When we moved to Delhi in 2000, (April 6th), I was 15 years old and trying to not be homesick. I had spent the previous few years in the Nilgiris and I missed my life there. I missed good weather, I missed home, I missed those pine trees. Desert coolers were new to me. Living in a flat was new to me. I missed the bungalow with the long driveway. I missed dogs being free to roam the streets without a leash. I missed the bakery where a bun cost 4 bucks. I missed my friends. I missed language and I yearned for good grammar! Delhi was hot and people were crass. Being funny was proportional to how many abuses you knew. If it wasn't 'fuck dude' or 'revert back', it was teri maa ki.
All in all, a bit of a culture shock. For Delhi to start feeling like home, it took me time. It took college. It took making friends and being allowed night stays. It took learning how to drive, and driving on those roads listening to Himesh Reshammaiya on radio. It took making boyfriends, and having some mad times. It took wearing clothes bought from Sarojini Nagar and GK2. It took reading better newspapers, finding a favourite and subscribing to a stable routine. It took getting familiar with a different, if not better life, to really start appreciating the place.
This week, I spent a few days at my grandparent's place, also in Delhi. That is the house I lived in for 8 years from when we first came to the city. So for the few hundred thousand memories associated, that white corner building next to a gully is home to me.
Home, where I live with my parents and type this from, is in Jat land, separate and 25 kilometres away. At my parent's home -- "my home" -- I have a nicer room, bigger windows, a study table with a lamp. Pigeons shit on the air conditioner and there is a book shelf that is mine, all mine. By any yard stick, this home, the pigeon shitty one, is a prettier home. That home, the white bricky one where I know the light and fan switches by heart, is my yesterday home, my when-I-was-j-ust-a-li-ttle-girl home.
But now and then, I live a nomadic lifestyle -- sometimes that house, sometimes this house, 4 days here, one week there. And my poor Maruti car, with the homeless crap in it and one shoe missing, looks like a dhobighat on wheels. My closer friends, when they ring me, and depending on the clarity of the line, will raise doubts about my whereabouts: Are You in Gurgaon or Vasant Vihar?
I am in both, I feel like shouting senselessly. And I am happy that I can make the switch easily. I sleep well in both houses. I have to change my schedule a little for both, like how late I stay out at night, and what time I leave for office, but it's an easy switch. Like the tiny behaviour adjustments that are necessary at different times with different people. Army brats are blest with the ability to adapt well. I used to think having no roots in one place is the trade off for being such successful chameleons, but like you have to tell hypochondriacs, it's all in the mind. It doesn’t matter. And eventually, Delhi or not, home is where the parking lot is. And if they keep dinner, then you know you’ve reached.