In the words of Maya Angelou, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we all can go as we are and not be questioned” Home can mean anything to anyone. For some, it may be the place where they grew up, their childhood town, where they found their love, the city where they found a purpose, or the village where they found peace. Home can be a place where they come back to after traveling around the world, or home can be where people are waiting for you. Doesn’t matter what it means to you, all that matters is that in some ways or others it means something to all of us, something known as Home.
Growing up as a defense kid, we never had one place or city to call home. We used to find our bags packed every three years. The first time as a kid with memories to remember, it was hard; saying goodbye to friends, known lanes and playgrounds, the crush of innocent childhood, the known candy shops, hidden trails, and whatnot. And what happens soon is that you don’t even remember how many times you changed cities, said goodbye to friends to never meet again most probably, and not finding roots anywhere.
I was born in Bihar in my native village and mom and I moved with Dad when I was six months old, never to return there and stay long enough to call that place home. Yes, the summer holidays connected me with my village, but never enough. Feeling like my own village never accepted me as not being able to speak the native language always stood between my village and my identity. Dad never found a good reason to be back in the village even after retirement from Air Force, Bihar or better to say the circumstances in one of the poorest states in India never gave enough good opportunities to its own people and hence making it the state with the maximum population living in its own country as migrants.
I was never able to connect with my native state, even though being called a Bihari in school was considered a matter of shame, somehow it never bothered me enough, not even compliments like, oh your accent is not like Bihari people, I never understood how a statement like this can be a compliment. It was an example of the low level of IQ of the general population and their parents for sure. Anyways, the place where my parents were born and lived until 18 years of their age, where I was born and went for summer holidays, where I still feel nostalgic every time I visit but in any case not able to call that beautiful land of Buddha my home. So, if not birthplace where home is?
Moved from Moradabad to New Delhi after school for University. Where I also tasted freedom for the first time. Although I spent a good amount of my teenage life in the brass city of India, Moradabad connected me a lot with this place. From friends, school, street food, juice shacks, evening walks, to first love and even the first home to be constructed by Dad! A lot of memories with this town make me smile but also the difficult age of being a teenager, facing a world outside closed and well-managed defense campus, electricity cuts, fights with neighbors, and beginning of domestic violence at home; never made me feel like home in Moradabad. While growing up all I wanted to do is to run as far as I could from this city. I applied for universities but because for several reasons ended up at the University of Delhi. So, if the home is not where the first house was constructed and where for the first time I had my own space, where is it?
Delhi gave me what I never tasted in my life before, freedom and momos! In the end, I realized that momos are better than freedom. Anyways, it also gave me my first road accident, made me fall in love with heritage, monuments, and gardens. From my 35 sq. feet bunk room to my rooftop Barsanti rooms, I never felt home anywhere! More than the place, it was friends, studies, and the events of the city that made me feel at home in the city. From the artistic lanes of Mandi House to Connaught Place and India Gate Walks, and from Lodi Gardens to the chaos of Old Delhi, there were thousands of reasons to fall in love with this city and feel like home but nothing was able to stop me from another change as soon as uni came to an end in 2011. I was yet not able to find a home in another city and moved briefly to Kashipur, where my parents moved in 2010 in another quest to find a home.
After a few years in Kashipur, I moved to Mysore to work with a travel company and for the first time, to do what I like to do. Be with people from all across the world, learn more about life and yoga philosophy, living in front of a crematorium, looking at life and death playing every day, missing out on days and dates, and living a full life. After a few months, I cycled across India and peeped into the homes of others. Met people living at their dream places with loved ones, alone, with family, lovers, friends, and community. This was home for them.
I have lived in Delhi for the last 5 years and found a 5th-floor one-room barsati studio without a lift so that fewer people will visit me. Intentionally kept everything for just one person, made a beautiful garden with fairy lights to make it feel more like home, bought everything possible to live a dream of fulfilled material things. But a year of living in lockdown and restrictions made me feel like, am I living at home? Sometimes with friends, and sometimes alone, I am really living in a home? A year of silence, a year of being just with myself, made me dig deeper into these questions.
I am still looking for the answers but maybe I should not anymore. Traveling makes me feel at home, constant movement, and going with the flow of life, makes me feel at home. A seat next to the window in the bus and imagination going wild makes me feel at home. I like to be in one place as well sometimes, but if the community lacks the sense of belonging, it pushes me away. Well, here I am sitting in the mountains and still looking for the answer, what home really is? Do we really need to look for one? Is it somewhere one finds peace or is it somewhere one finds love? Or somewhere, where one will not be questioned for being who they really are!