate bid to prove true, and instead of feeling nostalgic as my other friends coming from far-away places and fondly speaking of “home” did, I fell unabashedly in love with this city, the quaint charm of the trams, and the flâneuring through the roads. I always had a habit of discovering favourite corners in the house, and keeping them off-limits from imaginary infiltrators, till my English teacher once said, “One should have as many favourite corners in one’s house as possible.” I had returned home that day from school to find only three, and instead of embarking on the quest of discovering still more, I retired to my most favourite corner to read Hardy’s Imaginative Woman.

The urge to retire to a favourite corner has remained, but having changed ‘homes’ four times in the city itself, the favourite corners too got continually displaced, till they couldn’t be located at all. Esther decided to find a way out. For a neurotic, who is in the continual fear of losing her beloved belongings, the obvious respite came in carrying her home with her where-ever she went. I have always looked at life as Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, where everything would fit, and I would not have to worry about leaving anything behind. However, now the worry manifests itself in yet another way, when I feel sure that whenever I leave a place, a part of me is left behind there. So now I’m worried I have a part of me perched at the ledge of the last glass window at the British Council Library, where the shelves are full of books on women’s studies, and the window overlooks the Victoria lake... I fear I would be cold there now… Another part of me worries for the part I left behind at the seat fixed to the wall at the security terminal of the airport where I was sitting before hopping onto the flight that took me to a different “home”. Some scattered parts are sitting in the lone seat at the Metro rail, some at the corner bench of my class at the university, some at the last chair placed at Goethe Institut’s smoking zone.

A favourite quote from one of my favourite films said, “We are the real countries, not the boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men… That's all I've wanted — to walk in such a place with you, with friends, on earth, without maps”. When the objective is walking on Earth without maps, with people one loves best, it is only natural that the person will carry their worlds with them. My world comprises everything I could take home with me – which is itself mobile, and hence all this mobility makes its identity all the more complicated and in a state of constant flux. 

Esther has always carried her “home” (and hence her baggage) with her; and the next time a friend laments of suffering from the pangs of homesickness, and confides in her, Esther remains confused, and her emotions, dubious. Then she remembers that one of her favourite writers said, “You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right”, and she is reassured.

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