Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Absence and a Presence: Hiraeth.

I swear to you I hated everything about my locality.

It's not posh, it's not posh at all.

I would shudder to invite my friends here.

Because everything about the place I live in is different from the places I've been to after I got into  school, have hung out at with my friends, and even traveled to with my family.

So I always feel like I'd be judged for being a hypocrite,  projecting a certain level of  normalcy about my life, when in fact my home address didn't even have a street sign  saying this is the place in no man's land that you're looking for, until very recently, like this month.

Funny thing though? All my life I've lived here and nobody felt the need for a street sign. Weird.

With the onslaught of time, one might even characterize my address as being  quaint, where shops, business.. life shuts down at 10 pm, where the only excitement and buzz is  about marriage ceremonies, tenant landowner scandals and family tussles.But they don't happen everyday, and there's nothing newspaper worthy about it either.

Some relatives have commented on the quiet that prevails if one just sat and listened, the kind that allows you to hear birds chirping covert messages to each other.

I have never known a different way of "being at home." When we come back  from a day's trip to anywhere at the heart of the city, my mother says, "and we're back to our hamlet, again." Although she sighs and huffs about it, I know that she calls this place home just as I do, with a grudging acceptance of Ugly Duckling's mom.

Because our place of residence is so unlike us, we have stuck out in our neighbourhood. This was what was initially built by immigrants after the partition of Bengal. But I doubt if those families live here anymore. We were perhaps the first struggling family that moved in here for rent(mom and dad had wanted a fresh, nuclear start) , and then had to deal with the after effects of a broken home. My father moved out. Everybody talked. And of course as I was the kid, a lot of questions that they wouldn't dare ask my mom were directed towards me. I never did mind telling them the absolute truth. And this was a problem, because five year olds have no concept of privacy. So I was asked not to hang out with the neighbourhood kids. We had a maid. And she was all I had for a childhood friend. Sometimes my isolation would be so complete that I would pick fights with her just so I could find some reason to cry. I was an odd child. This one time I cried the entire afternoon at a Dumbo mask I'd made at school( maybe that was my way of willing it to come to life.)

Now there are new kids that have moved in with their Baba s and Ma s . New families that are less intrusive about me and mummy's little world. Because that's what it is really, a tiny bit of cosmos that does not appreciate grey areas. In a sense, growing up in this kind of setting was perfect for my ever indecisive mind: pick a side: baba or mummy, pick a friend: cook or maid, pick a dress: pinafores or dungarees. Sheesh! So when I found my mother marking clear boundaries for herself, painting a black and a white over the events unfurling in our lives, I was in pain but very relieved at her decisiveness.

 That was it then.

And then there was only one thing left, wishing for things to work out in their odd jigsaw puzzle way. It did, because I can't help but look at the new street sign with fondness now. I can't help but wish that everyone enjoy the tremendous righteousness with which my mother raised me and continues to  live her own life.  No excuses, no exceptions. It was painful every step of the way, but you know what? That kind of pain makes you appreciate all that is luminescent and good in this world, a rare gift that I joyously experience in our humble abode every day.


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