Before I start the actual post I want to say something. This taking long breaks in between posts and then claiming a comeback seems to be a vicious cycle I have fallen into lately. So I’m not going to do that anymore. I have a million things that I need to take care of every day- a kid, a husband, a home, family, work, reading and the millions of other things that I need to tick off of my growing to-do list on a daily basis. So writing is often neglected or relegated to the sidelines. Today I found some time and the inspiration to scribble and so here I am.
Its been almost three years since I’ve been home. I was someone who always believed that home was all about people. And to a large extent that stays true. Home for me would be my parents and my family. Any place they are at would constitute home for me. But the other day, I chanced upon this quote and it got me thinking – “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” (Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon)
It suddenly hit me then that I miss home- not just the people but the physical place as well. And not home in the sense of the place I live but also the myriad of other things that make home.. well home for me. I don’t just miss my room or my books or the trees outside my window. I also miss the well-trodden paths, the familiar sights, and sounds and smells of my neighbourhood as well. I miss my Amma’s and Achan’s ancestral homes. I miss the temples and temple festivals and ponds and caparisoned elephants. I miss the rituals and chanting and the smells of sandalwood and camphor. I miss the ringing bell of the newspaper boy’s cycle and the loud cries of the fishmonger. I miss the morning cacophony in homes and on roads as mothers hustle to get kids off to school and their husbands off to work before they themselves head out for the day. I miss the smells of cooking- from piping hot idlis and puttu and vada to the smell of frying fish and banana fritters.
I miss the chatter that wafts from tea stalls and roadside shops that range from economics to politics to movies. I miss the heat and the dust and the occasional respite that untimely showers bring. I miss the cawing crows and the street dogs. I miss the green of paddy fields, the backwaters carpeted with water hyacinth, the coconut groves, and toddy tappers. I miss the scorching hot stones that pave the temple walkways and the sun-warmed sands that kiss your feet. I miss the serpent groves and the theyyam and the theeyattu. I miss the familiarity and sense of belongingness that comes from hearing your mother tongue spoken by people around you. I miss the feel of those words on my tongue. I miss the craziness and confusion and noise that characterize the place I call home. I miss it in spite of its faults and flaws. I miss it even though I know I will want to leave once I’m there for a while.
And now, with the wisdom that comes with age, I know that I miss it because I have left parts of me there. There are parts of me scattered in all the places I’ve lived and loved, in the paths that I’ve walked, the things that I’ve seen and experienced that have made me who I am today. The much younger, very naive me that believed that I didn’t belong at home is still party right. But so is the older, somewhat wiser me that feels there’s no place like home. Perhaps this yearning is for a place and time I can never recreate or go back to. Perhaps this is a yearning that comes from being away from home for so long. Perhaps this is a yearning that has taken root as a result of seeing my son speaking a foreign tongue and forgetting his own. Perhaps it comes from the fear that he will never know the beauty of his language or his roots or the rich tapestry of the culture he comes from. Perhaps it comes from knowing that whatever I try to do, my son might never love my home the way I do.
I remember these lines I read ages ago that made perfect sense to me since it explained who and what I was perfectly.
And I fear that is what my son will be as well- too foreign and never enough.