Few amongst us choose to return after a longish hiatus outside the comforts of home. Many of us grow so accustomed to being uncomfortable, that home makes us almost queasy. What with that bed whose mattress took our shape even as we grew, and the unending space of our closets, the home provides at least three ways in which we can explore our favourite music and books and food and selves.
I’ve been home about three months now. The first month was one kind of frustration. I was healing told my folks, and therefore was excused from waking up early, helping around with household chores, socialising, and whatever else is associated with being active-member-of-the-family. Quite apparently, the folks have grown accustomed to get by without you, darling. You are no more indispensible. But what’s even more surprising is the drastic change in routines and their and your definitions of discipline. They awaken at least two hours later than they did in the morning. That you STILL have a deadline. And in your mind at least, you protest – but I’m 26, for god’s sake!
Month two: my niece sort of began to get to me. Half the reason I’ve missed home is her. Half the reason I chose to return instead of staying on and finding a new job was her, half the reason home is where my heart is, is her. And now helping raising her began to unsettle me. I realised a few weeks back, that like it or not, I must contribute to it – wash her poo, get her to eat, read to her, dress her up, comb her hair, sit on the swing with her, entertain her, sing and dance for her…
The third month, last four weeks, have been about observation; about learning. My sister’s Diwali holidays cue in a trip for her and the niece to head for her granddad’s house in Surat. We were dreading it. We’d grown so accustomed to being in service of the little princess, that the new found (even if just for a fortnight) freedom seemed meaningless to us. For the first few days we stared either at the walls or at each other. Gradually movies began to be lined up on the DVD. And then, a space for conversation. The emptiness also gave all three of us to exchange notes on how things are for one who lives solo, and what it is to stay away from home.
I had had a brief conversation with a friend recently about training one’s parents to not pass value judgements or be strict moral supervisors on matters of our friends or acquaintances even. That, it is hard, but it is possible. After all said and done, our folks trust our views the most. They never see us as too divergent in opinions from them even if what we might say may sound preposterous.
It is mostly about the parents, our coming back. Then it is about some other things too. What seemed cultural differences at first now become parts of the landscape. Depending upon how long one has spent in one place, the native rituals – however minute or insignificant locally – acquire something of a magnified prominence when one has decided never to return. Or at least stay put in this ‘new’ old.
Whether you have stayed as away as another town within the country, or flown overseas, you are bound to miss your own sense of discipline and freedom to do what you’ve always done, even if your folks won’t protest. What you’ve grown accustomed to, then, is not yourself, but the lack of anyone else around. Surely as the clichéd social animals, allowing that for ourselves is blasphemous.
It is not time that heals, it is the revisiting of your earliest memory. And for those of us who’re born, bred and bored in a town for at least 20-odd years, that’s not going to change. That ‘town’ could be Baroda, Bombay or Paris. Call me old fashioned or just conservative. I still miss the sea of Bombay, I still miss the nip in the air of Hyderabad, but every time I chuck a job, every time I’ll experience heartbreak, and each time my work overwhelms me into negativity, I shall return only to my little town. Here lie people who shall, surprisingly give me just enough space, accept me unconditionally, and let bygones be bygones.