Friday, March 04, 2005

Homesick? For which home?

It is a sad life when one watches people go home for the weekend and realises that one has none. Well, I do have a home but no real sense of home. As in, I do have a sense of home, but no sense of being away from a home. Everyone has a home to go to. I carry my home wherever I go. Pretty much like them pikeys (please refer to a forthcoming post about the movie Snatch). The bitter part is that they have a name: Pikeys. I really can't call myself anything. And that is a sad thing, being a no-name.
I was born in a city which I left before I realised that I was born. Madras (no way am I calling it Chennai) was always a place I went for the summers (ain't that the stupidist thing to do? Who listens to me anyway?) and met relatives whose names I had a difficult time remembering. Bombay (you won't even catch me dead saying Mumbai. Its Bombay city) was where I grew up for the first 10 years of my life. The nicest 10 contiguous years. Bombay made me (borrowed unabashedly from Graham Greene's "England made me"). I believe a few relatives died while I was in Bombay, but I hadn't yet learnt to miss people who are dead, because I hadn't learnt how to miss people at all. I enjoyed the company of everyone while they hung around me. That in a way, helped me a lot. It sorta prepared me for what my life had to give me. All those 10 years, I kept travelling to various places. All over India. I was rarely in a place for more than 6 straight months. When I sang "Homeward bound" as a part of the school choir, one of my friends from Imphal cried. I wasn't really THAT bad. I still had a girl's voice (which helped my sister push all her unwanted calls to me, and I would speak on her behalf without giving her off to her friend on the other end!). I asked him (yeah, I was in an all boy's school, and I loved that more than all the co-ed schools I have been in. I don't think I would go back to one, though) what happened. He told me he missed home. When I related this incident to my mother, she asked me "Why did he cry?". Like every mom she thought I sang so well that I had moved him to tears. Puhleease!! Sounds so corny. I told her, "Ma'am shouted at him for not finishing his homework." I couldn't have explained the missing-home thing and hence couldn't provide that reasoning.
Then we moved to Lucknow. I remember Lucknow only for its rich curds and hot milk in metal containers which I would dutifully pick from the cowshed (the smell of which I grew to like before I left that city). That city taught English in Hindi ( I should have joined La Martiniere where I had an invitation to join, were it not for the distance and the alien responsibility of escorting my sister) and I truly hate it when someone messes with that language (some of you must be aware of my beliefs on hate and love). I have grown sentimental towards Urdu now, but hey! English is English. My early childhood was swathed in English (not American), and the only words in Tamil I knew were "Amma" and "Appa" (which, technically, are not Tamiyy or Tamizh). Is my English spotless? Far from it, but I still love that language. English for prose and Urdu for poetry. Anyway, Lucknow will be remembered for introducing me to Urdu and Avadhi (I shall relegate an entire post to my exposure to the many languages and how I enjoyed them more than my company with humans). It also made me fat, which I still carry around like dead weight (well, it actually is).
The education system was so bad that we moved to Madras. Stayed in our house in Mylapore about 5 minutes from the beach. From our terrace, I had the church to the East, a temple to the West and a mosque to the North. I had coconut trees and my best friend's house to the South. That house is gone (sold) and so have the trees. My friend is still around growing closer to me by the day. Wonderful guy. Any girl who wants an Iyer boy, please let me know. You can't find a finer gentleman than him (or maybe you can, but why waste time looking?). Madras gave me little more than ruin my English further. Lucknow gave me the "baba" and "re" that I used to add to my sentences, though I got over it pretty fast. Madras made it difficult for me not to add the "aa" at the end of every question. "Yes-aa?", "no-vaa?". God saved me. I found it difficult to stay away from other words too, like "Machchi" and other words which I can't put down in writing. My Tamiyy/~zh still sounds un-Madrasi and I like it that way. My Lucknowi Hindi (which has a good mix of Urdu by now) was considered unacceptable in my exam papers!! I would serenade my classmates with old Hindi songs (I couldn't get the words of the Tamiyy/~zh numbers, though I think I can now do so) or English melodies (which they hadn't heard as MTV hadn't yet crept into India).
Then dad got transferred to Bombay again. This time Bombay undid all the beauty it had once given me, but loyalty is a quality that sometimes astonishes the most gelid minds. I suppose I will always love Bomaby although it is not my home. This phase in Bombay was painful.
I left for Pune and enjoyed my stay there. Pune was and still is a city I hug when I get off the train/flight. I mean literally. I stretch out my arms and hope no one gets their teeth knocked off. Pune also gave me "Country Roads" by Denver making me realise that I have no home to call my own.
I left Pune for Hyderabad. God knows when I will leave Hydi. Hydi has given me a good house and home. I like it. Built in a vague colonial style with lawns (for my mom) and temple about 2 minutes away. I love the sounds of bells and chants (during the Dhanur/Margayyi/~zhi months). I shall return everyday to it for some more time.
Over this travel I never once felt connected to a single city, which made it easier for me to leave one and go to the other (no, this cannot be likened to anything else in my life). I really love Bombay and Pune. They are like a pal. Just being there to make it worth one's while. I love the music season of Madras and when the pradosham is conducted in Mylapore. I like the chaat (which I would buy for Rs. 2) and rustic feel of Lucknow. I love the mishti dhoi and Durga festival of Calcutta. I love the "nyaan" and "O" of Palaghat. I love Trivandrum for Ananthpadmanaban temple. I love the Punjabi conversations and rajma-chaawal of Delhi. I also liked the early October of Delhi. Hyderabad gave me a sense of being a professional and a lot of time to re-visit my love: philosophy.
But I have no place to call my own. No place to go to with the hope of being received like a man returning after a long time away from home. An empty college, an empty department, and empty office during Diwali made that feeling worse. However light I make of it, not belonging anywhere is not a pleasant feeling.
And guv'nor, I ain't no pikey!

28 comments:

  1. 'Is my English spotless? Far from it'

    'Madras gave me little more than ruin my English further.'
    Rubbishes ur claim...ur language is impeccable..U write like a dream.

    As far as u not belonging anywhere is concerned..Huggs

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  2. dei
    madras pathi thappa pesara? apparama vechukkaren!

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  3. Prasad, Sorry da. Nothing wrong about Madras, just ... ;-)

    Sangeeta/Sangeets, Thanks. I still think that I am not yet THERE (as far as proficiency in English is concerned). You do hug a lot!! :-) I saw you hugging fellow bloggers on a few sites! Hug you too. I am glad that the gesture still thrives. I was speaking to a few people yesterday and telling them how it amazes me that kids love to be hugged but are soon taught to grow out of it and by the time they are adults, all they might do is give another hand a shake!! Interesting name (Sangeeta). Always has a song in it, however we shorten it! Sang (past tense of sing), Sangeet, Geets, and ask a Bengali to pronounce "Sang" he would say "Song" so there we are, another song in your name!! Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. I felt like listening to a speech while reading this - ya know, one of 'em convocation ones - Light hearted nostalgia...

    *Applause*

    "loyalty is a quality that sometimes astonishes the most gelid minds. "

    "I stretch out my arms and hope no one gets their teeth knocked off."

    *Applause*

    "No place to go to with the hope of being received like a man returning after a long time away from home."

    Havent you heard of the saying "people make the place?" You know what you need to feel like coming home after a long time, dont you? ;-)

    Btw, I attribute my impertinence to Monday Morning Blues...

    Loved this post.

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  5. Quite interesting. This is one of the most intersting posts I have read so far. I agree with you when you say that you do not like languages being twisted. I share another common thing with you which is my love for English. Being a literature student reading various texts is one of my favorite habits (though I confess I haven't had the opportunity to read too many). Your description of the various cities yopu have travelled to is quite engaging. Infact you have successfully captured the sounds, smells and sights of each and every city. Almost reminds me of a stream of consciousness novel. Good narration. By ways, I must admit I too have been brought up in an all girls school and enjoyed it more than a co-ed. And you were right when you asked whether I was a Bengali. I am Amrita Sarkar, a true-blue Bengali.

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  6. Meera,
    I am glad you loved it. This Monday has been good to me so I shant share your blues. "knock their teeth"? Geez, how did that creep in. It does sound like a convocation speech, though they are usually engineered to be tear-jerkers.

    Amrita,
    Kemon-aacho? No, I am not Bengali. I simply know 2-3 sentences in Bangla. Aami Bangla jaani na(i).
    I am glad that you found the description of the various cities engaging. Stream of consciousness? Faulkner...Hmmm. I am still to understand what that means, though I have a vague idea about what you say. Glad you liked this post.

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  7. 1 more real gud post...:)

    btw, ur English is flawless to the best of my knowledge.

    got to go now..cyaa!

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  8. loyalty is a quality that sometimes astonishes the most gelid mindsI liked this very much!-Missed out mentioning :D

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  9. Hiya..
    nice post! This is the first time, am dropping by ur blog.My case is somewhat similar to what you have written, but I have roamed mostly in the south, between chennai, coimbatore, calicut, and to the west..pune and Pilani in Rajasthan too!:)

    Two places where I would agree with you, the most:
    I would love to be back at Pune, anytime now..I loved that place..:)
    Second, "madras"- am not too fond of this place, but I stay here now..and yes, I love the kutcheri season and the pradosham!
    Nostalgic!

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  10. thanx Eroteme,
    Its ok if you are not a Bengali and cannot speak it fluently, you can easily pass on as one. By ways, when I was very young, I did not know how to read and write bengali. Transformation into a true blue Bengali has been a long process

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  11. Anu,
    Pune rocks. Seriously. Love that city. I really can't place my bet on what I feel for Madras. Its nice in a way. I can't stand the heat and sweat and the crowd in the PTC buses (though I always travel by bus when I am in Madras with my driver pleading with me to at least let him drop me at the stop!!!). I hate the way the people talk in the markets. I hate the way the rikshaw drivers drive and talk. But it still seems nice. The perumaal koils and yellow flowers in little cow dung mounds and young giggling girls in P-D, with flowers in their hair. All of this is wonderful and hardly available elsewhere. I used to visit Parthsarthy Perumaal and when there is an utsavam, all the ladies and not-yet-ladies would come down and draw an impressive design with rice flour (yeah yeah, Kolam) which would span the breadth of the street!! I am not sure whether I don't like Madras. It still has Higginbothams. I can't dislike a city with so many bookstores.

    Amrita,
    Thanks? "when I was very young"? you still are!!! ;-)

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  12. Xena,
    Thanks for stopping by. Glad you find this post good, gladder still that you find my English flawless. That line really is nice, isn't it? Don't know how it got in there... No, I know. Uh! No, actually I don't. :-(

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  13. Yes, Eroteme, I am still young by young I meant during my childhood

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  14. This is the first post i'm reading on ur blog! Mighty impressed. And as i'm lost, can you tell me where are you put up currently?!?! he he... u've travelled quite a lot... lucky you!! Glad to see my link on ur blog... and i've added yours too on mine!

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  15. Hey DV,
    Thanks. Glad you liked it. Well, this is awkward for me but I need to tell you that this is not your first post that you are reading. You had read and commented on another one quite some time ago... :-)

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  16. aaargghh... i wish the earth opens up and savors me *save me from the embarrassment* he he... sorry dude... bad memory and aging mind *wink*

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  17. Anonymous6:40 AM

    Good one. It was quite accidental that I came across this post(now i understand why it is called surfing, you never know when the tide comes). You have a very good style of writing, good blend of wit and facts. I liked the parts where you explained about the places you have visited and childhood nostalgia.
    This is the first ever comment I am writing as the reciever appreciates them(yes, i read the other post...conversation in a coffee pub with bunch of friends) and my answers are mostly yes/no.
    I do write when i have time, but I am a bit old fashioned. I prefer ink pen and a book.
    Am looking out for more posts from you.

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  18. Dear Anon. (would really help if you left your name behind)

    Thanks. I am glad that this post was to your taste. Oh! please, please ignore that coffee-pub post. It was one post which really decided to go crazy and in a direction I never imagined. I keep telling nearly everyone who mentions it that the whole intent behind that post was lost...

    I love putting pen (ink, of course) to paper. The smell of ink drying is wonderful. I still do that, but now it is only the personal and intimate matters that find their way into my notebooks and the general ones line up for a glimpse of the online world on my blog...

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  19. Anonymous10:17 AM

    Its 12:38 AM. I am sitting in a dimly lit cubicle with a mug of hot chocolate. I am trying to debug an algorithm that I had written 6 months back.(All the business logic involved in that has leaked out of my brain.)

    Am not an avid writer.(Not blessed like those who can yarn out pages when they sit to write). But I do read a lot. Am reading Ulysses by James Joyce, (May be 10th or 20th time, i have lost count), H.W. Longfellow(I fell in love with his works when I was 9) and Richard Bach(college craze).

    Its raining here.
    Reminds me of home.

    Name is Manasa by the way.

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  20. 12:38 a.m.?? I don't remember when was the last time I saw that on my watch!

    Read Ulysses at least 10 times?? You sure are tough!!

    HWL is always wonderful. Really is. Bach is fine but I soon found him too unctuous for my tastes.

    Raining where? Which home? ;-)

    I have a friend whose sister is called Manasa (actually Sumanasa). By any chance do you have a brother called Manoj?

    Glad you dropped by... There are many other blogs linked on my page which might be of interest to you.

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  21. Anonymous7:49 AM

    No rains today. (Am in Detroit actually and my home is in India. And I do have a brother but his name is not Manoj).
    I did see one link from your page, one by Meera. Very nice.
    Am becoming a fan of this blog...

    Ulysses is my passion.Everytime I read, i see a different meaning to every line Joyce has writtten.

    (By the way, I ditched Bach and am reading a new book in Hardy Boys series. Have you read them before?)

    Good night.

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  22. Hi Manasa,
    You sure have an eye for good blogs (I am referring to Meera's). Meera's blog is a very interesting one. Every one of them has a different appeal...
    Hardy Boys was last read when I was 16 or so. Moved on to others...
    Good night to you... Hope the algo is cracked...

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  23. Hey M,
    Welcome aboard the Blogger wagon. I see that you are yet to post.. jump right in. Give me one post and I shall link your blog straight out of mine ;-)

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  24. MY first post.
    Didnt feel like leaving a page blank.. :-)

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  25. Parvati9:34 PM

    You being what you are, will feel the sense of belonging, whether to a place or a person or an time-period, only if there is something in these, that captures your soul.

    Otherwise you will never belong - or rather, they will never MEAN "YOU", as you will be unable to connect to them in that deep manner that will make them mean HOME to you, despite all the good that you might have gained from them, or the affection you may still feel for them...

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  26. Parvati9:48 PM

    Oops!
    Read in the first sentence instead of "an time-period", "an 'age' or a time period"

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  27. Anonymous12:45 AM

    And it is now Dec. 7, 2005, almost 10 months after you wrote this post.

    This is the writer I love to read. If you ever decide to leave your country, you will finally know where home is.

    To paraphrase Kazantzakis somewhat badly,

    'One never travels, except around the edges of one's soul.'

    You have written these reflections in a very captivating way. Your english: technically good, of course. But more than that, these words house your voice. Your style. Your heart...Your India.

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