Can it happen already?
I remember the first post written after I settled down in my cosy nook here, in the Nilgiris. There I had reflected on difficulty of uprooting oneself and changing homes ever so often.
And almost exactly a year later, I am back facing the same questions. Freshly moved to another house though still in these sylvan surroundings, here I go planning wall decor even as my half-awake mind seeks the familiar door handle at 3 in the morning when I have to let out my dog.
But most of all, my heart searches for the colours and blooms of the garden I have left behind. The burst of colours on the flower-beds, grass so green it would hurt the eyes and the perpetual humming of bees as they hovered over the hedges.
And yet I find myself embracing my new surroundings with some equanimity now. I roam its expansive grounds, feel the silken warmth of gladioli petals that bloom here in abundance and admire the gorgeous bougainvillea that embraces the porch.
But curiously I feel no desire to do more. No compulsion to impose my ideas of Beauty on these grounds, no need to recreate what I have left behind. I sit in the filigreed shade of the pine trees and watch my dog chase squirrels and rats. I know the boundary is secure but thankfully I have no more exotic flowerbeds to obsess over.
Am I moving towards the Nirvanic ideal of detachment? I’d like to think so…and turn towards an ancient Australian Aboriginal proverb for understanding,
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. We are here to observe, to learn, to grow, to love, and then we return home.”
As I looked for the candles, one of the stories from Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies came to my mind. In this short story titled, “A Temporary Matter”, an estranged couple makes a series of confessions over four nights of power outage which eventually impacts their marriage in important ways.
Will this evening bring about such significant changes around me too? Unlikely, I thought as the cheery voices of my neighbours rolled in from their balcony, singling ‘Mamma Mia, here we go again, My My how can I resist you”.
In these times of social media compulsions, masks and faces have become increasingly difficult to differentiate. Perhaps, this darkness brought about by a two-hour power cut might be one of those rare occasions when, with no gadgets to fall back upon, human souls would be compelled to dig into their innermost resources. Thus while some belted out songs from a carefree past, one settled down with a book in the light of the candle. While I rustled up comfort food in the flickering kitchen lamp, another persistent soul, I realized with a rueful smile, sought out the powerbank to connect the smartphone.
What would people have done long ago, I wondered as I sat down beside my dog – petting her occasionally, unfamiliar as she was with this kind of darkness. In the past, when people’s lives were governed by the rhythms of nature? They would have got up with the sun, worked in fields or shops or travelled, and then winded up things with nightfall. Life would have been simpler ; indeed the significance of the Bengali ritual of lighting the evening lamp struck me now – in the gathering darkness, the first lamp to be lit in the home would be at the sacred altar accompanied by prayers for the family’s safety and well-being as well as the blowing of the holy conch. In fact according to my mother, the sound of the conch would serve to scare of any wandering snakes trying to get too close to village homes…
A chill ran down my spine – simpler, maybe, but never easy. Life has nowhere, not at any time been easy!
As I settle down with my family in this shady corner of the Nilgiri Hills – having moved house yet another time – I wonder what is it that transforms a physical shelter into a ‘home’.
- when you start cooking meals at a place for yourself and your family
- when your dog finds its corner and curls up comfortably
- when you hang up paintings and family photos on its walls
- when you plant flowers and sow seeds on the adjoining patch of earth
So many ways to fashion, mould and remake a dwelling into one’s own.
Ah…another difficult word! Do I actually ‘own’ all this – the brick, wood, earth – with which I put together a home. It is a predicament familiar to those living in rented places, staff quarters, company bungalows and so on.
What then makes up my home, why then should I care, how then can I put down roots..!!
As I ponder over these questions, I find a vague comfort in a section of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:
“…Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.
It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye.
…For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky,
Whose door is the morning mist,
and whose windows are the songs and the silences of the night”.