- A friend asks me in anguish, ‘How can you bear it, this constant change? Doesn’t it exhaust you?’
- What I do is focus on small things, irrelevant things, things that speak of joy.
For 21 years of my life I stayed put in one place, in one house, in one room. Then, to dramatically reduce this average of stability, I began moving, if not cities, homes. Over the next two decades I never stayed in a house for more than two years and some cities held me captive longer than others.
Over this time, I developed little survival tips that all nomads know. Don’t buy a vehicle, use public transport. Know that all that you see will go. Everything you build up you will lose in two years. The most sublime cook is untransportable. Never, ever buy expensive crockery. Or a sofa you fall in love with. In fact anything whose loss will be a crushing blow.
Sometimes, when I close my eyes I can see the objects of desire I have let pass for I feared to commit to them. I also remember the ones I loved which couldn’t stand the burden of a perpetual transfer.
I had an armchair once, a planter’s chair from Kerala, with endless, solid legs, stretched out at torso level, splendid for a siesta. ‘Genuine teak’, my father would say with admiration. It lived through 12 moves and then cracked. The carpenter I called explained that they don’t make screws like this anymore. I howled at its funeral and spent the money earned off its wood on books.
They are the exception. Books travel well. You can buy the most expensive edition and it will fit neatly into a cardboard carton. The movers and packers may grumble a bit at their weight but most of them look in sheer awe. They always ask ‘Have you read all of them?’ And I always answer truthfully, ‘Around 70%’. Their eyes light-up and I think I do see respect for someone who reads.
It is time to move again and my total amassed wealth amounts to seven cartons of books. A friend asks me in anguish, ‘How can you bear it, this constant change? Doesn’t it exhaust you?’
I realize half her frustration is that she is going to miss me. I tell her when I think about it in its entirety, it does feel quite overwhelming. Another unfamiliar place, the making of friends, the working of logistics, a new life that I have to break into.
What I do is focus on small things, irrelevant things, things that speak of joy. An unfamiliar cuisine, an untried weather pattern, a different set of customs and traditions. Then, it begins to feel like an adventure and not ‘Operation Set Up Home’.
This time, I am leaving a city, which has always held my heart. Every time I have gone from here, it brings me back. I do not know whether this journey will be different, a travel without U turns.
For us nomads the whole world can be our kingdom. However, occasionally, there are moments, especially when I see the birds fly back to their nest at sunset. A corner of my heart wishes for that single place, where I can rest my head on a pillow of perfect thickness and say, ‘This is it, I have come home.’
'Still Figuring It Out’ a funny, sad, questioning take on adulthood will appear every Saturday on Asianet Newsable. Arathi Menon is the author of Leaving Home With Half a Fridge, a memoir published by Pan Macmillan. She tweets at here. The views expressed here are her own.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 7:06 PM