Sunday, 15 June 2008

Fera

The title of this blog is inspired by a book I read long back. “Fera” or “The Return” is one of the lesser known novels of one of the most controversial contemporary writer, Taslima Nasreen. It was by fluke that I came across this book and read it. I read it in its original version and fell in love with it immediately. It deals with the issue of belonging. And probably that is why I fell in love with it. It talks about a lady's journey back to her hometown after 40 years, now a foreign country, in search of the “home” she lost. She of course returns disappointed. It was at this point that I always felt I could relate to her. Her eternal desire to go home was something which struck a cord with me.

And today after 5 years I went in search of the home that I left behind, the place of my birth, the place where I grew up the place I will always call home, the only place I will ever call home, Shillong. After all clich├ęd though it might sound I believe that “home is where the heart is”. So after a lot of thinking and rethinking I decided that this was one journey I had to undertake. I feared I would be disappointed just like the lady in the book but I would never know for sure until I went there. So with a camera, a book some goodies and a sweater packed in my rucksack I took the taxi to Shillong from Guwahati. It was a bad bumpy ride without any company. I spent some time of the 3 long hours reading my book and some time gazing at the spectacular view outside. In spite of all the discomfort I was happy I had decided to go. I had heard so much from friends about how Shillong had changed in the past few years, how commercialized it had become, how big city like it felt, now I would finally see it for myself.

Shillong did look a little different when I first set eyes on it. Yes, a little smaller, a little newer, there were new shops and new people on the roads. I tried hard but saw no familiar faces; the few I did see looked a little older, a little withdrawn and were completely unable to recognize me. The roads looked a little barren, devoid of trees; my favourite pines didn’t adorn as many roads as it did earlier. They had been cut to make way for traffic I believe. The concrete jungle was also encroaching into Shillong. The quaint, endearing Assam style houses were becoming fewer and fewer. They were probably too expensive or maybe just not stylish enough these days.

So did I find the Shillong that I was looking for? Yes, I did. Unlike the lady in the book I found my home. I did not find the house that we grew up in the house where my Dad grew up, that has probably changed beyond recognition, remodeled by the new owner. Honestly I did not have the courage to go there, that would have been too much for me to handle, I am sure. Shillong did look very different with new faces and all but it felt the same. I might sound corny but it still has this warmth which you feel when you reach home. After all home, maybe is more than a house you live in, it’s a sense of belonging, a sense of being one with the place where you are standing and being able to blend in and feel like there is no place you need to reach at the end of the day. I felt like that when I stood in Shillong, breathing in the sweet smelling air without a care in the world. I knew then I would return here time and again, no matter how many trees were uprooted, how many new faces swarmed the streets, how many buildings cropped up on the roads. Shillong is, was, and will always be my home.