I am five years old and perched on a wooden stool, tracing out the letter W over and over again. Surrounded by sun-dappled walls and the aroma of spices, I am solitary, I am satisfied. I chase after rolling hills and snow-capped mountains in this little makeshift world of mine, I run my stubby fingers over the uneven lines and roll the words over my tongue until they are familiar. The letter W is like home to me.
The waves wash out the sand between my toes, my mother calling me in the distance as I build sandcastles in the sky, I am ten. Ten years old and innocence is a fleeting birdsong that I do not recognize anymore, my father says I am too old for this world, too young. 5+5 is 10, 10+10 is 20, I cannot fathom beyond 20. For now, I clasp a seashell against my ear and struggle to hear the symphony of the ocean.
I lay sprawled upon the sand dunes with the scorching sun above me I form a sand angel. Not the cherub-faced wingless abomination on the tv but the kind, a lone child in Alaska would sculpt. My Alaska is a tiny little oasis in the middle of nowhere. Thirteen years of a trance-like childhood, and now I stand roasting chestnuts under the twilight desert skies. Death has visited me twice, puberty has hit me headfirst and left me reeling from the impact. I survive anyway.
Strolling through the marshlands and swamps, I ponder upon the idiosyncrasies of this world. At seventeen, I have already seen a chunk of this peculiar world. Home to me at this very moment is my backpack and a school-trip. New-found youthfulness sneaks its way into the darkest corners of my heart and I sense an almost ethereal sort of enlightenment. Perhaps, perhaps growing up is not too bad.
A nomad at heart, my conflicted mind chooses to conjure up the desert sun, the snow-capped peaks, and the endless meadows. Furiously playing tug of war with my heartstrings, home is the 5 am ride leading to nowhere, the setting sun, and the midnight blues. Home is the Beatles, the resounding tabla, the pitter-patter of raindrops on the checkered tiles, my dada curled up on his favorite couch and watching the evening news, my nana offering me unripened mangoes and my nani’s lavender perfume. Home to me is the little neem tree, that looms over my dadi’s grave in the languid summer evenings.