What’s home?

Home is where the heart is, so they say. I was born in Abu Dhabi, did my primary schooling there, moved to Dubai and finished my high schooling there, and while currently in college in India, my family moved out into a new apartment while I was away. Also, i have an apartment in Mumbai and a bungalow in my hometown in Kerala. So you can guess I’ve traveled and lived in many places I called home. Currently while I stay in my rented room in the 60 year old college hostel, I’m homesick. But where’s my home? Sounds like a spoiled brat’s tantrum but bear with me for a moment.

In my 7 year stay in Dubai, I’ve grown to love my old apartment and called it home, the neighbors, the community, the shopkeepers, the buildings; they were part of who I am, and what I’ve become. I’ve grown up playing in the sand pits, cycling through the roads and munching on falafels from the Lebanese restaurant nearby. That’s the life I know very well. My parents moved into a new flat in Bur Dubai on Bank Street, one of the arterial roads in Dubai and an enviable address. I was informed of it over the phone after they moved in. I murmured my assent and hung up. Something very heavy dropped in my heart. It was gone. My last 8 years I cherished were just a memory now, something I can’t revisit anymore.

For the holidays I went back to the new place I was to call home, the view was stunning, my bedroom was bigger, the amenities plenty; but there was something missing, something that no luxury can replace. That wasn’t my home. I had no connection to this strange setting, I had no memories to associate nor the time to live in and love my new home. It was just a place to stay for me. Granted, my parents are there, the food’s the same, the furniture’s mostly the same but there’s this incoherent loss of connection to the place as I know it. Everything’s not in the right place, something’s missing.

While in India, I visit Mumbai from time to time to rid my mind of the buildup of stress and tension in college and take a few days off far away from the college. I lived in the Mumbai apartment for the first time in my life at the age of 19. Again, not a home, but a safe haven, somewhere you could spend the night, a roof over your head and basic amenities to live by.

As a Non-Resident Indian, this is the kind of unseen but ever present dilemma I and my counterparts find ourselves in. We are global citizens, we live in the world but not anywhere in particular. Constantly on the move, we are the 21st century’s answer to the nomadic tribes of yore.

I love travelling and everything that comes with it. But there comes a time when a man grows weary of running and he needs to heed to the call of home, his roots. As my train nears my hometown in Kerala, there’s this familiar whiff of earth and rain and foliage.  Every vacation as a child, I used to go to Kerala and stay at my grandmother’s house. It was small, and oh, so beautiful. Every morning I woke up to the sound of prayers being chanted, while a thin mist hung upon the hilltop cottage, my mother would take me into the lawn, where we both sucked on the nectar of the hibiscus flower. The lawn was surrounded by pepper trees and cattails and tall betel trees grew on the rolling hillside. In the distance you could spy the Western Ghats and the sea on the other side. a most beautiful sight to behold. Come afternoon, the peppercorns would be gathered to dry in the sun and I would stroll with my father on the meadows on the hillside where he would graze his herds as a child, many a tale told and shared. Green paddy fields and backwaters were a stone’s throw away and groves of coconut trees grew near and afar. The villagers were a charming folk , helping and kind. I strolled endlessly along the hill paths and groves, following the little rivulets after the rain as they meandered down the hill and joined the backwaters into the sea.

This was home. This was where I’m from. This was where it all began. I might have been born in another country, lived my life in concrete jungles of splendor and excess, traveled to places far and wide, learnt all that there is to be ; but this is where I yearn to be. This is where I feel I can rest, no more running, no more chasing dreams. I was safe in that tiny cottage I called home, safe from the vagaries of the world and all that curtails me. Home is a concept, not a place; a feeling, not an object. Its what drives us all forward, to feel safe, to feel protected. It stands there even if u strip it down to nothing and welcomes you after your tiring journey home.

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