Going Home from Home

Aji's home in Ponguinim, Goa (photo by @sanimastudent)

I left Goa to come to the US in 2013. Since then, about once a year or so, I go through a predictable sequence of emotions. The month before the flight is full of expectations and dreamy eyed longings for the Goa of my memories. A relaxed Goa, a Goa with warm lazy summers and dreamy rains and secluded Beaches, of narrow coconut tree lined country roads and one full of people I love and who love me back. An idea of Goa that's probably even better than any reality that ever existed because what you miss is an amalgamation of all your fondest memories safely distanced physically and temporally from their mundane parts.

The first week back is always, always harrowing, as you try to reconcile the home you longed for with the home that changed while you were gone. The feeling of being a visitor is hidden in the small reminders. You feel it when you hesitate a moment thinking about where the button for the fan is. When you no longer remember the keychain that has the keys to your house. You feel it when your parents laugh gregariously with neighbors you don't yet know. And then come the kids. The goddamn kids. They seem to grow in steps - wittier and cuter then you last remembered them, reminding you that you have been gone for a while.

Goa is changing fast. When you live in a place, you have the luxury of seeing it change gradually. When you visit it once a year, the change hits you hard. It's not that I resent it. I understand Goa has to change so it can be a home of opportunities for generations that follow. I liken it to talking to the girl you once loved and knew everything about, only to find her life has changed in ways you know nothing about. You knew her intimately once- every little quirk, likes, dislikes, oddities included. But now when you talk to her, you are grasping to find that person you once knew, all the while knowing both she and you have changed over the years. That person is still in there somewhere but the idea that you don't know them as intimately anymore is somewhat disconcerting. That's what the first week back home feels like.

After a few days though, the feeling of being a visitor disappears. It's nice to be among your people again. Nice to be loved, nice to be over-fed, nice to attend inane family rituals you once hated, if only to indulge in a part of your past. It's nice to zip around on your bike, happy that you still remember those back roads. It's just nice knowing you still belong, even after all that time away.

And then, just like that, it's time to go back. But far from being sad, the journey back is equally full of anticipation. As I come back to my apartment in US, I also feel that feeling of being home. And that's when I remember I'm are lucky enough to have two homes.

I am lucky that both these places feel like home. But they feel like home for different reasons. One is the place where I was born and grew up. A place of my family and friends and a place I can always count on. A place I feel a deep sense of gratitude, belonging  and obligation to.

The other is a place where I grew up, mentally and emotionally. US has been an adventure, with deep lows and incredible highs. This is where I have faced my worst demons and met best of friends. This is the place where I have discovered my values, found out what I'm willing and not willing to do.  

You read often that moving away from home, to a foreign country if you are so privileged but just away in general, opens one's mind. I feel like I now know why. Growing up in a place, you accept things you've been told while growing up as inevitable. There is a rhythm to life that you just go through passively because that's how it's always been. You go to the temple or church on a day of the week, attend all the festivals and rituals through the year like clockwork, eat what your mom always cooked and go through the regiment your parents came up with. With everyone around you repeating the same dogma, reinforcing the same opinions, you never truly have the opportunity to reconsider your opinions. 

Moving away from, few of those constraints remain. In that gap between leaving your motherland  and settling into the rhythms of your new place, you are in this wonderful zone of self-discovery where everything you are doing is a choice. There are no family commitments and your life is a clean slate that you get to populate exactly how you want it. That is why the world I have created for myself in US feels like home. My apartment here, in all its sparseness, is a reflection of what I am. The solitude it offers me gives me the time and space to reflect on a lot of things. For that, I'm thankful.

The idea of Home is a weird thing. They are way more than just shelter or a protection from elements. There is a psychological element to having a place you call home. It's a place that makes you feel safe, even if it's just an illusion. A place where you feel you can let your guard down. A place to reset yourself at the end of the day. Maybe this is why being away from home, even if you are in a secured place, feels so exhausting after a while and you long to go home. Maybe this is why India is currently seeing a terrible migrant crisis, with families and individuals choosing to walk hundreds of kilometers just to be back home. In the last few weeks, as we all have hunkered down in our homes, I definitely feel fortunate to have two places I get to call home.



Comments

  1. Well described. Absolutely true. You are truly blessed to get the opportunity to have two homes. Make the most of both. Cherish both the places. Each as you said have their own meaning, depth and charm.

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