How do we decide where we feel at home? It’s a slightly strange concept isn’t it? I have always considered myself a vagabond. I do seriously doubt my ability to settle down someplace and live there for what, the rest of my life? God forbid. All of this stems from the fact that I have been, pretty much, a vagrant since childhood. I was born in Ranchi, but never really lived there. By the time I was done with school I had been through six or seven schools and soon after I left India for university. Nowadays, there’s this insane restless again – to pack up and leave. But this isn’t about that.
Delhi. It’s the city I’ve lived in the longest - albeit in intermittent gaps. For a few years as a child, before we shifted to Calicut (where I spent what I still think were my happiest years) and then Trivandrum (one of the most wretched cities in the country). I returned to Delhi after that to finish school. When I think back at my final school years I can’t help but wince. There aren’t very many memorable memories. Indeed, mostly forgettable ones. I think I would never ever again want to be a teenager. Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen – what awful years. In any case, in those days I never really thought much of Delhi. I hardly even knew the place.
You know how people always say you become more interested in and nostalgic about your cities and countries when you don’t live there any more? Well, my sister does. It probably applies to me. When I would come home during term breaks I would itch to travel and increasingly to photograph (the bug grew slowly now its kind of its own being). When not outside the city, as has been the case these past few trips, I would happily roam around Delhi, dragging my mother along for company. She is the best companion on such excursions – never tiring, always knowing some interesting fact or the other, telling me perhaps you should take a picture from that angle…
This trip was hectic and tiring and not really a vacation. My grandmom was unwell (she is better now) and the extended family was in town – what bizarre circumstances get everyone together. Strange then, that in between all this crazy rush and getting my wisdom teeth operated on, the realization of a growing fixation and affection for the city. Dear E was visiting and stayed with me for a few days. It was the fist time I had ever shown anyone around Delhi, the fist time I felt I actually had some – not much I would think, but still some - sense of the city.
Now, I am not in Delhi. Homesickness abounds. It might be because I really don’t feel like working; maybe I just miss my mom. But I think a huge part is that I really do miss Delhi.
I do think I will always remain a vagabond – I like it like that. It’s in part what makes me senile enough to fall in love with a city halfway (quarterway?) across the globe. In this matter, I am convinced, that like Shirin I had no choice. I had stared at pictures of Istanbul for way too long beforehand. As of now I am desperate to go back. Haziran’da inşallah.
But there is now this feeling of finally feeling at home in a city in India. Of feeling that this is the place I would like to come back to between things. Not because I have to, but because I want to. And that if I had to choose to live in India, this would be where.