Parents in transferable government jobs have a bittersweet task of making their children understand the lack of permanency of space, friends and feelings with no fancy compensation for the same. What is your today,belonged to someone else yesterday and will belong to a completely different person tomorrow. It's like explaining 'Geeta Saar' to a seven year old who doesn't want to leave his friends. Getting attached to a thing, place or memories are strictly forbidden for these children. That is the only way they will survive in this ever moving world of theirs. True, they make many friends and learn a lot owing to various cultures and languages thrust upon them but the absence of roots is evident when you ask them, "Where are you from?" and they answer, "Oh I grew up all over the place". More often than not, they wouldn't be proficient in their mother tongue as well, thanks to diverse influences.
Most of these children hope to return to the houses they lived in. These houses are the connect to their past. Roots they long for.
They are advised against it though. My father always said ," Once you have moved on from a house, organisation or a loved one...never ever look back. The pain of it 'not being the same' is far greater than the pain of separation."
Yet we are fools. We crave for a cathartic closure.
Almost all of us go back.
I went back too.
12 years on, I went to see my old house.
Radhika, my friend drove us there. On one of the most beautiful roads in Lucknow (Kasturba road), hidden amidst trees and lovely gardens is the house I grew up in. We went and saw it. I couldn't stop myself from ringing the bell. It was Sunday evening. A lady in oiled hair opened it. Rashmi. She was about to go in for a bath. I was guilty of intrusion. But she was very warm and the moment she knew why I had come, she smiled and said she herself was an Army kid and has revisited her old houses in Ambala.
She asked me which one was my room. I pointed to it without hesitation. She gave us a small tour. The whole house was just as it was earlier....of course much neater and beautifully decorated.
It seems like a tradition. Old occupants coming over to visit and the new ones welcoming them with open arms. The bond of 'leaving just when you thought this was home' is a strong one. Especially in the Fauj (Defence forces). We all understand each other so well in this regard.
As we sat in her living room, tears rolled down and I started crying. I remembered my mother (we lost her few years back) shouting and running after us to make us clean our rooms. The birthdays. The anniversaries. Our cats clawing the sofas. Dogs in the garden. Cooker whistles. Idli whiffs. Wall hangings. New notebooks smelling of fresh wood spread out on the dining table, waiting to be covered in brown paper. Beginning of a new academic year at school. Dad in his uniform. Me and my brother trying hard to velcro his kamarband, he put on weight every winter.
I was teleported into another time. It was as if Dad would come home any minute on his scooter, after playing badminton and I should run out to open the door for him.
I held myself back and wiped those tears. I had made a complete fool of myself.
Dad was right. Even though the house was just the same....there would never be Mummy screaming at us to clean the room....our cats are dead and gone...no notebooks to cover....the Scooter has been sold off for 2000 rupees....Dad can hardly climb stairs, let alone play badminton. The pain of 'it not being the same' is definitely greater than the pain of separation.
I decided never to go back again.
I wanted to write about it but didn't know how.
Today I heard of another homecoming.
A homecoming that remains a dream till date.
I met a lady. She is in her seventies. They belonged to Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan). Had huge kothis (mansions), friends and a lot to go back home too. During 'The Partition' (division of India and Pakistan along the Radcliffe Line in 1947) they were asked to sell off everything and go to India. Their mother refused. She said, "We are going away just for a few days. We will be back." Everyone thought this was just a passing phase of a high voltage political drama. Sure and soon enough, they would all return.
Sixty Four years and they still haven't been able to go back home.
Pakistanis who finally settled in their house in Rawalpindi were good people. They sent back their horses, cows, clothes, jewelery, utensils etc.to them, only to be robbed on their way in to India.
She is a rich and influential lady. All the diamonds and pearls couldn't hide the glistening tears that welled up as she spoke of all this.
Be prepared to know that whenever you look back, things will never be the same. Savour the moments you spend with your loved ones. Take a lot of pictures. Keep mementos. Breathe the place in, look at it and close your eyes. Remember all good times. Remember the times when everyone in the family was healthy and happy. This is what will remain forever. You will remember how it felt to be there. You can take it with you wherever you go knowing fully well that you might never come back to it. Homecoming is not for everyone.