“Where are you from?” Someone asked me recently.
“I grew up in Chennai, but my family is from Dehra Dun.” The answer by now well-rehearsed, spewed out mechanically.
I cannot remember when I first began giving this answer. Must have been to the Indians in the US, because before I went abroad, no one asked me where I was from.
Its my birthday today. I am 34 and uprooted, finally grown up and separated from home. Today my parents who’ve lived in Chennai for 45 years move back to their home – Dehra Dun.
There are no words that I can write today that will not sound trite. I can share my memories of IITM and Chennai. Each one more intricate than the one before, more emotional, more personal, more overwhelming – but it won’t matter. It won’t be anything you haven’t read or heard or seen several times before. There is not a single novel thought in my head. There are only images.
Mummy scrubbing the windows of my first home in IIT Madras. I am barely 5 years old, running around quite uselessly. My brother is helping her somehow. The smell of acid and bleach comes from the toilet. I don’t remember this place that we’ve returned to after spending 2 years in Canada. But there is an old tricycle that I am thrilled to find that I will take downstairs in the evening and ride up and down the streets.
First memories of home.
There is an episode with my mom. I asked her when I was about 6,
“Mummy can I wear your jewelery?”
“Sure beta, you’ll get it all when I’m old.”
So, apparently I went up to her the next morning stared and asked,
“Mummy when will you grow old?”
Recently I’ve been trying to explain to Advait, who is almost 5, why he must eat and study – so he can grow big and smart and leave home to do as he pleases. He has taken to responding by saying he does not want to grow big and smart and always wants to live with his childhood family.
There is a connection in here. Between 1985 and 2014. Between me and Advait. Between my mom and me. And between where I was and where I am going.
That thought is the only coherent thing in my head today: I’m a vagabond on loop, always coming home.
The rest is all mush.
Goodbye Chennai. You will always be where I’m from. And you will always be home.