12 August 2011, I was almost 16 when I sat on a plane, watched the sunrise over the beach and grey clouds on the horizon. I saw the golden and blues teary-eyed and left the only city I called home. It’s been 10 years. I visit Chennai quite often, I’ve always had reasons to, people and places I missed, food I craved. Sometimes I had none but would just miss the familiarity of it. I moved away to a city I didn’t know would become so special to me then, Bombay.
Ten whole years and yet when someone asks me “Where’s home?” I very quickly subconsciously say, I’m from Chennai but I live in Bombay. But which one of them is home, you ask? Both? They say home is where the heart is, but it’s normal to have your heart feel safe at two places, no? I love Bombay and the kind of love I have for madras is no less than a fairy tale. I used to feel like I’m in motion, between places and people I love. Shifting between my hometown and the home I live in, trying desperately to navigate the connections I had with locations and heart, leaving a piece of me each time I went and got back, yearning to go back and forth, between different aspects of who I am in both my cities. Comfortable Displacement.
I love sunsets at the marine drive as much as sunrises at marina beach. I’ve grown to love my fancy lattes the same as my filter coffees. I enjoy the vada pav and the kothu parothas. I play Holi and dance on Navaratri, I wear cute sarees and eat everything on Pongal. I watch all good Tamil films and all good Bollywood ones and talk about both unbiased. I talk in English on an everyday basis like it’s my mother tongue as comfortably as I do in my actual mother tongue — Tamil and I can speak Hindi a decent amount when I need to.
It’s always strange when I board the flight to go to Chennai or come back to Bombay. Don’t get me wrong; I love visiting Chennai. It makes me so happy. But after a few days, I feel displaced. What’s funny is once I come back to Bombay, it is comfortable until I start feeling displaced again. It’s a weird feeling.
We, humans, are always shifting, evolving, moving, claiming new spaces, people as ours. It’s the only way we know to grow. To unlearn. To change. To evolve. We find ways to fit, we find comfort in different people and relationships in different cities. We adapt and create our lives around circumstances everywhere we go. We create homes in people we love and meet, in places we settle, and we decide, yes this is where I belong for now. I’ve reached a point where I’m at peace being able to call both cities home, in different ways.
Home feels transversal — in people, in memories, in pets, in little things, in going back, in coming back, in adapting, in evolving. I feel accepted and good, I find a piece of my heart in both these cities. I feel like I belong. But that’s the thing about homes, once you go back, you feel like you never left.
This is Varshini Raaj signing out!