At the end of play or at the end of work, when the sun is rising in the wee hours of the day or when the sun is going down, when you pull the curtains on prying eyes at last or when you display your exploits in their splendour on the wall to envious eyes, you want to return home.
Home is where work gets done, or no work gets done at all, where a thousand voices descend on you the moment you enter the door or where you sit still in solitude deep in thought. It is where you are thankful for today or you wait for a hopeful tomorrow or you sit and wonder if this is all there is where one day fades into the next quite silently with indistinguishable footsteps where not even a mouse clicks in the dark.
When you stare into the distance of a blue river or a blank screen from your window or when you spot a poster on the wall (of paper or pixel) next door, you float up and down memory lane or look into the crystal ball of time from your couch at home.
Home has the old and the familiar box from where you shake out a dusty album or it houses the kaleidoscope of friends and relatives, living or dead, floating down a timeline at the click of a mouse, as though they were all there in your living room sipping tea and munching sugary biscuits this afternoon. [Such as when a pop-up floats about a sidebar and says “Say Happy Birthday to S today” when you know that that smiling S left both the world of humans and Netpeople three years ago and left her profile active to haunt us forever every year on this very day.]
Thoughts of homelessness spring to mind as you get away from home for home in another part of the world on a huge airplane. You look down from the window at the familiar skyscrapers and trees and river fading into the billowing clouds.
When you’ve moved many times, between home here and home there, so many homes are scattered in different places that there is no getting away from home although there is no living at home without all those other homes knocking at your door always to come home.
Maybe you get glimpses of an ice blue lake on the top of green mountains from the plane window and you know you’ve lived somewhere quite like it. Perhaps the aircraft moves to lush green vegetation on flat land touched by warm sunlight and you know how the sprinklers will sound right outside a certain door when the leaf-blower is gone and the afternoon rains have stopped. Now you see rows of ordered houses with white, snow-painted roofs divided by a grid of tree-lined roads and you know in some such place a car is turning a corner right this very moment where someone else (not you) is passing a cracked red mailbox to press a button to open the garage door to come home.
Abandoned homes that aren’t homes anymore live in you forever like you lived in them once upon a time (haunting you until memory lasts).
It is then that you want to get home, to meet friends, to talk, to like, to look, to write, to do nothing, to pull the curtains and relax. You want to withdraw into your page but you’re not home yet. Then, when you see bright, burning summer sunlight through the plane windows, sunlight like you’ve never seen in many years, you walk out the glass door and breathe in the hot humid air. You’ve travelled half the globe and you feel like you’re almost home.
For a few days, it is a very full and noisy home of many people, of lanes, bylanes, familiar corners, of glancing into half open doors and bumping into loitering people, of seeing the familiar dogs and cats and car drivers thronging the streets, the car honks, the Xerox shops, the old rickshawallahs, the sweet shops, the chaat sellers and the sounds and smells and tastes of coming home.
Yet, you wonder what it is like at home now, this moment, when day is night and night is day, when summer there shines cool and pleasant like winter here, where the pain of biting winter was like the pain of burning summer and you compare the pain of home with home.
Home was a place of comforts known, of familiar skyscrapers lining a familiar river, of parks and arches and statues and boats and picturesqueness, of broad streets and private driveways and closed doors and well-dressed dogs. [When you look at the skinny, barking, hapless, homeless mutt curled upon the road at night at home, you can’t help but wonder what Kalu would have said had he woken up one day in those colourful doggy clothes and shoes at home in exchange for a nice, leather leash with his name embossed on it such as the ones at home].
It takes a few days but you find the right internet connection that will let you travel home. Your data limit isn’t seemingly unlimited, such as you had at home but it is enough to travel back and forth through the screen when the sun is rising at home when the sun is setting at home, when day is night and night is day and the clock on the computer screen stops making sense anymore.
At last you’re back to the old, familiar faces, those old conversations, those voices, those sounds, parks, buildings, alleyways, meeting those people in those street corners and exchanging a friendly word or two.
Yet, returning home is coming face to face with thwarted wishes and abandoned desires lying around in the loft or the attic as a guitar that was never played, a cricket bat that never met a ball or a novel half-written by hand years ago for the over-zealous silverfish.
Soon, the web becomes a collage of abandoned homes too, a testament to disillusioned projects, of thwarted desires, those bits and pieces of abandoned wish fulfilments, a never-visited blog or a half-filled social profile, of half-known friends and of lost attachments, an inheritance of loss that still takes you right home.
Now the honking cars, the chaatwallahs, the skyscrapers, the bright blue river, the leaf-blowers and the painted houses live as though on someone else’s wall scrolling on an infinite screen, their existence constantly updated. Home becomes the place of attachment and detachment, of bonding and of heartbreak, of past hauntings and of present half-lived lives.
You look for a home where you can keep returning, a point of origin or destination, a reference grid to understand yourself, to stop awhile to build a narrative of self that makes sense. Yet, you neither find the home you left nor the home you seek.
You’re alienated, distanced.
For you, home is everywhere and nowhere while your many homes beckon you in many directions.
To keep going, to keep moving, to live with constant change is the only way to be home. To rest now, to become sedentary is not to find home but to become redundant. Home is a place where you occupy another’s place, use another’s ordered space, constantly update to replace, to be inevitably replaced.
Here, on the interweb, unlike even in life, the end of constant change is foggy.
Existence does not end on the web with the certainty and closure of death but with a sudden disappearance or deletion like a story without an end.
If you liked this post, check out my post The Old and the Young.