What is home?
Some intense moving has made me establish that home is a physical place and is also not a physical place. I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to live in 5 countries in the last 3 years; I’ve dwelled in 6 different four-walled enclosures that I’ve almost immediately embraced as my space. It’s been a great exploration of what’s made me connect/or not connect to my new surroundings each time.
In most cases, with the short duration in a place, the average investment in a room has been taping some drawings and photos on the walls. That’s almost like a primal peeing over my territory (this I didn’t do) kind of instinct; it immediately feels familiar. Another strong element of home has been having my round spice box. Smell — especially of food — is one of the strongest associations to home ( especially if you’re Indian!). But this is still just the decor, the fringes of what makes up home for me.
What I do in my space
A night-lamp, my laptop, books, a sketchbook, pens, ink and paint. Things I need to hibernate for hours are things that make me feel comforted, I’m home.
People by far, form the most layered and interesting aspect. It bifurcates into people in your circles and strangers in the city. Both contribute in different yet substantial ways.
While doing my master there was an easy influx of friends from school in Germany and Spain, and although it was hard to communicate with strangers with the language barrier except for the danke-bitte, gracias-de nada in the beginning, there was this brotherhood in our little community which extended to collectively exploring the city and beyond. So the bubble we were in, however aloof it was from its surroundings culturally and linguistically, was home.
On the flip side, in Beijing, I worked with Germans and Chinese colleagues. As an “expat” it took longer to feel a circle aaand I didn’t understand the languages (two of them!) and didn’t absorb the cultural nuances well in my six months there. That, coupled with the scale and speed of the city (also the hyper surveillance and communist planning of many districts) led to feeling a disconnect from its vibe to an extent. Beijing the city didn’t feel like home till the end, except for my house in Beijing, which I would’ve transported like the film Up if I could. So cozy.
I’m back now to the house I grew up in, in my hometown Pune, and it’s always hard in the beginning to reconnect with your old friends in their new lives while identifying your own changes. But as I find my bearings with people, I already find comfort in speaking Hindi and Marathi, and in being able to understand the chaos and voices in the background. After stepping away, it’s surprising on your return how much reading of signs and hearing non-sensical but familiar sounds can make you feel at home.
Honey I’m home
The honey in this case is the home. A space can feel more at home based on what degree of refuge your body and mind needs. A safe space to sit with yourself after a hard long day. At the moment I’m between things (read: unemployed) and I can’t seem to appreciate being home at this moment, because I’m home a LOT (read: recovering from a fall). The sacredness of my space multiplies x-fold proportionate to how busy it gets, on days feeling like i’m in slow-mo after stepping in from the time-lapse of a buzzing city.
Open or Closed
The above variables sit within the premise of one’s willingness to receive and give, focusing on what you can explore and what you’re grateful for in whatever the environment may be.
Irrespective of whether it applies to me at the moment or not, I couldn’t skip the layer of home being a person. It’s a wonderful feeling. If you have it, that’s great. If not, get a box of spices, sniff.