The insignificant significance of home

Musings Feb 23, 2022

What is home?

As I sit here at an iron desk in the deserted PSG Tech ladies hostel with one of my roommates, Coimbatore feels more like home than it has in the past three weeks. Is it the lifeless food, inconvenient rules, friends who hype up your rants, or the untimely sound of the dedicated folks who wash their clothes against the cement slab? I honestly cannot say, but as someone who has recently moved from the other side of the world that I had just started calling home to a completely new, exciting, and disorienting place, perhaps "home" is a word that I am rediscovering.

I can’t recall the last time I thought about home or rather, what it meant. What place would it be? Does it have to be a place? Do we need a home to begin with? To answer these questions, I need to look back at my life. It exists as chapters in my mind.

Chapter I - Sri Lanka and roots

The morning chaos, the smell of filter coffee, the sound of shlokas from the nearby temple, the annoying caws of the crows, the blended voices of the multiple vegetable vendors, etc., - sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I was constantly reminded of my hometown Chennai when I lived in Sri Lanka. And with Chennai being just an hour away from Colombo by flight, I was never deprived of ‘home’ at that point in my life. So at the bright age of 14, Chennai was home.

What version of home is this? It would be the version where one’s home is where their parents live. In other words, the roots of the family.  Chennai was home because moving around every three years, I never had a permanent place with my nuclear family to go back to. That permanent place in my life was Chennai, where everyone lived, from my grandparents to my second cousins.

No matter how long it had been, I always had a place there.

Chapter II - Italy

The pin-drop silence where even the slight rustling of leaves could be heard, the everyday Buongiorno of strangers, the comical single-person cars struggling to escape the traffic, the plethora of Gucci and Balenciaga bags - Italy. But home as I once knew it was nowhere in sight. At this point in my life, the way I defined home changed.

There were no street vendors or crows, nor was Chennai an hour away, it was close to 11 hours away. Now, for most of us, home is where we have lived with our parents. This physical representation of the home is also reinforced by the definition given by the Cambridge dictionary which states that, “Home is where you live, especially with your parents.” Home was where my parents were. With this definition, I am guaranteed to have a place to go to at any point in my life.  

Chapter III - Coimbatore

With my parents in another city and Chennai being 500km away, it was time to find a new place to call home. But what could that place be? Now, this is the question that kept me up at night a month ago. But now as I sit here at an iron desk at the deserted PSG Tech ladies hostel, I realize that home is in the moments. In the moment of that prime 5:30 pm sunset on The Bridge. It feels like home the moment you listen to that one particular song late at night. It feels like home when you are chatting with your roommates who have become family. Home is that place, literal or metaphorical, where you feel completely at ease, where all your worries vanish even if for just a minute.

Home is in the moments. Maybe, that's why the phrase ‘feels like home’ exists.