missing home from 12 thousand kilometres away
I just didn't realize how much deeper the ache for home is when the place you're in is just so similar but not quite.
I've never had very deep conversations with people about how homesickness works. I've known it's a thing – moving to an undergraduate campus 1 hour away from a major city after having lived in Mumbai all my life definitely gave me a taste. People who knew me then can probably attest to my pro-Mumbai proclamations every two days on campus, and my desire to go back home as often as possible.
In hindsight, I think the ache for home was less a product of my desire for home but more a side-effect of Ashoka's compound of a campus. Nevertheless, while homesickness was not the diagnosis, missing home was definitely a symptom.
Sitting in my dorm room in New York, 2 oceans and 3 continents away, at 4 AM, I've been forced to familiarize myself with the different emotional notes that come with missing home. It's been just over a month since I came here. Fall's settling in, and I think the lower temperatures that mimic an Ashokan winter (and the stray really cold day in Mumbai that comes maybe every 2-3 years) have brought a gust of introspection with them.
I've had a great month here. Really. I don't know how many people reading this can relate, but moving somewhere new usually goes one of two ways: everything either feels just a little off all the time, or the city seamlessly slots into the puzzle of your life that you didn't realize was missing a piece. When I'd moved to Bangalore in 2010 for a couple of years, nothing ever felt seamless. Ashoka was easier, but there were still too many things that just didn't feel right.
This city feels correct. I'm not romanticizing my time here. There's been plenty off-beat shit that could burst any NYC-thirsty girl's dream of living here forever. New York, like any other city, has its moments in the sun and its minutes in the dark. I've just found that the sun's reflections off the windows here chase the darkness away in nearly the same manner that Mumbai did.
I can't deny though – this isn't home yet. I didn't expect it to be, so I'm not disappointed. I just didn't realize how much deeper the ache for home is when the place you're in is just so similar but not quite.
Here's an excerpt from last week's diary entry:
Homesickness is like this:
Most hours, I'm fine. I'm still absorbed by the novelty of this new place and constantly have things to do that keep me distracted. But sometimes, I'll call home or see something that reminds me how far away I actually am, and there'll be a faint pang in my heart. My throat will close up and–
Just on time. Another distraction. One of my flatmates just came back from class. The wave that was about to crash just faded into nothing.
Perhaps I'm just mistaken in believing that home has to feel the same every single time. Maybe what I miss is just familiarity; Mumbai was always familiar to me, and so it was home. I actually feel more grounded whenever I'm within two blocks of my dorm here, because I feel more familiar with this little space than anything else in this entire new country. But it's not home. Not yet.
It'll be interesting to see how my little homesickness problem evolves over the next few months. Winter's going to settle in soon, and I haven't found a good place to sit down with chai and onion pakodas yet. If you have any suggestions, send them my way. Nobody makes masala chai correctly here, though, which just makes everything less satisfying.