TODAY -

Home!!

Kennedy RK *



Do you ever spend time contemplating about your idea of home? What memory of place or image plays in your mind? What feelings do you get?

Thoughts of home normally should evoke cozy and comforting feelings. Home is not only about shelter, but being and belonging. However, as we become more and more mobile across time and space, and as the frequency in which we change residence become a measure of our well we adapt to the ever-changing world around, our idea of home have become, I suspect, fuzzy and haunting. For me, when I think of home now, the overwhelming feeling is not of comfort, but loss, longing and nostalgia.

Home and house are not the same. House is concrete while home also includes abstract elements. House is a physical structure while home encapsulates all that and more. To me, it’s about feelings and memories, too. Home is where I feel accepted and belonged and where I share a sense of community with my surroundings.

Lawibual, the tiny 40-household village I was born in, was located along a winding hill range by the side of Tipaimukh Road 260 kilometres to the south of Imphal in Manipur. From Lawibual, our family move to Bukpi, a 200-household village located 20 kilometres along the same Tipaimukh Road when I was nine.

After eight years, we move again, this time to Lamka, a district headquarters town where we change residence four times before we can have a house we can call our own. From there, I ventured out beyond the State boundaries to do my higher studies in Chandigarh and Delhi where I now live for more than 10 years.

During all these times, I never feel quite at home anywhere. The village boy in me never left me. The thought of home always takes me back to the village I was born in. The memories play in my mind and I ached to be there. Dreams and nightmares about home abound.

Lawibual village was burnt down during the fratricidal conflict of the Zomi/Kuki people in 1997. It never recovered again. Last summer, I drove down the winding roads with a friend to see what becomes of the home in my dreams. Only three houses survive in the vicinity, along with a tiny Church.

Trees, weeds and scrubs have grown so thick that I have difficulty locating where our house once stood. I dug the earth in the hope of finding something to remind me of old time, but managed to excavate only a piece of decayed rubber slipper. A single champara fruit tree has survived, though.

The home of my dreams has turned into home for birds and insects and flies. I simply stood there for a long time, as flies buzz about and birds cackle. My thoughts were in a different time, far away.

I am now back here in this concrete jungle. But the imagination would not give up and I would time-travel back to the times of innocence in a mini-second while sitting behind a desk. Lo and behold!! I am standing at the front of our thatch-house overlooking the village playground. The earth is red.

Behind me stood the Church surrounded by a circular wall of tree-trunks. Further behind the Church are swaying the reserved forest trees whose grounds also serve as the village cemetery. The rustle of dried leaves as the procession of mourners pass through, singing mournful hymns echo.

There are banana groves and guavas in the garden beneath which trickle a tiny stream. I can see a big Laamkhuang, or jackfruit tree on the right side of the field where a mithun or a cow would be tied for feast when Christmas nears. In the undulating green field, cows, pigs, fowls, and children mingle.

Tiny thatch-houses stood around the field, kitchen smoke billowing from some of them, completing a close-knit community that is home. Beyond the field, from the deep valley below, a rainbow would emerge if I wait till after the rains.

I am awake now and the irony struck me. Back in the village, our wish was to come to a place where there are sweet-selling shops and jeeps are aplenty. I remember all of us running out of the house, day or night, every time we hear the sound of vehicles coming, shouting, “Jeep, jeep, jeep”.

Now, in some inconspicuous corner of a big city, all we longed for was a whiff of village breeze. Is this a mere case of the field looking greener on the other side?

In one of his novels, the Turkist writer Orhan Pamuk poignantly portrayed the tragic plight of many through the figure of a man on board a ship headed west, staring longingly back to the east.

The Lawibual village of my imagination was once a reality but the only place it now survives is my mind. All I can do is stare back longingly through my mind’s eye, much like that tragic figure in Pamuk’s ship.

They are gone. They are not coming back.


* Thangkhanlal Ngaihte wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on November 4, 2016.


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