This is the first definition of “home” in Oxford dictionary: “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household”.
Although, there were about 20-30 definitions with Home in different forms, as a verb, as an adjective, even as an adverb!
So, if someone were to ask me where my home is I would always say “Mumbai”, simply because it is where I grew up and, so far, where I have spent most of my life. But I was born in Bangalore, and I also have spent the last 8 years in the US, 4 in Easton, Pennsylvania and 4 in New York. So the question as to what I am from tends to get a little muddled.
But since the definition of home mostly refers to a place, I started thinking of the places that I most identify with and the list I ended up with was Mumbai, New York and Paris and here’s why.
The best way I can describe it is as the city that is alive! There are always people out and about, it is noisy, it is crowded, it is dirty, it is ALIVE. I lived there for the first 17 years of my life. It is where I discovered my love for dance, my thirst for constant activity, where I gave my parents a difficult time through my turbulent teenage years, where I started to figure out who I was as a person. But mostly where I learned how to love life!
And then I decided to come to the US for my undergrad, which eventually led me to New York.
New York to me is a city with many layers. Kind of like an onion. At first glance it’s gritty as well as glamorous. You have clubs like Lavo and Marquis, rooftops like the Standard and Le Bain, Restaurants like 11 Madison, where movies are shot and movie stars live. But then as you get to know her more you get to peal the layers back and you discover that she is so much more than that. She is the tiny jazz bars in the west village where you can lose yourself even at 1am, the saxophonist on Wall Street who starts playing at 7am every single morning of the summer, whose music makes you smile as you pass him every day on the way to work, the hole in the wall dumpling place that you crave every once in a while. You can never get bored of her because just like you she is always moving too.
And last but not least comes Paris.
Paris is the city I spent the least amount of time in, yet in some ways that I have the deepest connection with. Earlier this year I quit my job in February and traveled for 5 months of which I spent 3 months living in Paris. If Mumbai is alive, Paris is where I learned how to truly live. Where I took time to read and write, to have a glass of wine or two watching the world go by, where I let myself get lost in between the beautiful streets, where I woke up early so I could buy those freshly picked strawberries.
So going back to where we started, the oxford dictionary, I kept looking until I finally came upon a definition that hit closer to “home”
“Comfortable and at ease in a place or situation.” E.g.: sit down and make yourself at home.
So as I sat and thought about what home was to me, I realized that it was neither Mumbai nor New York nor Paris yet it was all three of them together. So then I thought about what was common among them. And then it hit me. They all had people that I love.
Mumbai is where I have my oldest friends – people that I have known since I was about 2years old, that I quite literally grew up with. New York is where I have my friends that were on the same path as me, of starting to ask the questions about who we wanted to be. It is the people with whom I have not only explored myself, but also the world. The people that allow me to be my silliest self. And Paris is where I built a profound connection with being surrounded by people understanding the importance of taking a step back and truly enjoying the life that we work so hard for.
So what is home.
Home is the familiar greeting of your 4am chicken over rice guy as he tells you about coming to the US from Egypt. It is that dear friend that you can go out and get drunk with in NY because you are exhausted from crying yourself to bed because of a shattered heart. It is the grocery store in Paris that you know sells warm baguettes even at 5pm and will uncork you bottle of wine, so you can go straight to the enjoying another beautiful sunset along the Seine. It is your friend smiling a proud smile because after almost 70 days in Paris you are finally able to be funny in French. It is your best friend since age 2 that will dance with you in the glorious pouring Mumbai rain even today. It is that same friend that will hug you till you can’t breathe because you’ve been shaking from just finding out your dad just had a stroke.
The sense of home comes not from the place, but from the people, for it is not a place that is alive, but the people that make it alive. It is not a place that has layers but the diversity of people in it. It is not a place that can teach you how to enjoy life, but the people. And so at the end of the day home is both familiarity and comfort. Bust most importantly, it is not one place, but rather anywhere that you are surrounded by people who let you be your truest self. Who might not always get you but love you for who you are anyways. And that is what we should always be working towards. Not finding the right place, the right job, or the right salary, but instead finding and holding on to the right people.