September 16, 2014

What Do I Call Home?

Goodbye, America: Pittsburgh

I arrived in Pittsburgh one icy, sunny morning on 12th December, 2012. As we drove through the city, noting that it was peppered with churches, encircled by hills, and river-striped, I reflected upon the dramatically hectic previous week which had witnessed me getting married, obtaining the US visa, and finally, flying down to the States to begin my new life. This is my new home, I remember thinking to myself, I am married. Given this significant intersection of two major turning points in my life, it's perhaps unsurprising that my memories of my first month in States are an inky blur of acute jet and cultural lag and exhaustion.

Azure Waters: Mackinac Island, Michigan
Cut to eighteen months later and I am now preparing to move to India, a country which I have always viewed through the lens of an itinerant traveller and an emigrant. As I currently travel across the States before finally bidding adieu to this yet another one of my adopted homes, transitioning through its cities, forests, lakes, and deserts, I muse about my experiences living here. Before living in United States, I had had called four countries my home: Australia, India, Oman, and United Kingdom. Having been born in Melbourne, Australia, I moved from there at the age of two and lived in Jodhpur, India until I was five years old. My parents then decided to take up academic jobs in Muscat, Oman and I completed my schooling there before pursuing my undergraduate and graduate studies in United Kingdom. A few more years in Oman working as a journalist and I eventually made my way to United States. 

If someone had asked me a month ago about what I would call home, I would have immediately said: Oman. The notion of belonging to a singular home, or rather, multiple homes had always intrigued me over the years; yet, it is here in America that I have became particularly preoccupied with dismantling and analysing the structure of my complicated thoughts about home and belonging. In the last year and half, I started to think more consciously about my roots and the relationship that I shared with them. I began calling India the land of my passport, even disputing the extent of my Indianness. During the height of the polar vortex which struck Pittsburgh amongst several other Eastern American cities, I could not help but yearn for Oman's intense heat and its sunlight. Whenever I glimpsed Pittsburgh's Allegheny river glinting in the sunlight, I would immediately become homesick for Oman's oceans and beaches. However, I was also simultaneously aware that no matter how much I yearned for Oman, its landscape in particular, I was not and never will be Omani. So then what was I...? 

Path to Serenity: A Trail in a Pittsburgh park

And so, for the past few weeks, as I travel across the country, I have become concerned with a new project: navigating the map of what lies ahead for me, figuratively and literally. As my husband and I hopscotch from one city to terrain to another, indulging in what appears like an interminable relay race of unpacking and packing suitcases, I recollect what my husband said to me the other day. “I miss home,” he told me as we found ourselves in yet another hotel room. “You mean you miss Bangalore?” I asked, thinking he was referring to the city that he grew up in and which we were returning to. “It's just a few days away from you now.” He shook his head. “No, I mean, I miss a home,” he said. And perhaps, that was the crux of the situation. As he talked about a home, I found myself instinctively conjuring up the outlines of our freshly vacated Pittsburgh apartment: the house which I had arrived in so many months ago and made it home, piece by piece, memory by memory. I thought of the balcony from which I glimpsed daily theatrical performances that the landscape and sky produced for me or walking through quiet, shady, tree-lined bylanes surrounding the building or grabbing dosas at the Sunday buffet at a nearby Indian restaurant. For the first time, I found myself homesick for Pittsburgh – and realising that for the time-being, it had become my home. 

Perhaps, the answer to the question as to what country is home lies nested between these lines. For me, my home lives in the present-tense – and so whichever country I happen to currently inhabit becomes my home. However, in Italian, there also happens to be a tense which describes an action that happened long ago in the past and yet, which is still occurring. Perhaps, it is that tense which perfectly describes my relationship with homes: I have been creating homes in whichever country that I have resided over the years and so, even now, whenever I visit them, each of them conjures up a veritable house of emotions, memories, and associations. There are many houses inside my home and I gladly inhabit them all.


This piece originally appeared in the August issue of The Curated Magazine and written during a time when I was just beginning to process my transition from States to India...


  1. So beautifully written Pinka... I could relate to every word you wrote... Pittsburgh was home for me for 4 years.. and I miss that place so much. Thanks for writing this..

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Shazi..and I am especially glad to hear that each word of this essay resonated with you as I know we are sailing on a similar kind of boat:) I can completely understand you missing Pittsburgh...four years is a long time to call a place home and you must have so many lovely memories of it. I too miss it even though we weren't there for that long...guess images and memories will have to sustain us until we can visit it again!


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