The Moral Quandary of Home

Travelling home from Bangalore to Cochin is always exciting. Watching the sunrise through the tinted windows of the bus and billboards change from Telugu to Malayalam, the journey always brings so much happiness.

But each time I walk back in, sit down on the sofa facing the TV, and walk into the kitchen to get a glass of water, I notice changes. Small changes, things you would miss had you not spent six years of your life in this house. A new plant in an empty Coke bottle near the kitchen sink, new cushions, packets of tomato ketchup hidden behind half-cut tomatoes, and slices of lemon in the door of the fridge.

It’s funny how seemingly trivial things send you into turmoil. The realisation that the world goes on with or without you is fed into my brain piece by piece as I reorder the towels in my cupboard to the way they were before I left. The changes frighten me and evokes the horrible feeling of being forgotten. Of existing midway between where I came from and where I am going. Of not having somewhere to run to when life gets overwhelming and to call in with good news. Of one day not having a place to go back to, a place where I am awaited and remembered.

The feeling of the home remains. The familiar streets and shops where my preferred flavour of potato chips is known are pleasant changes from the vastness of Bangalore. Waking up to the smell of Sambar cooking in the kitchen and my mother talking on the phone compared to the gloomy silence of my PG is a stark contrast.

As I sip on warm tea with a hint of lime, stretching my feet on the coffee table, the beats of old Tamil songs that our upstairs neighbours play float around like debris. Pressure cookers whistling in tune are occupied with the rhythmic chopping of vegetables on an ancient cutting board. The enormity of life, how vast things are, and how minute we are in the larger scheme of things, thoughts that usually consume my midnight thinking sessions are replaced by sickly sweet dreams of childhood.

As vines grow around the memories I have of home, and my footprints on the kitchen floor fade away slowly with each wipe by a Lysol-drenched piece of cloth that used to be my school uniform, my presence fades away and makes its roots elsewhere.

It is funny how home changes and alters, how it forgets us when we leave but remembers us the moment we step back in. Yes, home for me is four walls, white ceilings, and doors that only close halfway but home is also people. Home is joyful reunions and tearful goodbyes. Home is fighting over the television remote. Home is my mother saying that she is not hungry just so that I can have the last slice of cake. Home is that one tear that my father secretly wipes away when I leave for Bangalore Home is their faces and the smiles they hide. No matter how far you go, and how long you are gone, home remains, not just as a house but in the hearts of people.

Anamica Vinod is a first year journalism, international relations and peace studies student at St. Joseph’s University, Bangalore.

Featured image: jiju Kallingal / Unsplash