A home is just bricks and mortar, nothing more, nothing less.
Bit by bit it gains a soul, indecipherable to the 5 senses.
When I was a kid, the homes we stayed in weren't too big. But they always seemed enough. Summers meant a 3 hour train ride to Mysore with a helping of maddur vada on the way. From then on, maddur vadas transport me to a time when life was shorn of its complexities. And no other place makes them like how they do in maddur - oily, soggy and with a rider for a cholesterol check. The home in Mysore has since been sold but the memories are still vivid. The maroon tiles, granddad in the portico, a dog that went by the name Julie and the scent of Mysore rasam that emerged from the kitchen.
They're all gone now, the home, the dog, my grandparents. The only link between me and those halcyon years is the maddur vada. And every time I greedily sink my teeth into one, for those few moments, it is home.
In the course of a life, we switch homes. Moving homes is hard but leaving behind memories is harder. Homes are the gateway to a treasure chest of memories, but very rarely are they treasure chests in their own right. That's why when a person dies or leaves, you don't visit that home very often. They have taken a part of home with them and you can never truly feel at home now that they're gone.
Most real estate advertising is terrible at best. That is because they aren't selling emotions, they're selling commodities. A home is made by the people who inhabit it. A cozy home is a function of the people who breathe life into it, not a function of tractor emulsion paint or overpriced furniture. Which is why hotel rooms with all their trappings never feel like home. The temperature regulated pool, clean beds, complimentary buffets and room service somehow seem illusionary.
In a bid to be the Usain Bolts of the rat race, we spend an inordinate amount of time at the office. Stale air-conditioned air peppered with the smell of leftover pizza are seemingly the keys to a brighter future. They will help you make the down payment on your dream home. Every successive EMI means more time spent away from the home you spent so hard to buy. Which is why people with big houses may not always be the happiest. A warm home can sometimes be inhabited by cold people.
I used to be woken up by MS Subbalakshmi's mellifluous rendition of the Hanuman Chalisa and the sound of the pressure cooker. Which is why as opposed to dusk, dawns and sunrises are home for me, the precursors to the infinite possibilities that lay ahead.
In a quest to ride monotony out of our lives, we seek pleasure, anything that gets us out of home and into the unknown. At the end of the ride, we seek the comfort, familiar smells, faces and sounds. We can cast our nets wide because we know there is a place that will always welcome us without judging us.
The meaning of home changes over time, like old friends, lovers and haunts that once felt like they were a part of us and then inexplicably turn irretrievably cold. Home is in the place you left behind to build a new nest, away from the familiar environs that nurtured you, in the hopes that one day you can call it home too. Home lies in a song, a movie, the aroma of your favourite dish and the gust of memories that envelope you when you find a dusty photo album. They are all pieces you will never find in an architect's plan.
After Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and caused people to lose everything they had worked all their lives to build, Pulitzer prize winning author Chris Rose wrote "The most important four-letter word in the English language is not love. It is home. Home, where the senses are filled with the comforting. Where the streets, the accents and the church bells are familiar."
And in time you’ll discover that home is seldom a place.
It is a state of heart.