Sunday, July 3, 2016

Life for rent

Have you watched Outlander? I haven’t, except for the first episode, and one scene of it stays with me. The one where Claire, the protagonist, sees a vase and has a sort of existential crisis. For that moment I felt exactly like her, she saw a vase and said this “Like the moment I realized I'd never owned a vase.
That I'd never lived any place long enough to justify having such a simple thing”.
I have no show pieces that I own, nothing that that isn’t purely functional, except maybe a few fridge magnets and gifts that I have received over the years and I carry along. I have no home so to speak of, just houses that I rent for a while. And probably no concept of one either, my parents stay abroad in a rented house, the house that they own is rented out to someone else. Also I have been staying away from them for 14 years now, cannot even call their home as mine. So where is my home?
I have lived in six different cities in the past six years. Moving everywhere permanently and staying everywhere temporarily. I gain things and friends wherever I stay and lose some of them every time I move. I attach myself to every city I move wholeheartedly, always knowing that I have to move soon. It fuels both my nihilism and hedonism every time I think about it. Nothing is of consequence because nothing is of permanence, I can make friends or be hated by my neighbors, I can buy a nice house or rent a shoddy one , buy comfortable chairs and a vase or sit on the floor; all of this does not matter because I am going to be moving soon anyways. But on the other hand it also tells me to go the extra mile to agree with people, to really try to live like a local, to see the city and try to understand it and its people, to try to grow roots; because there is nowhere else to go, no home to return to, no normal situation that I expect to come back, this is life, and right now is the only time to enjoy it.
There is perhaps no word for this feeling that I have, at least none in English or Hindi, there is one in Portuguese though – Saudade. Saudade is a sense of melancholic longing of someone or something that you liked too much and you lost, the understanding that the thing lost is permanent in suppressed but also known. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. So it is sad and happy feeling at the same time, it really is hard to describe and understand except for the people who have felt this.
Every time that someone asks me where I am from, I give a different answer, depending on what I think would be easier to explain, to people here in Spain I say I am from Bangalore because that is where took the flight to Spain from. To people in Bangalore I said I am from Jodhpur because that is where I went when I was getting married, to people in Delhi I said I am from Kota because that is where I used to go on college breaks. The people that I meet while travelling here in Europe I say I am from Madrid.  I can’t speak Spanish, Kannada, Hadoti or Marwari good enough to pass for a local in any of these places though. Every city that I go to, I am an outsider. A ship without a port, so to speak. A lot of people ask me where do I want to settle down, or they ask me don’t you want to move closer to home? And I have to reply every time, where is home? My parents don’t stay in Jodhpur anyways, Kota is a place I wouldn’t want to settle down, Bangalore is going to the dogs and Madrid is too foreign to even consider. Why would anyone want to go to the city they were born in? They just happened to be born there, there is nothing magical about it, no reason to even care. Many kids are born in airplanes, ships, military camps and soon to be abandoned mining towns. They would have turned out to be ok, right? Except that everybody wants to go home. Home is where the heart is, or so they say, so perhaps you have no heart if you do not have a home.
Of course it is not all bad, I like Samosa, Kabooli, Masala Dosa and Spanish Omelette equally and can ask you to fuck off in five languages, I have houses in so many cities where I can turn up and would be welcomed into. I have a better perspective on cultures and people than some scholars of anthropology. Unlike some people I know my life is not a constant struggle to get transferred to North India or Delhi or Jaipur or any of those places. And I do not have to spend loads of money on every Diwali to go home, I utilize that on Scotch and Seekh Kababs. There is no culture that I have to carry and uphold. No lamentation that this is good but it not like home. I know I have limited time everywhere so I try to do things today rather than later on. There is nothing so emancipating like this feeling in life, except maybe very high number of Jager Bombs.
There are others like me, I see them transiting through places and life. You learn their names, say a few kind words and then prepare for a goodbye. People who are of nowhere, like the Wandering Jew cursed to wander the Earth till the second coming. People who always stay in rented houses, look for furnished houses, try to make friends with other outsiders, who struggle for coming up with address proofs and dread things that have to be posted to their permanent addresses. People who poke fun at the things that are in the city that they live and the cities that they have lived, with very less baggage, physical and emotional. Taking up prepaid phone connections, looking out for DTH boxes with less deposit and good taxi services instead of good cars. Enjoying both the city park picnics and legendary eating places. Searching for English speaking people and depending on Google maps. But the most I identify with something is the ocean, it is all one and connected everywhere but goes by so many different names and behaves so differently wherever it goes. It is Pacific somewhere and Indian someplace else, it is hot somewhere and frozen some other place, it is teeming with life at some places and also dead some other place.
It is both a boon and bane, living without a home, an anchor, belonging to nowhere, with no one to go back to and nobody holding you back. Of short visits and long promises. Enjoying the impermanence and dreading it at the same time. The life with rented houses, coolers, TVs, cars and beds. The life, itself and wholly or partly, for rent.
P.S - This is a video of Fado music from Portugal, a music which very deeply signifies Saudade


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