It was 6 am. Backpack strapped, face masked, and a sling bag dangling on the side, I was ready to leave for Mumbai airport — one of the many physical structures whose face I had not seen in over a year. With excitement in my steps, I walked towards our society’s main gate. A cab waited on the other side. Just then, I saw one of my neighbours walking her dogs in that quiet morning hour.
We exchanged smiles but the intrigue on her face was hard to miss.
She said, “Hi Anusha! Where to?”
I replied, “Hey Paromita! I’m going home.”
I smiled and continued walking to my cab. Now, I didn’t exactly give out much, right? I didn’t say I’m off to the airport. I didn’t say I’m going to visit my parents in Ambala. I didn’t say I’m flying to Chandigarh for a couple of days.
As I sat in the cab, I wondered why I stopped at those three words. If I were going to another city for work, I would have answered descriptively, “I’m going to the airport. I have a flight for Bangalore.” Or “I’m flying to Delhi for work. Will be back soon!” Or at least “I’m going for a work trip. First time in almost 12 months!”
In contrast, when I was going to see my parents after a long pandemic-induced hiatus and was eagerly waiting to dip into the winter hues of mustard fields golden-yellow and green, all I said was ‘I’m going home.’ Was I in a tearing hurry? No. Was I keen to keep all details to myself? Not at all. I’d have happily shared where home was, who I was going to meet, and even what I was planning to do!
The reason lay elsewhere.
I realized ‘I’m going home’ felt complete. Those three words felt finite in their phonetic sound yet infinite in the depths of the emotional journey behind them. While our parents and grandparents nurtured that structure called home with much hard work and love over the years, isn’t home also the overhead skies and the peripheral neem trees? The sparrows and their nests, the parrots and the nibbled pomegranates. The marigolds and the roses, and the freshly plucked peas. Isn’t home also the chitter-chatter of neighbourhood children and the dusty lanes we cycled in, the gud ki roti slathered in ghee, and toffee that the local shopkeeper handed over for free? The crackling sound when switching from one radio channel to another and the signature tune of the 8 pm news, the call of the vegetable vendor, and the familiar golchakkar. The playground and the lazy afternoons, the Sunday movies, and the dinner with family. The sultry power cuts and the instant churn out of ghost stories, the ludo and the carrom, and the precious gullak of pocket money. Where does one start from where does one even end when a home is more than our thoughts can comprehend?
Yes, ‘I’m going home’ is a complete statement. Home does not need further description. Home does not need qualifying adjectives. Home does not even need location specifics. The very thought of home sparks a million stories, a million conversations, a million moments, and a million memories as every brick, every patch of grass, every turn, and every crevice carries in its bosom a part of us, and more.
Because home is not a thing. Home is not a place. Home is not a tangible structure. Home is a sentiment. A sentiment so characterful that each one of us paints it differently with our unique geographic and cultural experiences, family systems and formative interactions. A sentiment so vast that as much as we try to write volumes and volumes of literature to capture it, a full stop is but a mirage. How can we fit home into a mould? How can we enclose home in a boundary?
Home to me feels like a yielding dollop of warm honey…To experience its soothing warmth, to enjoy its sweetness, all one has to do is take a pause, open the heart, and sip in a spoonful of the good old.
Anusha Singh is a Mumbai-based corporate communications consultant and a columnist.