Friday, March 8, 2024

Is Home comfort, security, people or more?

This post was first published hereLost Homecoming: The Impermanence Of Ghar (

I’m sitting in the balcony of my mother’s home, contemplating a cup of tea. As clouds flit by I wonder how the essence of home has changed over decades. Funny, how you can be in the same childhood home with the same people you grew up with but the place does not feel like home.

Over the years people have repeated trite truisms - home is not a place, it’s a feeling. Home is comfort, home is where the heart is. Home is a shelter from storms. Depending on the stage in life, home can be all of these and more.

I grew up at a time when belonging had deeper meaning than owning a house. The ability to sell a house and buy a new one is a recent phenomenon. Back then, we didn’t own the official bungalow, it belonged to us. It was wrapped up in a community, a neighbourhood and a way of life. For me, it was my cushion against adversity. Security. A place where I could act the worst and be loved the most. Above all, the reassurance that mummy papa hain na – sab dekh lenge. So when I left for hostel, home allowed the fascination of a flight and the reassurance of taking me back. It felt good to leave and even better to return.

Have you noticed how memories permeate into things around walls, doors, trees and peeling plaster? Remember I banged my head here? Where's the guava tree? I learnt to bicycle here. That window glass I broke? Oh, the crack is still there!

After my marriage, parents moved houses and visiting home was about going back to the comfort of my favourite people. To unplug and rewind. Home was about not being judged for sitting awkwardly, speaking loudly or being a kid. I could do what I wanted to and not what I was supposed to.

In the years that passed, home changed its meaning, one decade at a time. Oscillating between the past and future, I had nurtured new memories in a new place. Like everyone else, I had planted my roots in my married home. My new comfort zone.
As we harden into middle ages, our parents begin to soften into old age. This is when visiting home is also about watching parents struggle with latches, forget closing the gas burner, not being able to maintain the garden and get ready for the endless dentist visits. Of course, you know all about cycle of life but an inadvertent sadness wafts in and sticks around - a scar on your soul. It’s a reminder of things to come.

Thereafter it’s a downhill journey when one parent leaves. The crackle of cheese pakoras and bread rolls settles down with khichdi and lauki type of delicacies. The clink of wine glasses and coffee mugs is replaced with gargles and snores. The daytime silence feels like the whole house is wearing noise cancelling headphones. The WiFi is erratic, Netflix won’t work and nostalgia begins to loosen its grip.

Homecoming is now more about responsibility than comfort or freedom. Happiness now relies neither in maa ke hath ka khana nor the comfort of your childhood bed - it relies in the comfort of your surviving parent. The essential impermanence of life begins to gnaw at your subconscious. With your own responsibilities of husband and children, you now itch to take the surviving parent back to your married home.

And eventually your childhood home is lost in the mist of memories. One decade at a time. The cement walls, the swing, iron gate and curry patta plant in the garden stay to tell stories but the house does not hold the same meaning it once did. And you find solace in knowing that home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind.

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