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Have been wanting to write on the idea of home for months now but, could not really get the words flowing.
I remember understanding home to be the house and times from childhood – such as a stray memories of coming back to the coolness of the house on a hot summer afternoon with a glass full of cold of Rasna ready in the fridge – essentially linking the idea of home with nostalgia. However, today that feeling of being ‘at home’ has come far away from that nostalgia as well which brought the question to the fore again, what was home exactly. I remember the feeling coming first while watching the sun rise or while watch trees go by as I moved further on the highway. This strange feeling of comfort was something that I did not understand then but, fell in love with deeper than the last time.
Comprehension dawned in another city which was alien and distant when seen from outside on a particularly breezy evening which complemented the warmth emanating from the setting sun’s rays. The joy which was felt in that moment was exactly the same that my mind had so far associated with nostalgia of home. That is the moment that mind started seeking to understand – the idea essentially was to understand and think through the concept of ‘home’ – in lieu of the constant tussle in my head as to where was home for me as so far the head believed home only to have a place in nostalgia. Was it a place, a person, an experience, a time or was it, after all, the version of self one is most comfortable being? Was it not the spatial or time based understanding? Questioning and looping in the same thought process for some time, I left the question hanging again since there did not seem to be a concrete answer whatsoever.
The thought process sprang back to action last Thursday after visiting an exhibit of four artists who basically express the idea of home in urban dwelling today – looking at smaller spaces, killing of natural and open spaces to build concrete jungles etc. The idea around which the question of home and spaces as represented in a few art works was more around the developmental critique of mindless urbanisation, creation of gated communities at the cost of a ruined environment and the foolish association of culture and status with being a part of these gated communities.A few strips from the latest series of Adarsh Balak (literal: the ideal male child) – the only one artist I knew of before visiting the show – were also up for display. His work being presented at the exhibition talking about ‘home’ is precisely what got the cogs of the machinery in the brain running. I won’t really get into the varied topics around urbanisation, environmental concerns etc. here – more on the show later in another post.
Going back to the point of this post. What is home exactly – I think home is a feeling that you associate a place, house, person, time with that makes you happy, that really soothing feeling of contentment. It could be anywhere, with anything being the trigger of contentment but, essentially, home is where one is absolutely happy – be it alone or with people or in communion with nature.
From the Ummeed Walk 2015.
There were those mornings
With collective laughter and joy.
Then there were
Those that started with
The stench of yesterday
Now there are these
That bring in
The chilly breeze
As if the calm coolness
Is a reminder of
The beauty that’s today.
Writing this came from a faint (and final, hopefully) acceptance of the beauty of letting go – not in a sad and fatalistic sense of doing so but, rather a very empowering way of having had whatever experiences one does have. I wrote this one on a particularly nippy morning when things around me were changing majorly; reminding me that even though things change which can be painful while going through it but, in retrospect it all makes sense, and quite beautifully so.
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Had this scene in mind with a faint idea of a poem since January 2014. Sometimes the scene came out but, the words didn’t and sometimes the words were fine while the scene didn’t match. Finally sketched this the other night. Text below:
I had seen her every morning,
The lady in white;
Trudging along the pavement.
She would be constantly mumbling.
Maybe, she saw someone?
I would peer at her through the
White lace of mother’s curtains,
My heart thumping with fear –
What if she saw me?
I was eight then.
I left home.
I heard she died one morning,
How did they figure out, you ask?
She wasn’t seen mumbling,
hollow eyes darting, trudging along
for a week.
They say the stench traveled
Till the end of the road.
Why didn’t they go earlier, you ask?
Pope says, ‘Ignorance is bliss.’.
I still dream of her
No, she doesn’t haunt me with
Those empty eyes.
It is the emptiness of her life
That kills me now.
Was reminded of this sort of incomplete poem written a few months ago while talking to a friend about the idea of loneliness tonight. I remember writing this with the thought alienation that an urban life can bring in at times weighing on my mind – the desire to connect with human beings but, the simultaneous hesitation and mistrust to do that ultimately failing to recognise that we are a religious, casteist, regional group later but, a ‘human’ community first.
The concept of loneliness used to be pretty alien (as well as pretty scary) to me earlier especially while doing a project on it for an Archaeology class back in 2012. I remember the five of us dwelling on the concept of loneliness and what people resort to as a coping mechanism. We covered the likes of art as a way of venting out to addiction as another escape. While the former can be cathartic in a way, the latter has worse consequences by way of slowly taking away ‘life’ from a person. Of course, what one implies by ‘life’ can be rather subjective. Precisely why I chose not to dwell on the reason why addiction as a way of dealing with loneliness is not the best idea. I couldn’t really point out which part of the subjective answers to ‘what is life?’ I related to.
However, talking to this one friend today I realise that life means to have the will to move ahead – a step a day maybe, but to move ahead. And I say this not in the ‘move-ahead-only-career-wise’ way of thought (can take it as that too if one pleases) but, essentially to keep pushing oneself to grow as a human being a step a day. Sounds vague? Maybe. But, in each one of us is a tendency (or many tendencies) which makes one unhappy. The will to change that trying harder every time one feels defeated is the essence of life.
Where does loneliness fit in all this? Loneliness stems from the occasional or regular lack of the desire to be better every day. When lonely and lacking in this desire one would loop in that constant feeling of self pity (and anger maybe?) that grabs the focus of the mind so strongly that one cannot think of anything but, being lonely and miserable and unfortunate; totally, forgetting that one is an independent entity with one’s own choices and to choose to not grow and learn is what brings the stagnation that is loneliness.
A friend with memory almost as sharp as mine asked me to describe how he looked when we had first met. The said test for my memory was only because I mentioned that I remembered him wearing an orange t-shirt the first time we had met. After passing the said test, he responded by saying that my memory is a curse.
Of course there have been times when it has been so both, for me and others around. For a minute, remembering all the not – so – good ones, I did imagine that it might be a curse someday! But then, I think its all in the perspective. Life and talents and characteristics all add up to be what you want them to be.
Recently, I put the ‘curse’ to another good use. In the train that I take in the evenings, a hijra called Saira gets in at Bombay Central and out at Lower Parel. She isn’t really pretty in the regular sense of pretty but, has the most beautiful big almond shape eyes that I have seen since my father’s. She somehow has never asked me for money but, makes it a point to look for a second longer and smile before getting into her routine of asking for money and blessing women. Every time before getting off the train, she does touch my head to bless me and walks on.
Like everyone else I know with regular memories or fading memories or those in denial that they remember, I assumed she might have forgotten my face too in the almost a month of being away. The other day when she got in again she quickly gave me the usual smile and asked if all was well at home. She remembered and cared enough to think that I might be missing because I might have gone back to my gaon.
Memory is only a reflection of the openness to or acceptance of the life that you’ve left behind, I think. Yes, scientists and people quoting from random academic papers might counter me but, I can choose not to remember their counters now.
Found this picture on tumblr which led to the following post:
Irony of humour with a pinch of sadness, this.
Kind of brings me to the random thoughts floating in the head as the car flew again on the highway today. I think I am particularly in love with the possibilities in the brain esp when on the move, mostly in the dim glow of the nightly travel. Today(night) was no different. As we drove past the others, my head swam to conversation with a cynical friend one afternoon. According to this friend, one doesn’t have to seek value everywhere and with every interaction. Same thing another cynically inclined friend had said to me. I cannot accept the concept. Nada.
As things go in the flurry of life, I had once tried to make peace with it thinking that I need to learn to accept that some interactions just won’t add value to any life which lead to another spin of thoughts. However, trying and testing the fantastically great number of friends / people I have had the fortune to meet in the past 24 years of existence brings me back even more strongly on my belief – every human interaction has the possibility of it being value creating.
One must not understand this view point as foolishly idealistic / optimistic. I do not claim that all these people will be haloed angels showering you with love at all times. They can maybe but, won’t. Some might be outright negative, some might be quietly indifferent, some manipulative! However, point is, having them around has always brought out some good thing or the other in me. Of course, that also depended and continues to depend on whether I’m open to understanding, realising, accepting and learning or no.
I think everything changes with a smile. Even the annoying aunty in the local.