Missing Home


I sit in the same corner table, looking through the glass of Heathrow. Staring in smug contentment as aircrafts land and take off. People going and coming home with a sort of wistful energy that a wasp with a loud buzz would convey.

Two empty cups sit in the table in front of me. One I had nursed and the other, she had held. The coffee is gone but the conversations remain. She is gone too. The ruffled fabric of the cushion on the chair, the only other trace she has left behind. ‘So, how many days have you been away from home?’, she had asked a while ago. Her first question. I am still at the first question.

‘Two weeks’, I had said.

‘I mean HOME’. She had emphasised. With an emphasis that a stern teacher would reserve for the slowest student.

She wasn’t talking of where I lived now. She was talking of where we had lived earlier. Where we went to school together.

With the careless ease of slipping into the favourite shirt that got tucked beneath several layers or new purchases, we had dived in. Deep conversation abounded leaving me with abundant joy to think and talk of the easy times when innocence was still our skin. Now, she is gone. Her flight was on time and mine has ‘delay’ written in the air. The empty cups are on the table and the conversation runs in my mind.

So what is home? I ask myself. Still with the first question she popped. My mind darts in many directions. I watch one aircraft take off and my mind follows my eye.

It is but natural to think of HOME as a physical structure. The one that gets built with steel rods, bricks, mortar and paint. From time immemorial the need for people to add structure and territory to safety has existed. The cave men sought out caves for psychological safety as much for physical sanctuary. Over generations, the building of a home has morphed into a ‘life purpose’! It still is, for large parts of India.

I remember what it took to build our home. My dad ran to the architect and then made a dash to the bank. He worked insane long hard hours, to get the structure up. Mom kept the family together while he was at it. Me and my brother watched from the sidelines sometimes lifting a pipe or moving a brick. It was the quintessential man on the moon moment for him when he did build it. We called it HOME. He thought we would live in it forever. But it turned out quite otherwise.

As our age of making our own living arrived so did jobs. We nurtured new dreams of living under bright lights and bustle that big metros invitingly held out. Upon their urging me and my brother flew the nest while dad and mom stayed on. Since then, we have made homes our of mere houses and raised our families in different cities but we can say for sure, that we can never ‘outgrow’ the HOME that dad built. We were, and we are, wedded to the place mentally.

But now, our dear HOME that dad built will tell a curious visitor the tale of poverty of residents and the plentiful silence its privy to. The occasional hosting of the grandchildren, giving the arc of effort in its construction some angular (and only) redemption. But perhaps the building isn’t privy to how often I visit it. To take the memory route to get there, just takes a closing of the eye. Sometimes, that isn’t required either, when you could reach there with wide open eyes and easy ears.

My memories of HOME come alive when I recall conversations. Some hard fights, tender moments, the spanking that we got when we lied, the company of good books, lazy gawking and good coffee. Of course, good coffee! Memories bring the HOME alive. A sanctuary of care and love whose walls come coated with familiarity and ease. Where even the pillars seem to understand us well and the floors take to the careless toss of a well-worn shirt with a muted grin.


Memories sparkle and rush out like pieces of iron sighting a big magnet. If a home is this accessible, is it a building in a particular place or is it an ‘idea’? To a migrant like me, memories of the place are as sacred as the place in itself. Long after the people moved on and the blue sky turned gray, the twinkle in HOME’s night sky comes from the glow memory offers.

Somedays, sitting in the new home, a memory begets sighs. A longing for what it was and how it would be to go back there. The famous lines from Garden State that my good friend Manu put into my head several years ago come alive

“You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone.

You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know.

You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something.

I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place”.

HOME gives us renewal. But home can also dull us into inaction. With its familiarity and comfort. It does a few things to us. It makes us take to it and our lives thereon with a certain air of settled certainty.

Thoreau‘s brilliant thoughts on ‘living deliberately’ can bring a thought or two. We need seek out the unfamiliar and make new homes. For it is in the balance between the ‘wild’ and ‘cautious’ that new bearings must get taken. These often lead us to tearing down old ideas, learning anew and building new ones. Not only are homes built on the ground around us, but also what we structure our minds with. Perhaps, that makes all the difference.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with my brother. About home. Our HOME. We were sitting in a foreign land and talking. We are both migrants with stickers and seals in our passports that ease our entries and exits from places we now call ‘home’. We are migrants too, of a luckier kind. Our migrations forcing upon us a need to reinvent ourselves, renew our relationships and take new bearing. That it hasn’t been easy, is a story that will remain silent. But what retains eloquence is the idea that the HOME that dad built, remains our personal centre of reference.

It connects us back, I realise, not only to what dad and mom put into the building but what they put into us. While the building gave a dimension of physical space and comfort, the real giving was in the treasure trove of moments they have left in us to cherish. It is ironical that building stands in silence, for it has got us sing new songs in faraway lands.

The home’s essence lies in what we put inside it. The care with which we load its beams with strength walls with colour tell stories about the hopes we have for our future. Our children’s future comes from the moments we fill their lives with. The time that we take to talk to them and be with them. It constructs a sense of identity and gives us an inner resilience to build all over again with a sense of imagination and hope. Hopes from which new homes and new futures can get created.

Hopes that can cause us to honour this space with the title of HOME!


I continue gazing through the glass window of Heathrow. Another flight lands and taxis away. So there, if you aks me ‘so where’s home’, I have this blogpost as an answer for you.

How wonderful would it be to sit down and go on a long memory ride to hear your stories of pillars, beams, lessons and moments.  I will buy you a coffee and spend a few hours with an inviting ear and a careful presence. Perhaps you will open to me, the grooves of your memory lines and the tenor of your dreams. And through the images of your HOME, I will see a little bit of your soul.

When even a bit of the soul is worn on the sleeve, dots connect and new skies become visible for everyone around. Of course, new skies make old clouds irrelevant.

Coffee anyone?

Written after viewing TATA Tiscon steel bars being made at the TATA Steel plant in Jamshedpur as part of the #buildingblogsofjoy campaign. Arresting sights & sounds of iron ore morphing into steel rods and some smelting conversations with people who exquisitely choreograph this, makes me think of HOME. What it takes to build a house and the stuff that makes it a HOME.   Part of a blogger group, put together by www.blogadda.com. Do read the posts from others for a different take. They are listed here. Vivek Patwardhan, Lakshmi Sharath, Shruti Garodia, Shoma Abhyankar, Vamshi Krishna,  Sammya Brata

Its not the drum !

Its a big hefty drum. With a red cloth to cover. Perhaps to cover its might. Perhaps to cover what lies inside. These are distinctly rural men. You can see it in their looks and the ease with which they heave it on to their shoulder, lean on to the other side, and let the beats do the talking!

Beats that you are unfamiliar with. But resonating with what you know so well. From your own land. You wince. As memories of another time flow. In some time, there is music. Here, these three drummers whip up your heart beat.

At the other side, the charcoal embers laced with incense powder fumes! At yet another, amidst the crowd, there is palpable expectation.

In a short while, hips, legs, head and all other parts of the body sway to the beats. In a synchrony that begs to find a new word. A word better than ‘synchrony’ !

The hands. Oh yes, the hands hold those pots fuming embers !

Your heart skips a beat. As the drummers and the dancer get into a jig now and then. Un-rehearsed. But flawless, for all of it is in the flow of the moment. You wonder, how he heaves such a big drum on on his shoulder, creates music, does a jig in response to the dancers steps. Smiling all the way.

You wonder how those dancers hold those hot embers yet stay connected to each step of the drum beat. So graceful. And so complete. Smiling all the way.

You get goose bumps. Dancer after dancer. Some are artistic. Others mesmerise. Yet others hold the eye. All in seamless flow.

You notice that the pictures that you attempt to click are getting blurred. The angles are missing. There is a lot of shake. You wonder whats wrong with the camera. And realise that the cameras just fine. Its just you moving to the beats from those big drums.

To you, it appears that the real dance is the one that’s on in each persons heart. As people smile. Clap. Cry. Go moist in the eye. Laugh. Cheer. Click. Record. And of course, dance.

Right there. As the drummers whip up the music. And the dancers catch it from thin air. And throw it right back at the drummer.

Perhaps everyone is connected to a different time. Perhaps a different place. Perhaps a longing to recreate that time and place, now. In a different distant city. Perhaps its a nested joy in being one with similar minds and very similar longing.

You realise that you are in a trance. Soaking in the unfamiliar drum beat, the dance and the fragrance. And something more.

There are you are. Aware. Unsure. At peace. Strangely happy. As those rural drums get the city dwellers dance in joyous abandon !

Later on, you lie in bed, thinking of the evening. The drums, the dance and the beautiful women and handsome men. You realise, that you can describe all of that.

And you are aware, of something else that was there about the air. An undescribable part. You know that its there. Yet, it eludes description. You try thinking about it.

You are tired. And you choose to leave it at that. Half asleep, you mumble to yourself, ” perhaps it is Durga. Perhaps its just the dance”.

You realise that sleep envelopes you. You know you will sleep like a log today. After a very long time.

And as you slip into sleep…you mumble…”Perhaps, perhaps… its just the drums.”

(Written after attending the Powai Durgotsav ’09. Danuchi Dance. Friday. 25th Sept ’09. All snaps from the event)

A Migrant’s Balcony

‘A balcony with a view’ , friends used to say. The airport was visible from here. That was until sky raises started coming up close by. In some days the view would be gone completely.

Everyday i stand and watch the sky rise, get closer to the sky and workers working on them, get to new floors ! All, On the way up ! Today, the sun is yet to arrive. There is a slight breeze which nudges the odd discarded polythene pack into aimless movement.

I look emptily into the sky & in that ever coalescing clouds, just like my future ! A shape now. A different one the next minute. And a new one tomorrow. I look into my tea and tea mug. My tea mug says, ‘SMILE’.

Some distance away, migrant ‘labour’ work to do their part in man’s quest for development. A couple of incomplete floors below, on an incomplete balcony, their cloth line catches the breeze and flutters.

I wonder what hopes and tales the breeze holds. These clothes seem to flutter, only when they are off these workers!

I wonder what drives these men. The thought of a family ‘back home’ and their ‘upkeep’ provide the fuel for such providers. Perhaps. Perhaps the allure of ‘big city living’ is the fuel. Perhaps it is that phase in life where the every muscle is stretched to ‘do something’ ‘worthwhile’, that is proving to be the fuel.

I think. Did they know, when they played with carefree gay abandon in their fields, that someday, they had to trade those open fields, small streets, talkative neighbours, interested friends, simple conversation to such a borrowed high rise living. I wonder.

The clouds have already taken a new shape. My imagination runs riot, trying to affix objects to the shapes out there. The clouds seem to recognise my attempt and move faster.

Down below, another worker is on his mobile phone. He has been on it for sometime now. He now sits down to talk. His animated movement of hands for a while now, ceases. He sits. One hand on the phone. Phone pressed to the ear. Head in the other hand.

From where i sit, i see him clearly. My eyes remain fixed on him. The only occasional move is to sip the tea. The tea mug continuous exhort me to ‘SMILE’.

In about five minutes, he completes the call. Long after the call is done, he continues to sit on the mound of sand he has been sitting on. Phone in his pocket. Hand holding the head. Staring into the sky. I wonder who he could have been speaking to.

Perhaps it was the wife & an assortment of lost feelings. A lonely parent & a bundle of timeless dreams. A child and tons of possibilities for the future. . Perhaps. He seemed to look up into the clouds. The same clouds & their coalescing shapes.

My eyes dart to the clouds too. In the new shapes that emerge, i seek answers. I see open play fields, carefree play, a fathers presence and mothers care. I wonder if he sees these shapes. In a while, i notice that the mound of sand continues to stare at me but the worker has moved on.

To play his part on building that sky rise. The labourer and the mound of sand would soon be gone, leaving the sky rise to kiss the clouds.

Up above, the clouds remain focused on creating new shapes with gay abandon. Complex shapes, this time around. Some questions for me, perhaps.

The neighbours’ Worldspace radio, with BOSE speakers blasts the song “it wasnt me’.

The clouds seem to pounce on that and ask : ‘Really?’

I stare vaguely into nowhere. A stronger breeze flutters and moves more clothes on the cloth line below. The empty tea mug continues to exhort me to smile. The Sun has arrived. I begin drawing the curtains.

Far away, another aircraft takes off.