Often I feel that my entire family is like a pack of crazy gypsies, always on the move, we’ve packed and unpacked our stuff so much that some of it just likes to stay in boxes, ready to go whenever that ominous time comes. The proof of how much we go around the country is like duhhed because I’ve been to seven different schools over the span of my very small and seemingly insignificant life. We are wanderers, discovering new places, carving out new niches to fit into, in my case that would be new candy shops and little bookshops by the corner of the street , my mom would smile away to glory at finding the bestest grocer’s near our new homes or the local restaurant which can cook up steamy hot south Indian idlis and puttu which have some sort of semblance to the ones grammy makes ,for papa it was often about making new friends to take along on his morning walks , it also meant conquering little parts of the new kingdom- it was always a battle between me and my sister as to who would get which new room, learning new languages- however funny and foreign they might be we still had to master the rudimentary stuff like yes, no, we won’t give more money than that, how much does it cost and other haggling terms and maybe a few cuss words too along the way, it was also about getting into good schools which meant fidgety waiting rooms and scary makes your knees shake sorta interviews and making new friends who genuinely want to be friends with you not because you’re the new southie in the block,a naïve homework doing oily haired dodo(I’ve met a lot of people who latch on to me to totally use the whole nerd factor, only to realize that I ain’t Ms. smartypants who can do math in her head) but they start hanging out with you because you both have the weird DNA and think of stuff like the fact that star wars is just about the yoda hand thingy (I will get around to watching it…after I die…coz then I have all of eternity) and after all these routine three yearly rituals were done, the rest would just fall into place often as messy as tangled up as a ball of yarn, but, we’ve gotten used to the mess.
Sounds fun right? Every place, a new adventure, exciting but hugely terrifying too, there were days when I was scared of what was out there, when I had no clue what I was looking forward to, the worst part was the arduous task of fitting in or at least trying to fit in, leaving the comfortable shells we’d grown into at the last place we stopped by, only to start over AGAIN. Finding the aforementioned friends wasn’t some stroll in the park, it took a lot of pure dumb luck and I’ve realized after a dozen or so failed lottery attempts and getting drenched on what started out as perfectly sunny days and a whole lifetimes worth of unlucky events that I’m not the chosen kind who trip on four leaf clovers every other day, so often I’d find my unlucky self stuck with a bunch of doddering fools for friends during the first year or so and then I’d eventually find my tribe, the crazy ones, so I guess I was lucky, maybe not going where I wanted to go but ending up where I needed to be.
We’ve given up on “permanency”, yes, I’m using air quotes coz it’s as fictional as me waking up early on Sunday mornings and going to church. At this point the only constant thing is change, from idlis and sambar to parathas and aam ka achar to fish curries and pongal and payasams made by doting ma’s and paati’s and amma’s, from making new best friends, secret codes and bracelets, conjuring up new games ( which actually just have different names in different states), getting over the awkwardness of being a teenager, giggling over boys and groaning over homework, only to do it all over again with another best friend maybe from Delhi or Calcutta or Cochin or Dubai or whatever…culture shocks, food shocks, people shocks…I’ve gone through it all.
“Delhi has come to belong to everyone who lives in it, but no one belongs to Delhi”
“More dreams are realised and extinguished in Bombay than any other place in India”
“When in Chennai, it seems no man would wait for Time and Tide… Everyone’s always on the move”
One thing that I learnt is that I can easily write off a chameleon as my animagus coz I slowly figured out that just like all the other newnessess I could be a totally new version of me too, moonlighting as a quiet and shy thing, a geeky and focused chick, the loud rambunctious don’t-care-Treasa and any number of avatars, all of whose skins I fit into perfectly even now. I’ve sort of lost track of the real me in the midst of all this and I’m still figuring it out because I felt happy being any of those people, it was almost fulfilling in different ways…maybe I don’t need to figure it out, maybe my hapless friends will have to deal with me as Mr Jekyll AND Mr Hyde. I pity these so called “friends” or as I like to call them victims.
With all the packing and redecorating, I often tended to feel a bit homeless. I felt lost, jealous even, of the friends who’d grown up with that the same set of friends from the diaper days, the swing set in the backyard sort of families, with their favorite spots and those hearts they carved in the trees and the creepy place they all sneak off to smoke pot for the first time and what nots, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. But I also DON’T want to settle, it’s scary, being stuck at the same place with the same people FOREVER, it’s a concept quite foreign to me. Maybe I’m not made for this settling down business, I’m terrified of being around for too long because there’s always this nagging feeling that it’s all going to go away soon, then why settle in the first place, be it with them folks out there or them places. But then again, I’m torn between wanting something I’ve never had, the sort of stuck in a place with the same bunch of people feeling which I’ve never experienced and which is scary as hell and the need to wander which I’m so oh so comfy and snuggly with now . It sucks to be this little bundle of contradictions.
Now I’m just a lousy nomadic twenty something with the wind blowing in my hair and maybe I’ll die a sad lonely death in a seedy motel in Croatia with nothing to call my own, and THAT is a pretty depressing thought on a cloudy night under the never sky and now that I’m almost done with college moving will take on a newer, scarier meaning. NO parents, NO siblings, NO familiar beds and cereal bowls to return to…I’m on my own, hostels, cars, aunts and friends and abandoned flats…I can sleep anywhere now, even the smallest bits of permanency has vanished…poof…my toothbrush is missing…poof…I can’t find my jammies…poof…there will be no favorite side of the bed or that spot where I get the right amount of moonlight for my odd reading habits…
But swoosh, the wind blows and the sky clears up and I see a sky adorned with stars, and my mind wanders again… a pair of arms come around me making me feel the warm your heart kind of feeling, a friend I go way back with calls, sobbing coz her she can’t find her favorite sweater and her self esteem is on a downward spiral coz of some dick of a fling, or when my mom comes and strokes my hair and smiles the crinkly eyes kind of smile or when the scrumptious smell of my favorite dish comes wafting from my aunt’s kitchen… and no matter whichever one of these it is I have the same thought running through my mind, it’s lovely to be home again, and that gets me thinking that s home for me maybe is my goofy friends and all the hugs and crying over the phone and meeting up after a gazillion years, the new ones and old, the love my mom puts into cooking spectacular dishes for me, the over protectiveness of my dad when I talk to him over the phone, the gadding away time in cars and beaches and cliff tops, finding the right kind of popcorn or the perfect outfit with that girlfriend for the perfect night out after he dumps you, the anything and everything and anyone and everyone who makes you feel loved, wanted and sinfully happy for even a tiny moment. The stars seem to shine brighter now, leaving me a more hopeful for what’s to come…
One day I will move again, leave these homes, cities and countries, I am restless that way, I want to roam the world, I want to make more friends, I want to have lovers, lovers of books and starry nights, lovers of old houses with crumbling walls on stone paved streets, lovers of misty days and hot cocoa, lovers of new places and new me’s and yet through all of this I will still have those same comforting arms to return to, the familiar voices over the phone and letters lovingly written or surprise visits and reunions… I will always have a home to go to.