I do not remember the time or the place. It might have been Bangalore, Kolkata, Shillong, Chennai, Mussoorie, or Berlin. It might have been at a park, a mall, a wedding, a hospital, or even at a bar. Despite the many possibilities, there was always a time when certain places would generate an awkward reaction in me, as if something was not familiar. At some point, this innate angst would verbally blurt out: “I just want to go home.”
As I have come to realize, there was always a home to get back to, regardless of its geographical status. It did not have to be my grandparents’ house. It did not have to be my parents’ house either. As long as there was the comfort of familiarity and a cozy bed, it did not have to be a specific place. In this past year, home has been Kuckhoffstrasse 24.
The very thought of my fluffy pillow, my warm comforter, and the sun shining through my room’s Bauhaus-esque horizontal windows, would generate a grateful desire, whenever ‘Mauerpark’ would suddenly feel chilly; or when all the free spots in ‘Kreuzberg’ would get a bit too crowded; or when Italy became a little bit too tedious. In those confounding moments, the ECLA of Bard campus represented some sort of utopian comfort. All would get better once I got home.
My first month into ECLA, it hadn’t been so at all. Home was still tucked by the shadows of the Himalayas. Home was still covered in the moss and ferns of monkey-infested Mussoorie. Home was still constituted by the boarding school mates, who’d broken a few rules, shared a few secrets, and wept the worst goodbyes. Back then, I was homesick. It is still a mystery whether this feeling subsided. All I know is that ECLA of Bard came to be a new home and, at some point, I accepted it as one.
Perhaps it was when I found a fellow Kate Bush fan, or when I smirked through the entire “Ich bin die Königin!” warm-ups for the ECLA of Bard choir; or when I taught my friends how to dance to Salman Khan’s famous “Dhinka Chika” step; or when I finally got that ‘A’ on a paper; or when a fellow classmate made the most relatable claim about medieval knights; or when I sat through an entire Saturday afternoon reading issues of “Sight and Sound” in the library; or maybe, just maybe, when I walked to REWE with my roommate, so as to get over our respective Capri Sonne and Ja! Erdnuss cravings. That was a moment of closure. Perhaps all those instances were moments of closure, exponentially building up to an all–round happy-to-just-be-here attitude.
Time, perhaps, heals best. Maybe homesickness wanes when a home is substituted with another. From the boyish 3–year–old to the now 19–year–old, I have gone through several stages in my life, in which moving on with a future was important. Now that I think of it, a better future might have just hinted at a trivialization of a better past. But the futures of those pasts have been lived through. I’ve lived through the first year of the future after boarding school. And it has been good. Now I have to come to terms with another future, the one after ECLA of Bard.
If I were to follow a pattern, this home too will be substituted. The future too will be good. This time around, trivializing the emotional ailment of getting over a realm of familiarity is not the answer. But my refuge lies in fragments of memory. Those fragments of experiences from the past and (most recently) from Kuchoffstrasse 24 all add up to a memory of what used to be home. Fragments that become companions to new experiences, sharing with them the unique transformation of the personality that evolves through geographical familiarities and moments of anguish. The encoding has been done. It is now time for ECLA of Bard to be stored in the portal of personal memories, along with optimistic hopes for their future retrieval and a few final goodbyes. There will always be a new home.