Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The comfort of home

I very much associate home with comfort. Home cooked food is comfort food. We get homesick when we are away, and always feel a sense of relief, of comfort, when we return. Our homes are always thought of as our own safe havens, a place where we can get away from it all. A lot of what creates the sense of comfort and safety in a home is the group of people we associate it with. In class on Monday, many people mentioned that they associate home with family. For example, people who move a lot may not associate a specific place with home, but they might associate a group of people with home.

Because my family is fairly large and very close knit, I think that as long as I am with them, I could learn to feel at home anywhere. In contrast, there was a particular instance when I was in my very own home, and felt a little bit out of place. When I arrived home from Loyola last May for the summer, I arrived home to an empty house. I knew that my Mom was out for the afternoon. My Dad was at work. My younger brother was at lacrosse. Both of my sisters were still at school. My summer homecoming experience was very abnormal. No one was there to hug me and ask me incessant questions. There was no “welcome home” meal out on the table. It felt strange, like I had walked in and was not supposed to be there. It certainly did not feel like home. I truly did not know what to do with myself. I associate home with the persistent buzz of conversation, the hum of a television, and the phone constantly ringing. Without the companionship of my family, my home did not bring me comfort.

In Vikram Chandra’s novel, Love and Longing in Bombay, the association between home and comfort is severed for the character Sartaj. We learn, through the beautiful and winding short story “Kama,” that Sartaj is going through a divorce. He is troubled, to say the least. The story of his divorce is intertwined with the murder case that he is trying to solve. At certain moments, Sartaj’s discomfort is revealed, such as when he finds out that his soon to be ex-wife is remarrying: “Now he sat with his hands on his thighs and found himself looking for a way to stop it, for a place where he could apply pressure until something snapped” (Chandra 95). The news of Megha’s new marriage seems to finalize something for Sartaj. It’s really the end of their time together, and Sartaj moves into “a loneliness so huge and so feral that he wanted to give up and collapse into the thick green swamp” (100). With Megha gone, Sartaj loses his sense of comfort, his sense of home. We can see that he is reluctant to let go of his attachments, because his divorce papers are sitting on a table in his home.

One of the most poignant moments in the story occurs in Sartaj’s home, the home he and Megha used to share. While he makes tea, “the smell of heating milk and the leaves, and the wisps of steam, sent him reeling into the first morning of their marriage (117). The act of making tea, paired with Megha’s presence, conjure up a specific home memory for Sartaj. When she leaves, “he [Sartaj] felt very empty, his mind a hole, a black yawning space” (125). It is clear that a large part of both Sartaj’s home and identity are tied up with Megha, which reinforces the idea that home relates largely to the people we share it with.

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