ROHINI BANERJEE | CREATIVES
Grime clings to my sneakers the same way it did back home, rain-splotched, socks drenched with excessive friction.
(Later, I will learn, they are called runners. My blue-white sneakers, a little too big for my feet, a little too snug against my soles, shoelaces eternally escaping the embrace of their knots.
Here, they are runners. Here, language morphs objects into pithy conveniences of syntax. The words feel alien in my mouth, but they are warm, inviting. Like a mango lozenge you toss around your tongue again, and again, and again, until it dissolves into something that you can actually swallow.)
Home has always been a liminal space.
Home has been a summer-slicked unventilated room, a ceiling fan that barely spins on its axis, a window that looks out into the untended foliage of the courtyard, a creaky mattress that you douse with bucket after bucket of water to get through a single June night.
Home has been seven am walks beside a winding lake, watching early morning rowers disappear into the horizon, kettles whistling at the lemon tea stall right outside the gate.
Home has been the bedroom I didn’t know how to exist in, a confluence of childhood angst and adulthood despair – the very same bedroom overlooking the once-majestic coconut tree that I wrote a poem about the day it was brutally felled.
Home has been a city, the only city that has felt mine. Home has been a one bedroom apartment where I fell apart then sewed myself whole. Home has been the distinct scent of fish cutlets and mutton rolls in the evenings, the vegetable vendor who once wrapped a bundle of tulsi leaves in yellowing newspaper and handed it to me, free-of-charge, telling me to infuse them into my morning tea, telling me they “build immunity”. Home has been January nights spent buried under quilts heavier than my own body, cooking chicken curry for my best friends every second Saturday when we would ruminate late into the night on the current state of national politics, on science fiction, on East Asian murder mysteries, on every niche piece of pop culture that we drowned our existential dread in.
And now, home is this, too. This, walking home in the rain with sneakers covered in grime (runners, I have to remind myself again, they are runners), with ankles swollen with the weight of the distances it has traversed, with pithy conveniences of syntax slowly invading my vocabulary.
“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life,” Nick Carraway had said. I once had the quote pinned to my bedroom wall (back in one of my many has-been homes), but I was too naïve then, my rose-coloured glasses still firmly intact. More enchanted than repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.
Home is now blue skies; Home is now summer rain that drenches my socks and seeps into my blue-white shoes with the infuriatingly stubborn shoelaces. Home is now sunshine that sticks to my neck like molten toffee. Home is now bus rides that feel like expeditions, endless yet oddly exhilarating.
Home is now learning to be within, rather than being without.
Yet, home is still a liminal space.