The rain makes it impossible to go about my chores, Maa, my mother would complaint each morning during the months of monsoon when the cold, silvery coils of rainwater unfurled upon the gentle hills of my sleepy hometown. Washed clothes don’t dry and smell musty, the rainwater finds ingenious ways to drip inside the house through the tinned roofs, damaging the couch, making little puddles on the table, and the rumbling sound of rain, she would harangue, is an unpleasant earworm. I would smile to myself, and disagreeing agree with her, insisted that winter water woes would not be a bother hence. Cutting me short, she would then, with a newfound glee in her voice, remind me of the hibiscus tree shining boisterously in the rain, and without a warning, diametrically, switch to the hazards of moss enveloped steps that lead to home, and then end our morning conversation with the habitual reminders of eat well, be safe, keep your phone and wallet safe. Hanging up, the sudden teleportation to a city that is ‘home’ now, used to make me jittery each morning, the extent lessening with time but the search for home remained, a constant reminder.
Never-ending urbanisation has rendered ‘my’ city perpetually grey and dusty; the streets, everywhere that the eye wanders, are shattered and broken, while debris is always ceremoniously dumped on the pavements and pedestrians (pray, do they exist here) have unearthed an ingenious method of walking upon what is left of the street, meticulously saving themselves from all the vehicles that sway dangerously from one pothole to another! As I juxtapose the images of disappearing trees, construction that never ceases, and the incessant sound of cars and flashing lights in my city with that of the pine-laden hills, leisure customary to everybody and everything in my hometown, I am awed and amazed. Little did I speculate, during my growing up days, that one day I would leave the blue green valley, intersecting innumerable streams and the eternally dancing cottony clouds for the constant cacophony of the city.
Paradoxically, losing myself in the labyrinths of a city was what I had always cherished as a child! Waiting for the city cousins to visit every summer when I was younger used to be the highlight and with an unparalleled admiration I would listen to the stories they would recount-schools with more than twenty-six sections for each class rendering the alphabets of English language insufficient, roads wider than our playgrounds, giant buildings, large shopping arcades, theme parks and tuitions which would only began after 8 pm (preposterous to us considering 7 pm was the commencement of our curfew hour)! Their stories, their clothes, their shoes made me want to escape to the cities and live their lives!
Now that I am a city dweller, I often ask myself-where do I belong? Seeking answers in the world that presses upon me, I ponder where is home? Does it hide in the shadows that high-rises cast upon the streets, does it shimmer in the reflection of the glass façades of the humongous buildings that compete to rise above and beyond? Does it traverse through the busyness of people and vehicles, or does it blend with the sonorous sound of music across the city, in the screeching of tyres, in the incessant honking, or in the soothing calls of azans and temple songs echoing through neighbourhoods? Does it repose in the hushed corridors of the several bookstores dotting the city, walk tiptoe upon the large lawns of the few majestic gardens, or does it travel inside buses criss-crossing the city, mesmerised by the fleeting scenes outside, or does it tickle the senses in the whiff of a freshly brewed filter coffee? I know not.
Then again, is home hidden under decaying pinecones strewn upon a blanket of pine needles carpeting the hills of my faraway hometown? Or is it in the several mountain streams, in the chirruping of sparrows, in the silent buzz of a small town, in the ceaseless burbling of tourists during summer months, or in the gnawing fear of watching the town grow abruptly? Is home meditating in the serenade of rain pattering down on the roof, clutching a customary cup of black tea while warming its cold hands?
Home, a sense of rootedness, of permanence, eerily elusive yet effervescently ever-present. And as I switch from one strand of thought to another carved upon the walls of my cave of memories, I suddenly hear a faint song, which I recollect from the French cartoon Madeline, percolating the damp air and lighting up the shadows, its cadence increasing, ‘Home is not about old, home is not about new, home is having the ones you love close to you, home is where your heart is’.
Home is where my heart is, it was always that simple! Home was not in what lay around me, neither in the giant pines nor in the Gul mohars, neither in coffee and nor in tea. It lay not in the world that rustled, rushed, rested around me but in the world that I build within and with my head and heart. Home is both in the faraway hill town and the city that refuses to stop growing around me. I was always at home and home was always there! Looking around, with this newfound revelation, I see home smiling from the paintings that embellish the white and sand-stone hued walls of the space my partner and I have been building. I see it snoozing under the sunbeams, a peculiar shade of green, as they filter through the leaves of hibiscus and geraniums blossoming merrily in the balcony. I realise home has found home in the lime green curtains, the fairy lights, the little workstation, in the morning cup of cinnamon honey tea, and in the eclectic music we play as we go about our chores.
Home is here, all around me-in the peace and serenity that traverses through my heart into my surroundings; home, I smile, is where I belong, and home is truly where the heart is.
Image Credit: https://pixabay.com/users/stocksnap-894430/