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Ma,where do I go next?

“Where are you from?” That’s the question I have been facing ever since I left home on a sultry July morning two decades back. And yet they say “You will never discover new lands unless you leave the shore.” I left home to search for life outside the boundaries of my home. To find new homes in new lands. Yes, it has been twenty long years. And I have not got another home in all these years even as I am chasing life in neon-lit streets of different cities. Warm friendships. Houses full of books, masks, paintings and an occasional smell of mustard oil emanates from my kitchen. Yet in the middle of the night, I long for home. For that sense of belongingness, for that sense of completeness. And above all, a place where I don’t have to cater to the question ‘Where are you from?’
As much as I say I am an Oriya, it’s not the geography that really allures me. It’s not the familiar landscape that calls me. Yes, I miss the lashing rains and the dark clouds playing hide and seek with the mild late afternoon lazy sun. But in the end, home is more of an intimate idea for me. It’s like a love affair. It’s a sense of fulfillment. It’s the image of my mother serving a delicious meal and me never even wanting to eat outside whenever I am at Bhubaneswar. It’s me sleeping most comfortably and peacefully under a mosquito net (a ritual I have not followed in any of the places I have lived).
I live today for I think of that tomorrow’s journey where the arrival signage in Biju Patanaik domestic airport would welcome me. And even before the conveyor belt starts moving, I can see my sister standing on the other side. And the intimacy of home creates a rush of happiness.
Home is like an album. Every page you turn, you discover something new. Even though you are turning it for the hundredth time. Home is like reliving every moment that has touched you some time and gone far away. Home is your Ma waiting for you even though you had told her that you will be having your lunch with a friend. Home is not about French windows, meadows or even lush green fields. Home could be in the middle of a desert or a forest. It has to have that sense of warmth and love.
There are times on mellowed evenings, I look out of my office window and I see hundreds of people rushing ‘home’. I see Jain monks walking barefoot with no ‘home’ to return to. Yet walking with a deep sense of purpose. I think of the Baul musicians who are taught that they should never live under the same tree for more than three days. And then the thought comes across to me : what exactly am I looking for? The home I left is never the home I will return to. The colours have added a new smooth sparkling feeling to the walls. But it’s not the same. Twenty years is fairly a long time. Too many changes have crept into my life, my parents’ and my sisters’. All of us are battling our own battles in life. Each of us have diffeent issues to settle. Each one’s aspirations and desires are different. Yet even in the midst of all that, I still call that duplex building in Bhubaneswar as my own home. Even though it does not have the paintings that have become a part of my life for last so many years. Or for that matter the so very me romantic soft yellow lights. But still then a strange sense of familiarity, completeness overpowers me when I step into the gate of my home. I become comatose on reaching home. The world outside seems totally irrelevant to me. Even my own mobile phone looks like a stranger to me. And I am happy switching it off for most part of my vacation! That’s home for me when the essential me is nicely and happily curled up within me with little physical or metaphysical needs.
It’s actually a strange story. It’s a story of two tickets. The ticket from Ahmedabad to Bhubaneswar gives me an unexplainable joy.One look at the ticket, I feel a sense of joy. Suddenly, the dates on the calendar resume a new meaning. Anticipation of happiness tickles my tastebuds and adds a sense of ‘life’ to my life. And the ticket from Bhubaneswarto Ahmedabad always have a different story. An aching story. A story of leaving a part of you behind. Migrants, immigrants all over the world have the same story. Of their intense desire to have a home of their own in a whole new world. It might be strange but two years ago, my younger niece Simrita had come from Atlanta to Bhubaneswar. For her, “India is fun, lots of fun, gifts and mausis to love and pamper her.” In her mind, she has also weaved a unique way to have the best of both the worlds. So she says, “From Monday to Friday, she will be in Atlanta as her school is simply great and the weekends she will spend in India.” And while she was going back to her ‘red house’ in Atlanta, she was weeping inconsolably in the aircraft and when the air hostess asked her what’s the matter, like a true American child she said, “Just leave me alone… Don’t you know I am leaving home?” Home is a strange emotion. Even for a five year child. It’s intriguing. And for adults, many times it’s a clash with the economics of life.
But I must say, Ahmedabad is the place where I have felt closest to being home. Even though I face the question, “Where are you from?” here quite frequently, but I still feel a strange sense of kinship with this dusty, unromantic city. Or may be I am wrong, sometimes even there’s a tale of romance in the dust. I am an Oriya trying to carve a life for myself in this wonderful land of entrepreneurship. And at the of the day, I swipe my card and say to my colleagues, “Bye, I am going home.”
And amidst all these, my brother-in-law asks me “Why are you there? What are you doing there in Ahmedabad? Come back home. Life will be better.” I tell my younger sister “Why are you there in the United States? What’s there in that country other than dollars? Come back home.” And we have been telling each other the same thing for years. And now even our own questions sound repetitive to us. Many plans have been made. I have made ‘need based’ changes to my CV thinking that I would look for a job back home. But beyond that I have not done anything. In the meanwhile, my parents have aged. My charming elder sister also has some grey hair now. And I still continue to be away from home. Much like my younger sister.


About Deepika Sahu

I earn my living through writing stories, editing what other people write (in simple terms I am a journalist). I dream of opening a cafeteria in the mountains, owning a beach home on the shores of Bay of Bengal... but right now, they all seem like wild dreams.. A gypsy at heart --- am passionate about life, music, words, cooking for people I love, soaking in the lashing rain and just looking at the changing colours of the sky.... And I am a great fan of the Indian Railways and I long to travel in First Class AC coupe across India.....with my man

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