I’ve never really understood Jhumpa Lahiri and her cast of melancholic expat Bengalis. The families who went abroad and never could make it “home”. The newly wed Bengali wife who left her childhood home to go to a different city in India and couldn’t find her identity anymore.
I’ve always wondered if there was something wrong with the character sketches she drew, or if there was something wrong with me.
I left home when I was about 21 years old. First to Bombay, where I lived alone for almost a year, and then further afield to Delhi, where the culture shock was immense. I did miss home, but I cannot say that I lost my sense of identity or that I felt a constant yearning in my heart to return back to the land of my childhood.
I spent the long weekend at home – surrounded with the comforts that I grew up with; sleeping in my room, which has hardly changed since I left home; falling back into the familiar patterns of how things are done back home. I watched Dandiya after almost 15 years, enjoyed the Pune rains after about 8 years. And while I soaked in the memories and slid into the comfort of the familiar, I knew that soon enough, I would be back to the rhythm and cycle of the life I have created for myself.
Isn’t that what growing up and going away from home is all about? The ability to create a life of your own. A life that you love. It may not initially be familiar – some things may never be entirely “familiar” – but it is woven together with your own unique signature.
What does home mean to you?