A few days ago, a close friend of mine shared a curated Spotify playlist with me on my birthday as a quarantine birthday gift. Each song was carefully chosen, reminding us of the memories spent together or songs she would want me to hear otherwise. One of the songs in that list is ‘Home is where Heart Is’ by Lady A, and goes like this:
I felt I was spinning my wheels
Before too long the road was calling
I packed everything I owned
So sure that I was leaving this small-town life behind for good
And not a single tear was falling
It took leaving for me to understand
Sometimes your dreams just aren’t what life has planned
Mama said home is where the heart is….
As I stumbled upon this song and turned up the volume of my headphones, something led me to think — is home really where the heart is? Do we really belong to a place or is it just a constructed notion in our head?
Sense of belonging or fixity is the most essential aspect of everyone’s life and it comes from a deep-rooted relationship that is shared with a place or person. The realisation of the fact that this is going to end and be replaced by some unknown territory seems to create havoc in our otherwise smooth course of life. Such is the fate of thousands of people, including me, who left the comfort of their house and hometown and decided to move to a new city, into the world of unfamiliarity.
Does this really lead us to discover a new ‘home’ or is it just a permanent familiar place without any feeling of belongingness?
As a part of the outstation/migrant population, people do not feel a strong sense of belongingness to a place because they are in dilemma. They are divided between different homes, human circles and emotions of love, hate, excitement, resentment and loneliness. Not just this, people’s loyalties are divided between too many factors and, therefore, never have anything solid to belong to.
More than ever, I realised this dilemma during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Like many others, I also came back to my parents’ house after 10 years. One fine morning, while I was arranging my new bookshelf in my room, it struck me hard that once life is back on track and things go back to ‘normal’, I will have to leave this place, again. This made me circle back to my primary question — am I really at home? Every day, I struggle to find an answer to this.
I was born in Meerut, a small city in Uttar Pradesh, famous for its sports goods, scissors and the popular winter sweet gajak; though I didn’t live here for long. My father had a transferable job, which made us travel across various cities, leading me to change schools every few years. This in itself never led me to develop a deep-rooted relationship with any particular place. After completing my school, just like thousands of other students, I shifted to Delhi for higher studies, and that is where I have been living from the past 10 years.
Delhi is where I spent the most crucial years of my ‘growing up’ and, without a doubt, I share an unexplainable bond with this city. It gave me experiences that have made me who I am today. All those feelings, moods, ups and downs of life have shaped up my personality and my existence. But can I call this city my home? I don’t know.
In a world of complete unfamiliarity, in the beginning, the search for a home and friends seems to be the primary battle of an outstation person. These battles stem not only from an individual perspective, but also cultural. The diversity of our country leads to the fear of acceptance and seamless mingling with others. People are often also victim of pre-conceived notions about the place they come from.
Moreover, human bonds and relationships are fragile. They keep changing, and beyond the obvious struggles, it becomes more about human beings finding themselves and asserting their own identity.
What makes home home anyway? The obvious answer is that home is where we are born, raised and spend most of our lives. I called Meerut my home when I was staying there for 12 years. I stayed with my cousin for two months and that was also home. I also called it home when I stayed in Delhi University, North Campus, for three years, and also when I shifted to Saket in South Delhi to pursue my post praduation. I called it home when I stayed at my friend’s place for 10 days. To see it objectively, home is where I have stayed even temporarily with people I loved and cared about.
While listening to Lady A sing “And then I realise there’s something Mama always knew, Love is what I really left to find, She said home is where the heart is…,” one thing is clear, that our hearts are big. Therefore, we create relationships and develop bonds with places we stay at, even temporarily.
Humans strive for ways to build around a relationship, which eventually, but inevitably, creates a new sense of familiarity and attachment and allows for new memories to be made. That way, home won’t be where my heart is, but it’d be the other way round: my heart will be where my home is. Everywhere.