Lost home

It has been a long time since I left behind Kuwait, that landscape of childhood years: witness to the ways in which I tormented my brother, a bidet that was not connected to the plumbing, a shelf held together with masking tape, a cot that was placeholder for bedding, roads lined with date trees, fully clothed beach-goers.

There are some objects that have withstood the moves and the years and the careless stowing away in airless spaces: a bowl with Disney characters painted on, a tiny car that glowed as you moved it on the floor, a Wren & Martin grammar book whose spine had atrophied, an album of stickers.

There are some objects that didn’t survive: a camera dropped into the sea, with pictures from the only holiday ever taken, an electronic pet that demanded to be fed every two hours, a wallpaper that was too green and too bright, as though to make up for the brown that was pervasive.

There are also some reminders that do not make much sense: a man named after important figures in both biblical and Dravidian theology, a rare family outing to watch a eleven year old Harry Potter, a tower that held a sphere of water.

I think of the girl I was then, who once wore shorts and stood looking at the desert across the street, hoping that a boy would stop playing football and look at her for a second. I think of the untruths and half-formed ideas I learnt. Could I unlive those if I went back? I am apologetic for some of them—stay away from locals, Friday Market is a breeding place for bedbugs, nothing is as good as it was in India—but I suspect the satisfaction in dismantling old judgments is superficial. I might have just replaced them with newer untruths.

Sometimes I want to go back, to see for myself if the dust storms are as I remember, if the Bangladeshi grocery store down the road is still called baqala, if fat cats continue to guard the corridors in rundown buildings. But returning would mean replacing my images with new adult-like perception, naked without their sprinkling of nostalgia. Maybe this is a risk that I do not have the courage for.

I return often to these things, these visuals, these scents from another time. I write them down because they may slip away.

As a child, one of the things I wanted was a house I could call my home. An unmovable house that witnessed our lives, with a swing in the backyard, a terrace that allowed play, a house of sunlight and books and the smell of curry leaves spluttering in oil. I now see I wished for something unwieldy, I would rather have the home that my memories give me.


15 thoughts on “Lost home

  1. “with a swing in the backyard, a terrace that allowed play, a house of sunlight and books and the smell of curry leaves spluttering in oil”

    It is amazing. That is where I lived all my life. I did (and do) think of myself as an exceptionally lucky girl. But when I hear a description like that when someone is describing an ideal, it all comes back to me.

    Very nice article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This piece is so relatable and nostalgia inducing!
    Love this line: “But returning would mean replacing my images with new adult-like perception, naked without their sprinkling of nostalgia.”
    I’m actually afraid of returning to places now. Because a couple of times, the beautiful images have actually been replaced.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I read somewhere a long time ago that people become nostalgic for the past when their future is uncertain. I’m not sure how true it is, but the phrase entered my mind as I read your essay. That said, I always want to go back to my childhood home. It sounds so hard to be disconnected from it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well written piece – the voice is honest and engaging.

    As for the Wren & Martin – believe it or not, I found my 35-year old ragged W&M in my daughter’s cupboard yesterday and it hit me like a ton of bricks (metaphorically, i.e.). It even had my maiden name written on the first page ! Memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My best childhood memories lie in my maternal grandparents front yard. That is where I spent my most of summer and winter vacations. This is one of the best anecdotes of yours. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love so much about the thoughtful structure of this essay and the tenderness with which it balances fond and painful memories, but really the word “unwieldy” is what makes it all come together. It’s such a perfect word for what you need it to do, assembling thought and memory and hope into a lumbering sort of thing that follows you around, so that the reader can look back and see that shape among the others you described more explicitly.

    Liked by 1 person

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