Home – The Words

Home. A four letter word – of the happiest kind. To use the word as a theme for a photography course / writing challenge seemed to me a bit simplistic. Till I began to think of composing an appropriate photograph that would describe the word to the world – as I saw, felt it.

Suddenly the description of my home became very complex.

Is home the house I remember from my earliest memories? An apartment associated with schooling, friends, growing up? It is, today, an abandoned, derelict building, awaiting a bulldozer probably stopped from complete destruction by bureaucratic processes! It saddens me to look at it. But the years since we moved out of the apartment have lent a certain distance that has taken away the daily joy of that home and left me with mere nostalgia.

Is home the city I had grown up in, the city that moulded me and made me the person I am today – Bombay? A city my very bones recognise and relax in completely, the moment I step in? But even the name of the city has been removed from the atlas. It has become Mumbai. Somehow, that feels alien.

Is home Pondicherry, the quaint town where I began life as an independent adult? Where I discovered the travails and joys of setting up a life of my own away from the family I had grown up in? A town that now calls itself Puducherry.

Is home Madras where I discovered I could survive and enjoy myself in a completely alien culture and come away a stronger person, having learnt to appreciate textiles, foods, visitors and travelling in buses that were always at a 45-degree angle to the road because of the crowds hanging out the doors! A city that calls itself Chennai today.

Is home Vapi – the little industrial town – where I spent two of the most fun years of my life making friends who even today are my very lifeline in hard and happy times? My every day begins with touching base with these wonderful people!

Is home the country I am a citizen of, India? A country I love without even giving conscious definition to the word love?  A country that is secular as per its constitution, with a rich tapestry made up of numerous Gods, foods, festivities, natural resources? A country that could rule the world and is not because we the people are too divided by caste, creed, religion, language and every other divisive factor that we can think of. We have allowed greed and short term gains to bring us to the very brink of moral and economic destruction and I do not know if we can save ourselves or our motherland. A country that I am immensely proud of, withal? A country I seem to live in on and off, depending on the vagaries of a spouse’s career and the call of kith and kin.

Is home Singapore, the city-state that is the very epitome of safety and efficiency. A city that surprised us with its lush greenery, hidden mangroves, sparkling night lights and sheer vibrancy?

Is home for me somewhere in Africa? From the very first moments of having stepped on African soil, I felt I belonged. For myriad reasons – the people, the wildlife, the natural beauty, the vast open spaces.

Is home Durban where I indulged my love of crafting, lived luxuriously in a sprawling mansion on a golf course and discovered the delights of wines, high speed driving and safariing? And avocados!

Is home Nairobi,  the house where we were flooded in the middle of the night when the hot water system crashed down along with the roof? A city full of joyous people with enough of Indian culture to give me comfort food? With tribal craftsmen and markets to shop? A place with the most unusual people whom I have ever befriended? With an orphanage for elephants and a tower which we can climb to be nose to nose with giraffes!

Is home the Savannah, the Maasai Mara,  where we have spent many glorious days and nights seeking lions and leopards in the last few years? Tent 3, Simba, at Porini Lion Camp has become as familiar to us with its quirky curtain and tilted wash-stand as the current  four walls we call home.

We have been shifting ground like the wildebeest, who walk continuously, braving death to come to the Maasai Mara from the Serengeti, to go back, year after year, a cycle that only ends with the end of life … how would they define home?Developing The Eye - One - Home-3Is it the place that calls to something in our subconscious? A place that offers us those much craved for factors in our lives – comfort, security, shelter?

I come to the conclusion that brick and mortar and political boundaries cannot define my home. I have lived a nomadic life anytime this last two decades, shifted houses, cities, countries, continents on average every couple of years and misplaced and made friends, possessions and memories.

Home is, indeed, where the heart is. And the heart can always, everywhere, be at home!