Statutory Warning : This post is very long. As much close to my heart as well.
Most of us would agree that 'home' is not just a word or a concept. It is a world in itself. My version is that it rests in the security of our hearts with gallons of emotions compressed inside. I have stayed away from my home for the past six years. It has been a life changing time for me.
When I first moved out to join my college hostel in 2003, I had not foreseen this change. In fact, I never thought about it deeply enough. It was a natural transition - something that everyone of my age went through. Although I was lull that I had to relocate, I had no regret as it was my decision to study in another city when my city of letters (lakes and latex too) did have a lot of options. It took me some time to realise though that I am not in the best place considering the monster of a warden I had. To add to the complications, she was my teacher too.
Okay, let me tell you that I am a good ‘people’s person.’ I have this gift of getting people to like me if I want them to. Teachers definitely fall into that category of ‘people whom I want to like me.’ My boy classmates from school always used to pull my leg mentioning my ability to lather teachers up. But this one was a tough cookie. I realised that people don’t cook up stories about ladies hostel wardens when they say they are frustrated souls. She created lots of problems for me including not letting me go home on weekends when all others went. She even accused that a majority of blank calls that the hostel received actually targeted me (I now see it as a compliment though). There are very few people, in fact, only one person that I have held grudge for a long time. She is that person. In a nutshell, my first experience out of home was very discouraging.
My second year in college passed off in transit as I was constantly travelling Kottayam-Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram for various activities that included studying and compeering. Though I was officially stationed at home during this year, I never actually lived there. This was also the year when I realised that travelling alone helps you mature much faster than anything else. You learn to juggle between different modes of public transport. You become an expert in crisis management as you learn to deal with late trains and buses that do not wait. You realise the worth of every penny when auto drivers ask for exorbitant amounts to drop you from South railway station to your college that is a kilometre away. You deal with so many different kinds of people. Your alertness levels go high as you protect yourself from hands and god-knows-what-all that are waiting to grope, press, feel etc. Your respect for the range of womanhood increases as you watch your co-travellers multi-task by fighting, talking and cutting vegetables – all inside the comfort/crowd of a ladies bogie in a train. It did not take me long to become a fan of the Indian Railways for the amazing social service they did of which I definitely was a beneficiary.
In my third year, I joined the YWCA in Kochi which gave me my first taste of freedom and independence. There were friends who wanted to run away from the college hostel although they had less lethal experiences in comparison with me. So we were a perfect group at a perfect place. The curphew time of 6pm did not seem restrictive in a city like Kochi in those days, especially since we were all single girls with no immoral intentions. :D
YWCA days gave us the opportunity to walk the streets without having to worry about getting back somewhere when we did not want to; to bunk classes once in a while and catch the first day first show of much awaited Hindi movies in Sridar theatre; to roam around Convent Junction checking out the latest accessories and cosmetics in the endless ladies stores; to go window shopping through scores of shops in MG Road; to eat chaat as much as we wanted in Venkatesha chaat shop near the hostel; to gaze, stare and watch everything on road while walking to and fro from college. It was fun.
My next phase of life was destined to be in a farther place compared to Kochi. Hyderabad was never ever an option for me for anything. But then, man proposes and God.. yes you know what. My parents found me a ‘home’ at a family friend’s place. My colleague from Google was with me as well. Chechi was really sweet to both of us. But due to unavoidable circumstances, we had to move out after three months. I was literally homeless and in tears. I remember that it is one of those few times in my life, when I was on phone with Achan and Amma and started crying without realising it. 'Home,' at that point, was a distant dream at the other end of the phone. But then, as always, God helped me find the right place to move into. And how right it was!
Jeevan Jyothi Institute in Begumpet run by nuns has hostel accommodation, a retreat centre, etc. That became my 'home' for the next two years. I found new friends who fell into a wide range of age. There was a warden there as well, but with far less consequences. She was a harmless little thing who used to talk a lot. We never bothered about what she said and used to live life the way we wanted. J This is when I got my first taste of curphew-free living. In a city like Hyderabad, where there are far more things to do in comparison to Kochi, we utilised this freedom optimally. Late nights were mostly for movies and almost never for parties; unless there was one organised by Google, in which case transport was taken care of.
Jeevan Jyothi witnessed me blooming into a working woman. My apprehensions of being alone in any place at any point of time, my fears of strangers staring at me, my inhibitions of going shopping alone, my unfamiliarity with solitary and silent thinking – everything vanished. More importantly, by the end of two years, I felt ‘at home’ almost always at this place. This means that I missed my home where my family lived far less than before. I could feel the goodness of going home when a day of work ended at the pleasant workplace of mine. I realized the depth of this feeling only when I had to uproot myself to move into my new abode in Hyderabad.
Resignation from Google which was another kind of home considering I spent up to 14 hours a day there; having to move to virtually a corner of the city from the heart of the city; distance from my dear ones – it was a tough time when I first moved into my campus hostel in Gachibowli. In the first month, I used to often wonder – God, where am I? What am I doing here?
But then, everything changed very soon. Great friends came my way, the complacence and calmness of the campus kicked in and lo! As I am writing this, I am feeling ‘at home’ yet again. Gachibowli is far away from the city. But there is MMTS (metro rail) that gives me connectivity to all the places in the city that are important to me. APSRTC buses are common too. Basically, considering I am a public transport-addicted person, there is enough reason for me to be contented on the connectivity issue. Also, I appreciate weekends much more now. That’s the only time I get out as the university is very much self sufficient with eateries, ATM and movie screenings.
One thing I noticed is that the process of feeling at home was much faster here. Kochi, Begumpet – all these places commanded more time. I am assuming that I have grown as a person to someone who is used to changes, now that I have seen quite some. I wonder how I will deal with my relocation from here. It is going to be a big one and painful too. There are still 15 months roughly left.
Having told you about all the different places where I felt at home and otherwise, a climax about my real home would be ideal, I guess. There are still moments when I long to get back to a period when I leave ‘home’ every morning with iddli/dosa packed in my tiffin box amidst the din of Achan and Amma getting ready to leave for their work. May be, that will never happen. In fact, I doubt if I will ever live there for a longer period than a couple of months. I see work and marriage ahead which necessarily might not be based out of Kottayam.
But does this mean that my home is no more mine? Definitely not. That’s the reason why I mentioned in the beginning that home rests in our hearts. My greatest strength, I realise as I end this post, is my ability to cuddle into that nest of security even when I am miles away from it.