Memories of Home
In today’s peripatetic existence, most people will be hard put to pin down what they consider their home. Take me, for instance. We were brought up in the residential quarters provided by my father’s employers, the Calcutta Port Commissioners, today the Kolkata Port Trust, or maybe the Shyamaprasad Mukherjee Port Trust or whatever. My father’s parental home was scattered to the winds by the time I became aware of such matters and while we loved going to my maternal grandparents in a village near Krishnanagar, it was not “Home”. For us, home was B/6 Nimak Mahal Road and then 12 Portland Park and finally my parent’s apartment in Parnasree. Some of my friends who lived in Nimal Mahal with us used to depart every winter to their “homes” in Lucknow and Delhi and elsewhere, but for us, our parents’ residence was our home. Later when I got married I have lived in a succession of places: Budge Budge, Baishnabnagar in Malda, The Lake Gardens’ Government Quarters and then successively in Pokhara, Gangtok, Siliguri and Kuala Lumpur. There have been varied experiences in all these places, most of which we enjoyed, and sometimes we have bad memories of particular incidents. But did I consider any of these home? How does one decide? I have given this matter much thought. I think the key is what you felt when you returned to the city after an absence. Did you feel a gladness, a feeling that soon we will be in a safe place and all will be well? Where did I have these feelings? The first, of course was in Nimak Mahal Road, where my first memories are located, where I had my first friends, many of whom are still friends, where I learnt to climb trees, search for snails and toads, and had my first crush. There are many memories good and bad but the abiding memory is of us driving up the approach to Block B after we returned from our holidays. Those were the days of driving holidays, when the roads were narrower, but far less crowded and it was possible to stay in PWD bungalows and rest houses all over what is now Jharkhand, but what was then the undivided state of Bihar. The Oil Shock of 1973 put paid to most driving holidays in those days, but by then I was entering college and was not travelling so much with my parents anyway.
Now Siliguri is home. As soon as the plane descends to make its landfall at the Bagdogra airport, we crane our necks to follow the rivers and the forests and the gardens and on lucky days the Kanchenjunga from the windows of our aircraft. As we are driven out of the Bagdogra airport, we can see the immaculately ordered tea gardens and then the hills. This feels like we are at a place where we belong, a home and after a long time since we lost our home in Pokhara, we can feel that yes, here we are, in a place where we have everything we need; rivers, mountains, forests and wildlife. I hope to end my days here.