The lock clicked open. I stepped into the musty smell of my home, set amidst the poetic beauty of Dooars, sometimes deep, woody forests, sometimes expansive tea gardens, and felt a whoop of joy. Home.
As a young introvert, the worst news was when every couple of years my parents would announce yet another move. By when I would gather the courage to say hello, it was time to shift, once again. A sense of self-preservation demanded that home not be associated with places.
As a hosteler, I would find my Oriya roommates talk about Rourkela with a passion that I could associate only with books or food. The twinkle in the eyes, the impassioned dance of delight, the visible craving for a place that had left an imprint on their very souls, I understood it but was far from feeling it. That boat had sailed long ago. Home was an elusive concept that changed with what mattered then. It was as much a cup of hot tea as a friendly dog or an oversized sweater. I envied my friends their expansive heart that could make room for an inanimate feature that was just bricks and mortar. But in my self-appreciating smugness, I felt one up because there was nothing holding me down- no weighty anchors of roots, no ties of friendships from the cribs, almost no permanent histories.
With marriage came a more insistent promise of shifting sands. What would strike terror in my little, childish heart a few decades before now held a commitment to adventure and explorations. My home was my husband. When we got a dog the status quo continued. We moved, he moved. We set up our house; he marked the perimeters as his territory with much aplomb, might I add.
When we returned from our jaunty trips together and as we inched closer to our residence, the tail wags would get painfully sharp. The happy whine decibels would get a notch higher and as the car would sneak into the block, our dog who is more introverted than me, who barks once a year, would let out a growly yelp as he would shoot out of the vehicle. An animal who is famed for loving people more than places rejoiced on seeing a cement structure. Of course, I understood. But did I feel? Not yet.
A few weeks back, I returned from a trip. As I fished for the keys, my one and a half-year-old daughter began squirming in my lap. The longer I took to locate the key, more impatient she got. As I put her down, I saw her reaching for the door and banging it hard with her tiny fists. She let out a tinkle of giggles as I opened it and took her in. A child who still had to learn the more formal modes of communication, as young knew, understood, felt what was home. It was my most fantastic lesson of the year.
As I leave more years behind me than ahead, the transient nature of my beliefs stares me in the face. The most solid of these had been my concept of home. I do not know if I ever will own my bit of paradise. Perhaps, that too will turn out to be a chimerical illusion like most stoic fundamentals of life. These people and these walls are my stalwarts – as essential as ephemeral, as resolute as reforming.
In that click of the lock, that musty smell, those diffused sunbeams filtering through the window, was a welcome. I was home. I felt it.