The notion of home seems to be a recurring one, throughout my life, but in the past few weeks in particular.
Strange, how it has been manifesting itself of late, in so many different forms. Now it returns, now that I find myself so far from "home", on the Asian continent for the first time in my life, under very specific circumstances.
I'll be candid and I'll say that visiting India never was a top priority for me, even though -as anyone who knows me at all will confirm- I thrive on travelling. I think that what turned me off (and this has absolutely no foundation in any pragmatic sense, as I know next to nothing of this amazing land) most, was the flavour left me of Europeans and Americans who went on the ashram trip. Let there be no room for misunderstanding here: it's neither the country nor its places of spiritual quest that repelled me. It is the generic European who sought them out. India just suffered by association. As it turns out, as the most tragic kind of victim there is: the Innocent.
Did I not relish Indian food when I was living in London as a student? Have I not marvelled at the beautiful fabrics? The amazing architecture? Have I not been the grateful recipient of ayurvedic massage since last October (when nothing could be farther removed from my mind than the prospect of "A Passage To India")?
I have been here almost a week. "Here" is New Delhi. Actually, that is also false. "Here" is room 303 of the clinic that will be my "home" for the next 7 weeks, in New Delhi. I still know next to nothing about this place, this city, let alone this land, which for all practical purposes is an entire continent in itself. That is to say, that I have no rational knowledge.
But what of the knowledge that comes of the gut & heart?
What struck me almost immediately is how -considering it took me two flights and 8 hours to get here- I never got the feeling of being "elsewhere". Sure, the air is hotter and moister. The traffic is mad. The vehicles are exotic. The lemons are dwarfish. The people have darker skin (not really a feat -- few are paler than I). And yet, no sign of the "culture shock" friends had been warning me about.
Which brings me back to the notion that People are Home.
I don't yet have specifics, but I do have an "aroma", an impression if you will. And this is, the aroma of gentleness, of kindness, of intelligence.
There's something about the eyes, the depth of their gaze. It speaks of understanding. Something about the tone of the voices. They speak of awareness and caring. Something about the readiness of laughter. Even the most precious kind: the one directed at one's self. Something about the fluidity of movement. It speaks of ease and generosity.
I am reminded of a intimate anecdote: My father was present in the delivery room during my birth. When first he saw me he was overwhelmed, as only a man becoming a father for the first time, and to a daughter to boot, can be. He turned to my mother and said: "This is no child we have here... This is 'mukhti'!"
The word means nothing in Greek. It was an expletive of an onomatopoeic nature, meant to convey my looks (or, perhaps more precisely, the emotion my looks brought forth in him). In any case, the word stuck with me and became my nickname, used only by members of my immediate family (nowadays only by my father and my brother).
I later found out it is a noun of the Hindi language that -according to context- translates as:
liberation, release, emancipation, deliverance, rescue, immunity, saving, absolution, vacation, immunization.
I will no doubt be returning to these thoughts in the near future. For the time being I'll just enjoy basking in the feeling of being "at home" :)