By Vasundhara Singh
The undercurrents of a mercurial afternoon were still vibrating under my skin as I sat alongside my father in the back seat of a Toyota car after my last board exam. Almost 5 years have gone by since the tempestuous day but I am often reminded of the friends I left behind when I decided to push away my boarding school life and spend the last two years of high school as a day scholar. I had stepped into the abnormality of an education system which only a few in my country attempted due in part, of their parent’s high economic stature and their job situation which required the family to move every few months hence, disturbing the children’s education. Formal schooling is seen as an integral and unavoidable part of our family life and I followed my elder sister’s footsteps by enrolling into a premium all-girls boarding school in 5th grade.
The cosseted walls of my school bore the air of an idealness which was often the result of elitism and a marker of high status quo. Though, that is not to say our school’s primary aim was to churn out spoilt brats instead, it is to say the atmosphere reeked of English-speaking savants and an osmosis of singular ways of thinking meted out to all in equal measure and if one disobeys this thought process their life among their peers will cease to exist, at least in the amiable sense. My intention is to not overlook the advantages of receiving such a high-brow education but it is to point out the irreversibility of values such an education does to someone’s personality and more importantly, their definition of a home.
Every year for six consecutive years, I and my sister came home for three months and for the rest of the nine months we resided in the school which was constantly reiterated as our ‘second’ home. But, was it really?
Our definition of what a ‘home’ is has been simplified and degenerate to a four walled building inside which live and breathe two heterosexual parents and their children which is often, supplemented with a few extended family members. Any rational human being knows that what we consider ‘normal’ is only an overwrought practice established and maintained by the religious and political leaders of the society. The definition of a ‘home’ and subsequently a ‘family’ has been recently challenged with the rise of various factors, but what has been ‘normalised’ never truly reverses back to its liquid form which is to say, its most flexible shape.
My articulation of a home was going to shape my subconscious and create a distance between my values as an individual and the symmetrical structure of my family life which was known to be my ‘first’ home. This distance isn’t applicable to most Indian households because in our country, the community takes precedence over the individual needs but as a boarding school student who spent most of her time with her friends rather than her parents, it was not to be the case. The consequence of this distance cannot be understood in demotic language but it can only be recognized through an intense process of introspection.
My introspection which lasted for a number of years has come up with a few fathomless findings such as the most obvious one, home is not absolute. The ‘normalcy’ of home gives us a protective shed and provides us with a sense of indomitable belongingness and that is why we search far and wide for a home and even when it doesn’t feel like one, we give it the label of a home because it is the main key for our survival.
If I begin to consider the irrelevance of a home then I might reconsider the years I spent living away from my family.
Another understanding which went against the equilibrium of normality was that home is not a physical structure rather an emotion or a feeling which when harnessed in a sanctum environment can lead to a happier and wholesome existence. All through my adolescence and young adult life, the ‘home’ which was often talked about is circumscribed into a constrained meaning and the search for this regimental meaning leads us to believe that a broker is the only way we can find a home. My teachers weren’t incorrect when they said the boarding school was our ‘second’ home but they believed it to be a home because they knew no other way of making us feel secure.
Hence, the definition of a home in today’s day and age has more to do with security rather than sanctity as we live in a world where people are no more than mere ‘atoms’. We look at each other only in context to ourselves and our homes exist only in the viability of the people who live within it. The meaning of a ‘home’ seems to be ‘fixed’ due to a fear of the irrational and the unknown because without a home, the only sense of our identity lies with ourselves and that is a burden no ‘atom’ can bear.
On that afternoon in May approximately five years ago, I did not in fact, leave behind one of my two homes but instead, I drove away from a feeling of home which I had come to love and hate, simultaneously. That feeling like the structure of a home isn’t fixed or permanent and is felt by each one of us in different and unique ways. It can diminish just as easily as it was formed in our conscience and the society’s idea of a home is in many ways a system for maintaining a tried and tested structure.
The meaning of home will be hidden somewhere underneath the disguise of normalcy instead of real estate brochures and matte finished wallpapers.
So, next time instead of asking someone where their home is you can ask them about how they feel when they think about home.
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