Last November I went home on a short trip for my college reunion. It was the first time I was there without the children and it felt strange, too quiet. One morning I took my cup of tea to the swing on our terrace.

It was a cool morning and the sun felt good on my face. The tea was hot, with a hint of ginger, a little sweeter than necessary, just the way I liked it. Multihued bougainvillea bloomed cheerily in large planters at the far end of the terrace. The freshly watered plants gave off a delicious petrichor.

This wasn’t the house I grew up in. My parents shifted from our University home to this, their own bungalow, about a decade ago, when they both retired. And yet how easily I called it home. The children of course had known no other. This was their nani’s house. Each summer when we went to visit, they marked the room on the terrace  as their territory, forbidding anyone to go there in their absence. Such was the sense of belonging. But me? I moved out long ago. I don’t have many memories in this house, there’s no history.

How has this house, where I spend just a few days each year, come to mean ‘home’?

Perhaps it is because of the sounds of the city that seep in uninvited – the North Indian lilt in the call of the vegetable vendor on the road outside or the maids exchanging gossip and greetings in a familiar language before they rushed off to their chores.

Perhaps it is the flowers that bloom in profusion no matter where my parents live. From our first home in the old city where together they sifted mud and gravel, adding just the right amount of sand to coax out the largest roses, to the carpet grass in our second home that they lovingly tended spending long hours with gardeners discussing which seasonals should go where, to these gorgeous Bougainvillea here on the terrace, we’ve always had flowers.

Perhaps it is the odd pieces of furniture that have survived the moves, like this swing that I sit on, each creak familiar, each squeak telling a story, every languid move bringing with it a memory of long hours lounging on it mugging up for a Geology exam or solving Math equations.

Or perhaps it is simply the sense of space that ‘home’ has always had, the sense that I can never quite get in my flat, no matter how large it is. I go around opening doors and windows somedays when I get claustrophobic, in the vain attempt to make it feel larger. I get nowhere, perhaps because the feeling is only in my head.

Or perhaps it is the comforting presence of my parents as they sit talking, bickering vigorously about everything from why he shouldn’t travel so much to why she shouldn’t stay so long on Facebook.

Perhaps it is all of that.

Perhaps home is not a physical place after all but a feeling, a feeling that I belong.


32 Replies to “Home”

  1. Hello Tulika ji,
    Your beautifully written post touches my heart! Even I have grown in different places and stayed in different houses at different periods of my childhood! The structure, the building is not the same – but old artifacts, furniture, paintings, photographs, kitchen utensils, etc. – all remind of the familiarity from childhood days. And parents bind all this memory and familiarity together.
    Perhaps your concluding line sums it up in the best possible way.
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    1. Isn’t it? What’s interesting is that the reverse is also true, sometimes the home of your childhood changes so much that it no longer is home. The place truly is incidental.

  2. Home is definitely a feeling.. a feeling of comfort, warmth & belonging. Which is why people can be ‘home’ too. I know for me, my hubby is my ‘home’ in more ways than one. Even though I fully realize it sounds cheesy, and filmy, but it is also the truth.

    That being said, I associate home with broader geographies too. For instance, India is home, so is US. Which is why I experience conflicting sets of emotions travelling between these two places. Whenever I am set for an India visit, I keep talking about going home. And while I am there I long to come back home (to US). But it all does make sense in my head, even though it sounds ridiculous & complicated to some people.

    All that to say, home is definitely a feeling, subject to many interpretations. 🙂
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    1. That’s exactly true Shantala. We can and do have more than one home. I end up torn between the two, just like you. Pune is definitely home to me but Lucknow shall remain my love forever.

  3. You did a very nice job expressing emotions and questions that, I think, are common to many people. I like how you use flowers to connect all of her “homes”.

  4. Or perhaps it is the comforting presence of my parents as they sit talking, bickering vigorously about everything from why he shouldn’t travel so much to why she shouldn’t stay so long on Facebook. <– so love this "old hat". People are "home". 🙂

  5. Love this! I just woke up in my hometown this morning and heard the same birds I woke up hearing most of my life and a flood of memories came back. There really is no place like home.

  6. Your descriptions are so beautiful. Makes me long for a place lost in time. Especially the odd pieces of furniture but. When we were young, we had always struggled to arrange our house in a proper symmetrical way, yet it is the most cherished place for us… somewhere we find peace and order. The ending is even more beautiful. Sigh!! how do you write like this!!
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    1. That’s the thing about home it doesn’t need to be perfect. That’s what gives it character and that is perhaps what we love. Thanks a ton Raj for those kind words.

  7. This was such a beautiful read, Tulika. It triggered so many memories and feelings inside of me. Home takes on such a different dimension at different phases of life, doesn’t it? Home is definitely much more than space. It is made of the people and memories, space too but how it feels to our heart and mind. Loved this post!

    1. That’s right? Home is so many different things to different people. I hadn’t even realised that listening to a spot of Hindi in a North Indian accent could make me nostalgic.

  8. I hardly spent a year or two in the place where my ‘Home’ is now. But how I understand each of that emotion that you have talked about. Such a heart warming post. This is going to remain with me for a long time Tulika.

  9. So much to love about this piece. That there is no singular physical place that becomes home- but a feeling that makes it so.

    This made for a lovely, nostalgic read and it’s strange, because although I have never been to this place or even met you, you just made it all come alive. Power of good writing. So well done.
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