Over twenty-seven years later and from two thousand kilometers away, as I close my eyes, I can smell the air fragrant with the scent of tall eucalyptus trees that make whistling sounds as the wind sways them.
I can feel the cold winter winds pierce through my skin numbing my cheeks and fingers. I need no Google map to walk up and down the steep hill roads of home that are enmeshed in my memory cells.
After all those are the smells and sensations, I grew up with in a tiny hill town in Jammu and Kashmir until I enrolled myself in Delhi University and left ‘home’.
Coming to think of it, I spent only sixteen years of my life at ‘home’ and have already lived another twenty-seven years away from ‘home’. But, ‘home’ is still home.
So during a recent episode of The Slow Cafe with Neelesh Misra, when I heard Manoj Bajpayee, the film actor who has performed a Bhojpuri rap — #BambaiMainKaBa, describe the lyrics of the rap, including his personal longing for the home he left when he was only eighteen, I realised how most of us live all our lives longing for ‘home’.
A home we left decades ago, which we may not have visited for several years, but a place we all long to go back to. A home we left behind, but one we carry within us wherever we go. A home only a few are finally able to go back to, to wrap up their lives from the point they began their journey.
Why are we so strongly connected with ‘home’, I often wonder? After living eleven years in Delhi and fifteen years in Mumbai, should I not redefine my ‘home’? After all I have a home in Mumbai, a family in Mumbai including two children.
But ‘home’ is still that hill town with a mini market of ten shops where the daily newspaper used to arrive at five in the evening. The Ramlila ground where I learnt to cycle with my sister, and where at the onset of every winter I used to watch the Ramlila being performed, along with my friends, munching on hot moongfali.
Home is that bungalow with a kitchen garden in the backyard where my mother, along with her three children, grew all kinds of vegetables ranging from ladyfinger to brinjal, maize, tomatoes, radish, ridge gourd, spinach, etc. The house with a lemon tree. That house with my mother’s favourite bougainvillea.
After spending the first sixteen years of my life in the hill town, I wanted to break free and soar high in life. Little did I know that though I may get away from ‘home’ to chase my dreams, it would follow me thousands of kilometers away and keep coming back to me, almost teasingly, in my dreams.
Memories of home bring peace. That is why I often shut my eyes to smell the air scented with the aroma of tall eucalyptus trees that makes whistling sounds as the wind sways them. And still, as I lie on my bean bag in hot, coastal Mumbai, I feel the cold winter winds pierce through my skin numbing my cheeks and fingers.
And strangely enough, even after twenty-seven years, I still feel ‘home’. It thrives inside me. Like a shadow it follows me.
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