I love this place. I have spent less than 24 hours in the place, and yet, I know. Like how I knew when I went to Scotland that if there ever was a place for me, the island made of sky would be it. And this morning, when I walked out into the sticky sea-air, here it was, another place recognised. Another place for me.
One of the benefits of being a reader is that before we encounter a place, we explore it through the characters in the place. England was crumpets, ginger beer, kippers, pork pies and scones from The Famous Five. Bath was carriages, balls, bonnets and smelling salts from Austen. The US was hamburgers, hotdogs, ice cream sodas and pepperoni pizza from The Archies. San Francisco was weed, Nob Hill, and Castro District from The Tales of the City. And so on and so forth. This country was made alive through Anil’s Ghost and the stories in a book left by a friend in my home. So, it was a bit of a disappointment, I must admit, when my first view of this place were bright lights in an elegant highway, yesterday night. The few sights afforded to me at that time were nothing like the richness I had encountered between the pages that I had read. The half-remembered memories that I had derived from the words did not match with the banal reality of the city. By morning, this feeling dissipated, mostly mollified by the beautiful antique table in my room. I sat out in the garden of my home stay and took in the humidity and the heat. A lady from the neighbourhood walked in. She folded her umbrella and sat next to me. We talked about music class, school admissions, and the weather. I felt right at home. It was better than any book.
Later, in the evening, after I had argued with the world (or more accurately, the people in the conference) about grand notions of feminism, gender violence, and the ‘maternal’ instinct, I sat on the boardwalk, eating stale popcorn, listening to the sound of the ocean and watching people quarrel, love, pose, stare and smile. There is little else in the world that would have made me happier. And yet there was. It was the red sun streaking the sky with broad strokes of orange, before taking a bow into the Indian Ocean. It was a marvellous performance. As I made my way back to the home stay, I thought to myself – happiness is finding one’s home, even if it is not your own.