I’m in Chicago now as I type this (well, Bolingbrook technically. But if I had written that instead, most everyone reading would have been like “What?”).
This is my first visit “back home” since moving to Indiana three months ago.
I add “back home” in quotation because during the few moments I’ve had to myself and my thoughts this weekend, I’ve been reflecting on what exactly that even means. I’ve alluded to this sentiment in a previous post (An Indian in India…na), but now that I am actually back in the place that I have called “home” for the past 18 years (not counting my two years in Hyde Park as being away), I’ve been confronted by somewhat ambivalent feelings.
When my husband and I arrived this past Friday, my parents had invited my extended family over for dinner that evening (Well, the ones that live in Bolingbrook anyway. If they’d invited the entire Chicago khandaan, we’d have to rent a hall). One of my cousins asked me, “Do you miss Chicago?” Without pause, I answered “No.” Feeling a little guilty, I later added, “I miss my family of course, but Chicago, the city, never really felt like home.” I mentioned how Toronto is more my home, as I always love to play up that fact; but truth be told, Toronto is still very much a novelty to me. My family moved to Chicago when I was 11.
Ever since I was asked that question, I’ve been asking myself: “What is home?” I refuse to call our Bolingbrook home my “parents’ house” because it is my house, too. It is the house in which I have lived the longest and in which I have the rawest and vividest of memories. Where you spend your adolescence are truly your formative years and those years never really ever leave you. But my new place in Indiana also feels home, too.
Why do I feel this push and pull? Is it really problematic? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having two homes (I mean ‘home’ in the symbolic sense; owning more than one house is another matter altogether). I guess what I’m feeling right now stems from the fact that the expectations I had as a child aren’t exactly unfolding in the way I thought they would. There’s this implicit understanding within the South Asian community that a girl’s home before marriage is only her temporary home; the home she makes with her husband is her true home. I obviously take issue with this notion. What about the girls who don’t get married on a particular timeline? Why should they be made to feel as if their entire life is in limbo? What about girls who don’t want to get married? Is that even allowed? And let’s not even get started on the sons!
Things of course are changing and not all South Asians think this way, but this was the narrative I saw and expected.
I guess I am torn between not wanting to be defined by my marital status, on one hand, and the reality of actually liking my new life as a wife, on the other. In other words, I feel like I am perpetuating that fictional narrative that the feminist in me wants to revolt against.
Maybe I don’t have to define “home.” Bolingbrook is home. Indianapolis is home. Toronto is home. I think, more than anything, what I am learning is that those binary fables I heard when I was younger just aren’t true. It’s not one way or the other.
Maybe the home I’m actually coming back to is not a physical place at all, but the home of my mind and heart that cannot and should not be confined by any walls.
Okay, I’m hungry, mommy! I want food! As much as I am liking learning to cook, taking a break from having to make dinner and eating your mom’s cooking is such a nice feeling and such a blessing, Alhamdullillah.