5 Indians Share Their Experiences With Living Away From Home

(L) Natasha Nair; Ava Gilder (R)
(L) Natasha Nair; Ava Gilder (R)(L) Natasha Nair; Ava Gilder (R)

Maya Angelou once said, “The ache for home lives in all of us. The place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” For a lot of us, home is a place that has complicated connotations. From the one place that we feel secure in our childhood to stifling in our young adulthood, it can be hard to admit that we need a change of scene. Many of us also move out of our homes to live on our own for jobs, universities, and even love.

We spoke to 5 young Indians about what living away from home felt like for them, where they moved to, and why they moved. They also told us what home felt like for them in moments of homesickness. They also spoke to us about how their perception of a family has changed for them after being away from their biological family, and the importance of a found family.

Home is where the heart is, so where is your heart?

No matter where we come from, or how old we are, we will always find ourselves getting homesick sometimes. Saudade, the Portuguese word for nostalgia, is a deep emotional state of profound longing for something or someone that one cares for and/or loves. We might not know how to explain it to other people, but we know what it feels like on the inside.

22-year-old Sakshi who moved from Mumbai to Bangalore says, “I often find myself tracing back my routes, listening to ghazals my Nana introduced me to, along with some neat whiskey or even cooking some home-style Maharashtrian poha.”

Originally from Chandigarh, Samiksha says that home has been about finding comfort, friendship and joy in people rather than associating it with a place. Moving all over means that she has had to find pieces of herself through the world. She adds, “In moments of homesickness though, for some odd reason I still find myself coming back to my childhood home. Maybe it’s the ease of living and familiarity that instantly connects.”

Most of us think about moving from a smaller city to a big city, but Natasha did the opposite when she moved from bustling Mumbai to quiet Pondicherry. After four and a half years there she does not feel homesick too often, but when the odd pang hits, her cure is whipping up classic Bombay comfort foods to binge on.

“We’ve all done this —created our mix-and-match families, our homemade safety nets.” - David Levithan

Moving away from home can be an exceedingly lonely experience. Leaving your comfort zone is not an easy decision to make, and yet we see people doing it every day. Those of us who move away from home walk a fine line between independence and isolation.

That’s where our found family comes in. If you move cities or countries for university, it’s fairly easy to make friends since most people around you are in the same boat as you. As 20-year-old Abira experienced when she moved from her small town of Howrah in West Bengal to Delhi for university, she was surprised at the bonds she created with her classmates and her roommates. She says, “Gradually I realized, family is not always made up of people connected by blood. Family is someone who understands you and tries to be there for you.”

For Natasha, moving to Pondicherry for love was a totally new experience. She went from being in a joint family to a nuclear family with her partner and their several dogs and cats. She also made connections with her partner’s (a Pondy native) family and friends.

Sakshi also mentions that moving away for her was cathartic - it allowed her to get away from a traumatic household situation. She faced constant criticism and comparison to her cousins and her personality and identity were relentlessly undermined.

From Diwali to Holi: Celebrations Away From Home

The time of the year that we feel the most lonely is around a time of festivity and celebration. During the one Christmas that I spent away from home, there was a deep sense of longing and loneliness, even though I was with my chosen family. By living alone we learn to make our own traditions of celebrations, and gradually over time we see our traditions taking the form of our own home, and we realise that what we thought of as home isn’t really home anymore.

Growing up, Diwali was a festival that was close to Sakshi’s heart. After moving away, she spent her first Diwali on her own, feeling alone. But as she grew to enjoy her new city, she realised that it was nothing but a fresh start. As Sakshi puts it, “Truly when friends became family, decorating the home and lighting diyas for good spirits and friends gathering for dinner sounds like the perfect party to me.”

For Samiksha, going back home for the festival was a big part of living alone for her. Living alone afforded her the sense of freedom that she wanted, that allowed her to be as she was, that when it was time to go back home she was able to feel lighter. She says, “I felt that moment of ‘oh, I’m back home.’”

Srishti, who moved to Delhi as a fresher, reminisced about her college days, where during festivals she and her friends used to dress up together, attend events together, and even waited for good food together in long mess lines. She says, “they (her friends) never made me miss home.”

“I have always differentiated the idea of ‘house’ and ‘home’ very carefully. To me, ‘home’ lies in the arms of a person to whom I can return after a long exhausting day. Home is somewhere cosy, filled with warmth. Home is in the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, in a window seat with headphones on, or in the old dust-ridden postcards and cassettes. Home is a delicate sense of nostalgia, though it reeks of spring sometimes.” signs off Abira.

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