Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Presence of Home

For many, home appears to be a very simple thing. A spot of land with a wonderful house and a smiling mother holding freshly made chocolate chip cookies. All the friends and the family are here in this magical place of comfort and safety. Besides the aesthetics of home, there is the innate “home” within ourselves. This includes all the characteristics and quirks of our specific region and most importantly, who we are without the burdens and demands of society that we can get lost in.
I believe home is where one is faced with who they truly are. There is no hiding from a grandmother’s eye for changes good or bad in behavior or of hair length. To “escape” home is simply to bring one’s self closer to the core of everything they are and possess. For Jago Antia, in the chapter Dharma of Vikram Chandra’s book Love and Longing in Bombay, home is a place that he suddenly has to deal with. A past that he had pushed away, the death of his older brother Soli, was now troubling him in the form of a ghost. This illusion to home and past as a ghost is coincidently a strong one seeing as ghosts are light and ethereal.
Nonetheless, the metaphor that Chandra brilliantly constructs is that home is the ghost inside of us and always present. For Jago, this presence was haunting because he had a difficult past to deal with. But, once he had the courage to face who he was, he felt at ease. Jago had struggled to escape home and find a new sense of belonging to avoid his past. With the help of his seven year old haunting self, he finally found what he had been looking for: home. Seven year old Jago says: ‘“Jehangir, Jehangir, you’re already at home’” (31).
Jago Antia came face to face with who he was at heart like Sheila Binjlani did in following story and chapter, Shakti, by Chandra. Sheila is a mother who will do anything to achieve greater than those around her and anything for her son. Due to her poor upbringing, Sheila respects and appreciates all those who are socially beneath her. Her maid, Ganga, is respected by Sheila because Sheila must see herself in her. Like Jago seeing a ghost, Sheila sees Ganga and is faced with who she really is without the social status: a simple person who wants only to succeed and do well. For Sheila’s friend, Dolly, a woman of old wealth and family, this connection is not present at all. For Ganga, she seems not to even exist to Dolly. Social class is an important and dividing feature within India. Sheila bypasses these divisions because, at heart, Sheila is right there with Ganga.
In the presence of home, people have the ability to look and see themselves. One can cheat another but can only cheat one’s self for so long. A great war hero like Jago Antia could not bare to push the past away any longer as he was forced to face it. I see myself in my father and in my mother and in this way, I can not bring myself to be angry long, to hurt or deceive them. Home resides physically as much as it resides spiritually, emotionally, and genetically in and around us. Rochester, NY is not an insane, living life on the edge type town full of skyscrapers, night clubs, or incredible natural landscape and things to do. Regardless, I am who I am because of this city.
While the connection to home for Jago and Sheila is presented to them through ghost and Ganga, I still am lucky enough to see it through the stories of my younger brother, the updates from my mother and father as well as here, with my sister at Loyola. Chandra is right in identifying home as the ghost within us. But, it also encompasses the ghosts and illusions that remind us of home everywhere that allow us to leave it, learn from it and hold it dearly in our hearts.

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