I find Vikram Chandra’s novel, Love and Longing in Bombay, greatly reliant upon a nostalgic tone which works to communicate the interwoven themes between the different stories the speaker shares. Memory plays a considerable role in the novel as well. After all, what are memories if not stories? From the very beginning of the novel, the story-teller, Subramaniam, establishes a purposeful foundation for his stories: “Some people meet their ghosts, and some don’t. But we’re all haunted by them” (5). The memories we as individuals carry make up a great part of who we are. Without our memories we are simply blank slates. Memories are what tie us to our past and to different people and places. There is a considerable amount of loneliness, darkness, and pain found in these stories, but there are also poignant, heartwarming moments. And it is only right that this is the case. No one simply has memories that are strictly happy or melancholy. Time, away from particular places of familiarity such as home or school, or time away from loved ones, create the potential for an individual to become hit with many memories. This is particularly true if an individual finds him or herself back in that place or amongst those loved ones. I found myself personally relating to Sanjeev upon his return home.
After he had been away and had traveled, Sanjeev came home. “…he was discovering the strange terror of coming back to a familiar city and not knowing anyone, and he thought that seeing the playing fields of his childhood, the streets and the corners, would fill the gap in his heart…he was trying to recall the excitement that once had really made the place a palace, that teenage feeling of seeing a cluster of friends and knowing that everything was possible. But now it just looked ordinary” (58). I feel that college students are easily able to relate to these feelings Sanjeev experiences. It is a strange time in a young person’s life. There is no real permanence offered. Of course there is home, but home is not what it once was. Home is now something that has become ambiguous and curious as well because it is not something that may easily be defined. For me, home is my family and my friends, but it is also the streets of my community, my high school, and my favorite pizza place. Home is also Baltimore and the campus I find myself on for the majority of the year; it is the connections I feel most strongly about. When you are a little kid and think of home, it is not quite as complex. As I grow older, I am finding myself stretching the definition of home more and more. I am also thinking about what home is more intensely. I am not quite sure if home is even a tangible thing; rather, it is a sort of knowing. It is something felt and is not definite or concrete. It is continually being cultivated a little bit each day.
Sanjeev has a strong need to “reconnect” and wants to “hold on to something” (58) upon returning home. Home was not what changed, rather, it was Sanjeev. He went off and experienced new places and became his own person. He came into his own. Having been abroad in various countries last semester, I found myself comparing home to what I was experiencing all the time. I was gaining new and interesting perspectives. Towards the end, I was longing to see my family and friends as well as my home in the literal sense of the word. I also found myself overcome with an anxious fear as well. I had been away before, but not quite in the same way. It is a strange feeling not to know what to expect of your own home. At times when I am home and I see my younger brother and sister busy with their home lives, I feel a little bit like a ghost. I feel a little old. It is as though I belong and don’t at the same time. It is confusing at times, but seems natural considering the bouncing around I’m doing at this time in my life. Also, home is where I found myself placed due to my parents. It is not the home I have chosen for myself regardless of the love I feel for it. Conversely, once you return to the people that you love and the places that are home, you slip back into the swing of things in a way. I experienced this with my return to Loyola as well. It is like you were never gone in some ways and you realize that “home” is something that will continue to stretch in regard to its personal meaning.
I found a suppressed thought of Sheila’s to be very powerful. She wants to share it with her son, but remains silent: “She wanted to tell him that the past was responsible for him, for his beauty, but of course there was nothing to say, no possible way to explain” (59). As I am moving forward in my life, I am seeing more and more how the past manifests in the present. The past is what you have. I think that the way Sheila puts it is beautiful because while the concept is there, while it is able to be felt, there really is no way of giving a voice to it.