Home is where my heart is. And where family is. I believe it to be true. I also believe we can transform a house into a home wherever we may be. But what happens when we leave one home for another, leaving traces of ourselves behind? Does our energy linger on in those occupied spaces, like fragments scattered here and there?
Every home I have lived in is etched in my memory –there comes a sudden thought, a wisp of a remembrance, a twinge of nostalgia and then I need to pull myself back to reality. Each of my homes has allowed me to grow into the person I am today, allowed me a glimpse of the person I am within. Homes that came with the pain and pangs of adolescence and homes that helped me cope with life altering experiences through their sheer routine and rhythm.
Homes like the spacious sea-breeze blown bungalow I grew up in with its vast garden of trees, where I first learnt to cycle and was bitten by a gypsy moth caterpillar that infested our drumstick tree. Home then meant only one thing to me-“mom”. Her presence at home was something I took for granted, a soothing balm, her warmth, her sari pallu with its distinctive fragrance of the days cooking, the aroma of her hand-pound spices and chutneys lingers on. Her special Sunday lunches where I was allowed to taste what was cooking which mom called,”chakhna” (to taste) much before lunch time. Home to me spelt safety and security. It meant love that encompassed what I felt for all of my 13 cats and 1 dog. A home that allowed me the time and space to walk barefoot on the dew-soaked grass, to simply sit under a tree, to enjoy being hosed down along with the garden on those hot summer days. Of Friday pujas and fasts observed by my father, of sacred hymns chanted by him while he did the evening “aarti”.
Now when I look back, homes do come with associations.
Homes like our cozy tiny 750 sq. foot apartment on the 15th storey, where I moved in soon after I married and woke up to the sound of a mill siren each morning at 6 am. This home came with a sense of newness that pervaded my life - a new city, a new life and job and new beginnings. My small terrace garden housed pigeons instead of plants and the bay windows allowed me to simply sit and soak in the vast expanse of sky. A home where I made brand new friends, of daily evening walks, of pot lucks and sharing during festivals, of gaining wisdom from older mothers on my new mommy hood status. I remember being just so content with who I was and what I was doing. These friends have remained with me till today, be it through their well meaning advice that resounds in my inner world often or through social media.
Time doesn’t seem to alter memories.
Since then I have lived in various homes - some serene, green and large, some overlooking the sea in its entirety (what a magnificent sight it can be during the monsoons). Homes so abundant in nature that it filled me with sheer joy and curiosity –the old sandalwood and jamun trees along with the mango and guava. Perhaps this home soothed my nerves in more ways than one. This was the home where I rescued a baby bulbul and nurtured back to life till she flew away. It soon became a home to wounded pigeons and even an eagle.
And a home that allowed me the freedom to create my own vegetable and fruit garden and experience the joys of growing and consuming my own food. A home where we finally got our own pet kittens and for me after 18 years of not having had a pet it felt like a homecoming all over again.
Now I live in a home neither too big, nor too small- a home I call my own. It reflects me. The good and the not- so- good of me. There is the same hint of chaos in it as it is in me interspersed with a touch of calm. A space, my very own where I can simply sit, not do a thing and feel energized.
Home to me has always been the aroma of cooking, of the whirring of the exhaust, the hum of the washing machine, of the fragrance of the honey bush (kamini) wafting in and the sandalwood incense. The ghee stoked wick in my prayer room lamp as it dies down; its fragrance leaves me longing for more.
How can I forget the innumerable dinner table conversations where everyone wants a word in till we invented our “talking spoon” (whoever wishes to speak /interrupt holds up their spoon)? The dining table becomes a centre point for everything-for homework and assignments for making to-do lists and for discussions. This is one tradition that has continued through all the years .Tables have changed with every home but whatever be its size or shape it has taken the brunt of arguments and cold wars, of food stains and everything that dining tables stand testimony to.
The Friday puja/fast and hymn continues even today as my father now stays with me. Every time he recites the prayer I am taken back to my childhood home and the smell of camphor becomes a part of me.
How does one encapsulate what homes can mean? So intensely personal, individualistic yet each home is a step in the journey of bonding, of love and of memories. And I notice now as I grow older the bonding and love has gently and silently deepened. Without my knowledge.