I just got back from my summer vacation. Although there was a tug in my heart as I left my first home, a strange feeling of calmness engulfed me as I set foot on this soil.
I just got back from my summer vacation. Although there was a tug in my heart as I left my first home, a strange feeling of calmness engulfed me as I set foot on this soil. There is a lilt in my step and, unknowingly, I hum as I walk around the house. That’s when I stopped to think: strangely, I was happy to be home — my home in a foreign land, away from my dear people and yet, still, my very own home.
Nearly 12 years ago, when I stopped off in Dubai, things were a lot different. I shopped at Deira City Centre and marvelled at the Burj Al Arab. Yet, when, someone asked me if I would like to spend a few days here, I shot back a quick no. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how anyone could make this place their home.
My good friend constantly reminds me that I should never say never, for she knows how, despite my own opinions, I have now lived here for more than five years.
In the beginning, I found everything unsettling. I frowned at the ‘mall culture’ and questioned the economics of this place.
That was then. Now, when I visit India during the summers, I soak myself in the numerous things that are Indian. I shop for colourful saris, eat in the most popular places and feed my insatiable taste buds with a variety of spices and visit every relative I know. There is pride in my voice as I show my little son around in the familiar surroundings. I soak in my Indianness and mock gently at his ignorance. I boast of most things around and, somehow, find things outside of home very unworthy.
As the holidays drag to an end, a familiar but awkward feeling creeps in. I am longing to get back to my home. My son and I agree that we miss home.
The desire to feel the familiar walls of my cocooned nest engulfs me. My thoughts and memories wander back and forth in a frenzy and guilt tugs at my heart — I am happy to get away from my homeland. Even as I fight this thought, days become weeks and I get into the grind of livelihood and the guilt evaporates until the next summer.
I resume my connection with the family with the familiar phone calls and exchange news and wishes. Festivities are restricted to my circle of friends and phone calls to the homeland. I retrace the colourful motifs at the doorstep, reminiscing about my youth and conversations with the neighbours. The memories freshen up with every minute detail when relatives call on us and the distance tugs at my heart. But, when the annual trip draws closer, there is a strange excitement that builds up. The possibility of going home will soon become a reality.
Strangely, the duality of home does not overwhelm me. I find myself taking pride in a home that is away from my homeland.
A house, built in the desert, inhabited by us and filled with our emotions, laughter and touch has now been converted into our home. Yes, a place which I had written off years ago has now become so close to my heart that it is also home. There is also the home where I have spent the prime of my life, where paths diverged and to where I can retreat. Indeed, home is where the heart is — in the one where we live and the one where our memories abide.