Sometimes it is the pungent smell of mustard oil wafting from the kitchen, the loud debates with Pa over politics and tennis, Ma’s countless advice on life and hilarious imitation of her students.
At other times it is the yellow taxis and trams, rolls and phuchkas, handis of roshogullas, addas on politics and the fast paced life over countless cups of chai and radhaballavi, something that my sweet intolerant taste buds never took much fascination towards.
The arrival of durga puja, the ceremonious cleaning of the house, hurried shopping trips, the sound of dhaak wifting through, Ma’s big beautiful kohl rimmed eyes, and the white saris with the red borders.
The red granite floors, cement staircases, handpulled rishkas, Grandma’s stories about giants, fairies and princesses, Grandpa’s loud shushing while we giggled when Mahabharata aired on television, the cold wind from the Ganga tickling our dangling feet on the terrace, the heavenly smell of mangoes and litchis straight from the farms and the unmistakable stench of cow dung.
It is also the mouth-watering smell of biryani, the irani chai and south Indian style strong coffee, the lush green and wide roads, the temples with gopurams, women with gajra adorning their braided hair and the unmistakable Hyderabadi Hindi.
But now, all that home reminds me is of the conversations that we had, of how I took back something from them, be it advice or chide. The blue bean bag, over sweet coffee, carefree loud laughter, incessant debates, the little library, Buddha wall paintings, the black lantern, the dim light lamp, the shock emitting washing machine that trapped me in the bathroom for an hour, the movies that we watched on the projector, the blanket that doubled up as curtains when I felt vampirish, the red kurta in which I would prance around all the time, the comforting dal chawal, the bear hugs, the ice creams that would be kept ready when I was in a bad mood and wanted to vent and that feeling of happiness of being with you, of owning a little part of you in return for a part of mine, the one that gave me butterflies, made me blush and the skip in my walk.
Home is not a place but a feeling, except for the fact that I have lost mine. Now all that it is, is a part of my memory.
Yesterday, after many nights, I cried. Not because I was sad but because I felt lost, like the child who couldn’t find her way back home.