17th July, 2011. I distinctly remember taking that flight from Kolkata, India to Singapore with my parents and sister. I was 18, unaware and utterly naive. I had lived at “home” forever. I didn’t know where this “new home” was, how it was going to be, if it would look like mine?
I recall taking that first cab ride from the airport through this grand new city and I was stumped. Was I really going to live here alone, all by myself, without my parents around? “You have got to be kidding me”, I said to myself as butterflies and all kinds of thoughts fluttered across my stomach and mind together. This could not be for real.
Of course, a part of me could smell the fresh wild gush of “independent” air. But there was this other large part too, that didn’t know what this independence entailed.
Back home, I had been such a rebellious brat. Demanding things I didn’t really need, storming out of the living/dining area back to my room if I didn’t agree with my parents, pampered with all the luxuries of an Indian home with an adequate disposable income (for the readers abroad these are: free cooked food – with immediate menu alteration option, accommodation with private room and attached washroom, free utilities with 24*7 air conditioning services, clothes laundry and ironing services, chauffeur available on request etc)
As I entered the dorm room at my university, all I could find was a bed, a study and a tiny wardrobe. I toured around and met other people – and just by looking at their faces it was obvious to distinguish the clueless from the enlightened. I remember observing with intent, awe and fear as I tried to figure out what my life & home would look like for the next 4 years. A day or two later after my parents thought they had settled me in – they flew back.
Those few moments after they left reminded me of a distant feeling when they had first left me alone outside my kindergarten school door.
I remember how I first laundered my clothes, or spread my own bedsheet, or washed my utensils, tried to cook my own food or started calculating my expenses – or in other words just put my life together on my own. As I best knew how to and as much as I could. I adjusted to an entirely different way of living, humbled down and felt gratitude for everything I had been given. I met different people from all walks of life and some of them became family. These were emotions my teenage self had hardly felt before. I found myself accepting and learning facts about myself, I could never imagine were true.
And before I knew it, the dorm room, then a few more rooms and then the entire city in the coming years became my “new home.”
I graduated and started working here. It has been 6 years now. In these years, I have always been thrilled at the thought of going back “home.” I long for all the comfort it has to offer. I love the pampering, the attention. I often exclaim how I love being home to the whole world. Those few weeks are pure bliss. My heart still sinks everytime I am back at the airport. My eyes still look out of the glass doors at my waving parents, yearning for a time when I won’t have to leave, as I start walking towards the airport.
But then I come back to Singapore. And guess what, I feel “home” again.
When I am there, I miss this and when I am here, I miss that. A part of me lives there and a part of me lives here.
Sometimes, this feeling resurfaces for people I have met and places I have been to – even if it’s for a short time. It feels like I leave a part of whoever it is that I am with them or there. It is hard to identify myself with just one place or just one person anymore.
But.. How can that be?
I started off with such strong sense of identity. And now just a few years down after living with and by myself I am unable to relate to that conviction, that belonging.
Why do none of the luxuries back home endure me enough or all the independance in the new one soak me in?
I can’t be sure.
But there is still one powerful takeaway from this realisation which I carry with myself everywhere now – we all yearn for home.
Some might hope to go back to it at the end of the day, some might be wandering since a decade. Some might find it in a loved one, some might find it in their work. And then there are some who find it in an instant somewhere they never expected to and then there are those who keep looking all their lives but can never find one.
I don’t know where or when I will find mine. Someplace that wouldn’t make me reminisce and long for the other, maybe. But all I can hope for is that I find it somewhere within myself through the bits and pieces I have left behind in all the places, in all the people.