September 29, 2011

Home is where the dhaniya patta is

Train of thought green-flagged by this:

Can’t blame Fate, really. It’s almost always been my bright idea to hop off the straight path and move bag and baggage to new places and new experiences. I remember how, on my first stint away from home (which was already the fifth bricks-and-mortar-thing I called home), I used to lie in bed, close my eyes, and try to recall each and every minor detail of the house. Once it took me a minute to remember our car’s registration number, and that shocked me! This oh-so-long adventure was just for three months, but created in my mind a (very possibly misguided) Home-Life dichotomy, and when the time came to make decisions, I regularly started choosing Life over Home. Many comic attempts were made to move to other cities, and a few of them actually succeeded. This meant a new home every few months, with not much motivation (and frankly never too many resources) to convert bare flats and rooms into tastefully decorated residences. With marriage came further confusion, and the hometown itself has now split into two, and perhaps it is my eternal pessimism that my spirit grates and perishes on the long road between my two homes instead of finding solace and belonging in the two sets of loving arms at each end…
I would be homesick if I knew which home to be sick about. I wistfully remember the entire floor I had to myself for a while in my childhood home, the (scandalous!) unisex hostel in Ahmedabad, the balcony in Pune that opened onto an endless stretch of treetops, the riverside hostel in London, and the sunsets through the palm fronds in my Bangalore home, but leaving each one of them has enriched my life, so I don’t really wish myself back there. (People-sickness is another matter altogether! I can’t do without my gang but I don’t really feel I have to do without them thanks to my superfast Internet connection!)
If I really look deep into my obviously-not-red-enough heart, I now carry my home with me. Right now, home is a little flat by the fake river in the tiny town that loves dope, and as long as the Turkish dry fruit seller brings me coriander leaves every Wednesday, and the darling husband flashes his million dollar smile over the sorry can-of-beans rajma chawal I garnish with the coriander, I am home, and not sick at all.

September 18, 2011


After dragging my lard across 9 kilometres on a tiny bicycle, I had reached breaking point by the time we got home this evening. As I parked the cycle, I realized the tyres were low on air: no wonder the ride had felt twice as long. With heads swimming, knees threatening to give way and shirts sticking to our backs, we decided to fetch groceries before we went home, because there was no way we’d ever make it back out of the house tonight. The road swayed a bit in front of my eyes as I walked, and when the husband decided to stop and take a picture of the sunset, I told him I’d continue “dragging my corpse” further down the road slowly, and he could catch up easily when he was done.

“Excuse me?” a voice rang out cheerfully behind me about a minute later. I turned to see a boy of about 20 in a manual wheelchair. “Can you please help me over the bridge?” he asked. The bridge is our a tiny but steep connection to mainland Amsterdam, and I often play the “cross the bridge in under 50 steps” game, making big leaps to meet my target. “Sure,” I said, and began pushing his chair. We discussed India, Morocco and our lovely neighborhood, and within moments this cheerful boy had dragged my corpse halfway across the bridge, and all my tiredness and self-pity out of my system. He thanked me and carried on alone, and I caught the rest of the sunset from the top of the bridge, waiting for my sweetheart photographer to catch up…