The Ache for Home That We House Within Us

Photo by Sergey Nikolaev on Unsplash

Home, a word that stirs a smorgasbord of feelings. It is impossible to get nostalgic or think about a phase of my life without associating it with the place I called home during that time. I strongly believe that the homes I grew up in added so many dimensions to my personality. I have lived in multiple homes – with every home, my definition and understanding of what the word meant changed and evolved.

My earliest memories of childhood are always full of scenes from my home in a small town in Madhya Pradesh. That was the first place I called home! By then, my definition of 'home' was limited to a place synonymous with the safest haven one could have. Every morning smelt like the first rain of the season, courtesy my mom's routine of watering the plants early morning at six. My father had this huge circle of friends and our place was always bustling with people sharing meals and laughter. I also remember the first pangs of jealousy because after being the sole subject of mom and dad's affection and attention for five years, I was expected to share my spotlight with a little, chubby human.

The next home became special in the sense that I started bonding with that little, chubby human who soon became my favorite human and a confidante to turn to. Our garden was huge with two small cliffs. We were allowed to play near only one of the two cliffs because the other had snake burrows all over it. By this time, I was old enough to understand relationships and 'home' was no longer just a space that one inhabited. I started associating the feeling of home with the people I inhabited that space with – my parents and my brother!

Then came the third move! There was again a transition to new surroundings, new people, new school and a new 'space' that we were yet to call our own. This one became the hardest move for me and for many years I was uncomfortable in my own skin – it's not always easy to adjust to a bigger city, coming from a small town. Irrespective of how I felt amidst new people and the new surroundings, I felt at home with my family around. We came closer to the extended family but what still anchored me were the vestiges of memories that we made in the last two homes.

With stepping out of my home and away from the family for the first time in 23 years of my life, I knew what I classed as home would further change but I had kept my expectations at bay. I moved to a city for my first job, a different part of the country altogether with a lot of reservations about who will I share my space with, how well will I adapt to the changes and other, largely skeptical, thoughts that my mind never stopped churning. Thanks to the best flatmate possible, I was quick to have a 'home' in a new city. The shift in my definition happened when I realised that home turned into moments and places I belonged in, with the people who made that feeling of belongingness possible. I met some of the best possible people in this city and so many of them became family. In this phase of my life, the feeling called home became a deep longing for real and raw connections with people. Now when I think of that time, I brought no remnants that remind me of the physical home I had there but I earned so much more – people whom I call home now!

A few years later, new events transpired and I got married – a new home in its entirety! By this time, I was receptive enough to not hinge my feelings of belongingness to the idea of having my own physical space. With the new mindset, I swiftly found home in my new family – almost effortlessly. Now, it was more about the content feeling that I got by being with my growing family. As long as I had these old and new sets of families close to me, I felt at home.

The most recent move is our first home as a married entity. Being two travel freaks, we have spent much less time living in it than not living in it. The flat we possess is more of a sanctuary of stillness amid all the chaos that life brings with it. A new meaning got added to my ever-growing understanding of the word! It's now a blurred line between the self and the surroundings, where I can truly exist and feel that existence at the same time.

In 28 years of living in different homes, what I crave for are the memories I made in all those places. Memories, after all, are cued by the physical environments they were first lived in. A part of me has clung to the earliest notions of what made me feel at home and I often find myself sifting through the carousel of mental souvenirs from my time there.

Coming to the present day, 'home' has become a plethora of feelings, making it difficult to put a thumbtack on one. But it is surely that sense of belongingness and an abundance of overwhelming happiness that we earn by striking out the lines that we try to draw between who we are and where we are.