As the years add up, the idea of home becomes complicated because you start having so many - your parents’ home, your own home, perhaps a sibling’s home or the home of your old roommate where you hung out at long after you moved.
Nevertheless, there’s an odd comfort in saying “I’m going home for Divali” when you mean your parents’ home, the first home you had, from which you emerged to make other homes. It’s where you went when early adult life felt overwhelming, for respite from what felt like impossible labours of money, meals, domestic systems, professional behaviour and other necessaries of middle-class life. Then, childhood was not really that far behind that you could not hibernate back into it, pretend to crawl back into the womb so to say.
In later life, it implies that there’s a simpler elsewhere you belong to. That this adult life, with its disappointments, responsibilities and anxieties, is temporary. It’s like migration to the city just for a bit, while a pastoral home awaits to which we will return, shed our harsh, tired selves and be simple as children again; there will be no more duniyadari and it will be perfectly alright to be as nice to each other as the cast of Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai.
In our hearts, we know this is not true - or we should. Any other imagination is sentimental and perhaps prevents us from truly enjoying the lives we’ve built for ourselves and finding strength from the incredible journeys each of us has made in creating lives of our choice.
Still, every now and then, in going ‘home’, you can have a taste of that purported prelapsarian past, and unfailingly, a little reminder of its unrealistic nostalgia.
Going home for Divali, I reveled in Delhi’s mild wintry beginnings, gently fat oranges eaten in the sun, ghar vali chicken curry with rice and pyaaz ka raita, relatives seen just briefly enough to not remind you that you have nothing in common, friends seen for several agenda-free hours that never feel enough.
On Saturday, I made my way to my favourite ‘home’ thing - our colony’s Shani bazaar. It’s a typical haat found in most Delhi neighbourhoods. The market day differs, but the cheap knick-knacks and occasional export reject treasures are common to all. But the best part is really the bargaining. It comes back automatically - the language of aggressive banter, on-the-edge insults and financial brinksmanship. It almost never happens that you can’t arrive at an agreement - even if it’s only a two rupee discount. It’s all about a familiar rhythm, a dance you’ve danced together many times, each knowing exactly how much to push and pull. It is what makes you family to each other in an extended sense, at home with each other.
Except this time, as I began the horrified ritual ‘Thirty rupees! That’s too much!” I found myself at the receiving end of a scolding. “Thirty rupees too much? Really? Have you no sense of the mehengai around us?” I stood there feeling shamefaced, foolish and a teeny bit outraged, on unsteady ground! He was right of course - thirty rupees is not too much for anything, but it wasn’t the money, it was just the spirit. I conceded, deflated, paid up and left, feeling like a guest who had breached a protocol.
It’s at such moments you realise, you are not in fact a child, home does not stay static any more than your life does, and, as with prices, there is no going back and that’s fair enough.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.