DNA Column February 2015
I am officially homeless. I’ve decided to believe that the best game I’ve ever played involves living out of suitcases, but then I’ve always had a home to return to. Now with one house under renovation, and the lease on another starting in mid-March, it seems a good moment to practise this ‘At Home in the World’ concept without having to rush back to calm a sullen cat pressing the poop everywhere panic button in protest.
Delhi airport: I’m in the corner of Starbucks puzzling over why the air hostess always offers me a Cineblitz or Society not ‘Outlook’ or ‘India Today’ when a man plonks down beside me. I really want to brush my teeth as I’ve been in transit for a while, but this man obviously doesn’t have the same pretensions to hygiene and his clothes have not seen an iron in days. He’s unshaven. His nails are dirty. I fix him with a look I imagine is practised by lion tamers.
You are Lisa Ray. It’s not a question.
You were on my wall. uh oh.
You are very important to my wife. Okaay…
She died of cancer.
My mouth is frozen in an ‘o’. I don’t know what to say. In the background, orders for ‘mochacinnos’ continue to ring out. There really is nothing to say in this place of transit, but to share a moment of quiet communion. After the man leaves, I make my way to the bathroom. While washing my face, I look into the mirror and reflect on how happy I was to critique a stranger when my own sweater is inside out and there’s chicken salad stuck in my teeth.
Kolkata: I’m sitting on the balcony of The Grand Hotel, pretending to be a foreign correspondent. It truly is my favourite game. I roll up my sleeves, take out a notebook, and breath in novelty. I watch a man and his son emerge opposite me. The boy comes straight to the wrought iron railing and instead of looking down on the magnificent grounds, he looks up. He stretches his small arms towards the sky and in that moment I see what it really is to be at home in the world.
Later: My father and I make a nostalgic visit to the Indian Coffee house. We have just walked past the stalls loaded with text books. I enjoy walking behind my Pappy as I call him, following his measured steps and watching when he leans over to take a closer look at something. There is an energy field in Calcutta which is intimately mine. I spent a lot of my childhood here and the suitcases of my mind are flying open. I take a picture of my dad in front of a huge portrait of a young Tagore and we eavesdrop on an athletic conversation amongst white haired men with slight frames and shirt sleeves extending beyond their knuckles like my father.
The next day, something happens in Kolkata airport which has never happened before in my entire travel career. I am prevented from boarding a flight to Siem Reap. Something about my passport expiry date. I call a friend to make arrangements for a new hotel room. Driving there, the shock wears off. I travel to break routine. To notice more. And to recognise that even in the unfamiliar there is a sense of home. I begin laughing because there it is, finally.
That feeling… of feeling at home in the world.
And WITH the world!