Pop Stuff: Home is Where the Hearth Is
Globalization has made it increasingly common for people to call more than one place home
I’ve spent over half my life living in America and close to two decades in New York City. Born a Mumbaiker but with a good portion of my childhood spent in London, mathematically New York is home by a long shot. Even so, I’m always homesick for Mumbai. Sun shining through a thick layer of smog, bursting at the seams with construction, roads choked with traffic and yet the morning caw of crows on my mother’s balcony and the lilting bellow of the nariyal paani wala wafting over the din and weaving past the palms is still the best sound in the world. Having roots in one city and making a life in another has made me feel like I’m never where I’m ”˜meant’ to be. Life is always temporary, home is always waiting.
Recently, amidst a career transition and in between apartments in New York, resolving the question of ”˜Where is home?’ felt all the more urgent. Returning to India became a distinct possibility. When I traveled to Mumbai over the Winter holidays affirming that it might be a move and not just a visit, the Mumbai that had always loomed large in my heart gave way to yearning for even the most banal of New York moments. Splashing up against the hard shore of permanence, the tide of homesickness turned for the first time. As 2016 hurtled into 2017 and I found myself weeping during Obama’s final address and longing to join the Women’s March with my girlfriends in New York, it dawned on me that America had become home too, I’d just resisted claiming it for fear that it would mean giving up my roots. I flew back to the U.S. just days after Trump’s travel ban and had never felt quite so comforted to be waiting in line at JFK for a yellow cab whilst the February chill bit through my gloves.
Globalization has made it increasingly common for people to call more than one place home. The identity crisis of the expat, the third culture kid, the dual citizen or the small town girl living in the big city is a familiar affliction of the times. But resolving it can mean fusing the disparate threads in the journey as opposed to choosing to be defined by the destination. Cities are more diverse than at any time in history, travel more accessible and the nationalistic rhetoric sweeping much of the world is often met with a resistance that implies that fitting in by assimilating is less necessary than bringing where you’re from to where you are. If you manage to embrace the place you live in without leaving behind your roots, home can be where the heart is as much as where the hearth is.
At least, this is what I tell myself. But there is something far bigger to consider. As the freest of nations espouse tighter borders, feeling the tug of two cities is a luxury. The image of a sixteenyear-old Afghan boy who lost his parents to a Taliban bomb in Kabul recently lit up the Internet. After years in limbo, he finally received permission to enter the U.S. In the photograph, Sardar Hussain stands in front of the U.N. refugee office in Jakarta in his jeans, converse and backpack, uncertainty writ large on his face, the Trump travel ban announced days before his flight. When people must eagerly adopt a home that is closing the door on them as their own is ravaged, it’s a sobering reminder that grappling with a choice is a problem reserved for the privileged. Suddenly, reconciling the home I live in with the one that’s waiting for me seems like a gift.
Soleil Nathwani is a New York-based Culture Writer and Film Critic. A former Film Executive and Hedge Fund COO, Soleil hails from London and Mumbai.