Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Leaving Home Behind

My homeland only exists in my mind. It used to be real, of course, but that was before the summer came and went. I lived in the same town since I was two and the same house since I was five. Over the summer, however, my parents sold the house and moved us to a different state altogether to be closer to my mom's father and siblings. I try to practice graciousness and to be grateful for our new home, because I know that so many people do not have homes, running water, or things of the sort. Nonetheless, I can't deny how much I hate the town. It has all the dead time of my old town with none of the friends. It has no corner that I can point at and say, "That's where..." It has no little deli where "we always" and "remember that one time?"
Before I knew that my family would be moving I felt so differently. In high school I cursed my house and my town for keeping me in a cage. I couldn't wait to move out of my house and be on my own, and I couldn't wait to leave my boring town far, far behind. When I found out around Thanksgiving time in 2008 that we would be moving, time shifted and I entered some sort of grace period. For almost a year and a half, I was held by feelings of sadness and visions of beauty. When my friends and I would meet up at home over breaks they would all speak like we did in high school, lamenting our town and all it didn't have to offer. I'd laugh along but on the inside I was thinking, I can't think that way anymore, maybe you can, but I can't. Somehow I had changed. By knowing that everything was one day going to be taken from me, I started to hold on tighter.

Since we've moved, I haven't been back to my town. I had a whole summer and could have gone back to visit with friends like my sister did. She's been back probably six or seven times. But I can't bring myself to do it. If I do, I am going to have to reenter a world that is no longer mine and feel the strangeness and separateness of it all. I am going to have to see that the town has moved on without me. And of course, I am always going to have my house in the back of my mind, and have to make the decision whether or not to drive past it and see that it is lived in by strangers. I fear all of these things, because I feel like I left a large part of myself behind, in the town, in my house.

This is all why the first story in Love and Longing in Bombay, "Dharma," was really poignant to me. When Jago Antia returned home to his nearly-empty house he was forced to confront his own ghost in the attic. I love most of all his interaction with Thakker, after Thakker tried to get rid of the ghost. Jago says, "'Well, get it out,'" and Thakker replies, "'I cannot. Nobody can move a child'" (23). There is so much honesty in this statement, especially if I compare it to my own situation. While I do not have my own literal ghost in my old home, it is true that the ghost of me as a child will always be in there. Perhaps, like Jago, I am afraid to confront it because of the ways that I have already changed since eight months ago. Although Jago fears his ghost because of the sadness within it, I think I fear mine because confronting it necessitates acknowledging that there is a ghost at all, that I am living in a separate world now.

Then, brilliantly, Chandra's Thakker says, "'Such a person must go up there naked and alone. Remember, alone and naked...'" (23). Chandra suggests that we must be naked, literally in the story, but more importantly symbolically, and therefore stripped down of our outer or new selves, and only then are we prepared to confront the ghosts of our childhood. In Jago's case, he left home and essentially never looked back, building himself up to be an invincible military man so that he could forget the pain he forged as a child. Hence, he left a part of himself at home. Though he left home willingly and I did not, I think it is safe to say that we both have ghosts which remain.

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