I have come to US for 4 months and 3 weeks and 2 months out of those have passed. During this time, at least six well-meaning friends have mentioned ways to stay back or get a green card.
The assumption that making a home in the US is the ultimate goal for every visiting Indian professional is downright amusing if not wannabe. What probably adds to the assumption is my single status and that I would have no family issues to consider.
Yet I am grateful to these friends for making me think about what is my true home. It is not as much about the country India or US or Europe as much as the place we ultimately choose to call as home.
Honestly, I have never called any place my home. The place where I was born and spent my formative years was always a place I wanted to leave. I didn’t know where I wanted to go. Did that stop me from never calling my hometown, my home?
People say a home is not an address, it is a person, or a few people you want to come back to every time you leave. People also say home is where the heart is.
What if mine kept moving on?
I have always moved on, from my first school to the second, and then to the third. I moved on from the city I grew up in and the family I grew up with. I visit but deep inside I know I moved on for good. I never had any intentions of going back and I probably never will. I even moved on from the friends I made back then.
Once I moved on from the place that people would normally call home, all I wanted was to make my own home.
But then, what is a home?
Is it a place, a physical address, a person, a pet or more?
And how do you find that home?
By earning enough? By finding a person? By sticking to a set of friends? By sticking to the same job and the same city?
Without answers, I set out to make a nest. Every city I moved to – Gurgaon, Bangalore, then Pune, then back to Bangalore, then Pune again only to leave it for Bombay – was a possibility of a physical address I could call my own in my budget, a relationship that I could call the foundation of my home.
Money and a relationship were the only two ways that I was taught were the ways to make a home.
And while searching for these two, I became this person, who was willing to pack her bags and go wherever life took her. I changed jobs and with it cities all too often to the discomfort of people, who cared, people who loved me despite my inconsistencies.
A part of me grew restless and moved on every 1 year and 10 months. That is the maximum I have ever held a job or stayed at a stretch in a city.
In those 1 year 10 months or lesser, I made friends but stayed lonesome. I ventured out alone to places I had never seen, found things to do that I had never done before. Sometimes I would be doing a course in theater, at another time trying to learn martial arts. At one time I would be meditating following the rules of sainthood to the tee, at another time I would break all rules, go ballistic on chicken and wine.
There was nowhere I could belong but there was always another place to explore.
Living in different cities, working at different jobs, loving and hating so many different people and finding extremes in cultures across the length of my country made me into something entirely different than someone who was just looking to make her nest.
I learnt to speak to people who didn’t know my language and I didn’t know theirs. I cried at their stories if they cried, I laughed when they laughed.
These people seemed to be everywhere, the colleagues in office who called me out for tea when they didn’t know me, the neighbors, my household help, the cab drivers, the security guards of the buildings I stayed in, the list is endless.
A shy, silent colleague once drew a picture of me in a Superwoman avatar and quietly kept it at my desk. I didn’t know what he saw but he made me smile.
One of the ladies I hired as a household help would bring me idlis and chutney, mangoes from her village, and a lot more. She did everything which I was expected to do for her as my maid. Heck, she even sang if she saw me sad or stressed!
Knowing a common language can be overrated. People who used the same words as I did sometimes meant something entirely different from what those words meant to me. And people who didn’t know the words I did understood me perfectly well.
Meaning is not a function of language, meaning cannot be found in dictionaries. Neither can the strange phenomenon that makes humans belong.
For all the love and professional success I found in the world, I still didn’t feel I belonged. I did not so much as discover the true meaning of a home. The meanings taught to me – money and relationship did not seem to be the harbingers of a home anymore.
My home seemed to be all things about me that were stable, that didn’t change with time.
Was my home then a set of habits, a routine that gave me a semblance of stability?
Was it my profession? Was it my dream?
Was it that single moment in the day when I felt truly alone and free?
Was it the usual flavors in the food I cooked for myself? The visual of life I saw around me?
Was it walking? Or listening to music?
Was it reading or writing? Or any of the other things I loved to do?
I carried this stable part of me, things I loved to do everywhere I went, yet I did not belong.
And then one day, I chose to belong to the organization I worked for and I chose to return to the first city I had chosen when I had first moved on – Bangalore. I chose to buy an apartment and make my home.
It wasn’t easy.
I picked my bags one more time and moved from Bombay to Bangalore. For the first time in my life, I took help from a friend, who offered her home and with it opened her heart to me. She nurtured me when I needed it the most, unconditionally.
Yet so are the blinding self-beliefs that I stayed closed to receiving her love so many times. Life had taught me to give and move on, not receive. I struggled to open myself and receive.
And a home is as much receiving as it is giving.
In this struggle to find my true identity, my home, I traveled again to US for work.
Now, I am here, for quarter of a year, and I have finally come to see my true home. The city and the situation I am in have limited me to a 1 mile radius of my apartment, client office, and a grocery store.
It is when I have come to entirely focus on myself and nothing outside of me that I see that I have always been my own home. There is a place that is beyond all the changes in my life, it is peaceful and loving despite what happens around me. That place is with in me and that is my true home.
My home is a physical place too – Bangalore. My home is every sight, sound, smell, and flavor – good, bad or downright ugly that lives in my city.
And it is my home because I chose to belong there. I could have chosen any place but I chose Bangalore. I don’t know the reason or logic of it but I don’t need to know.
My home is people I chose to be with, people who are a part of me just as I am a part of them.
My home is also my country and everything about it – the cultures, conversations, the concerns, the dirty politicians, Bollywood, chai, cricket and the day to day life.
It is everything that I cannot verbalize or express ever.
I have a home already and I don’t need another one. And right now, I am just waiting to go back.