Originally written for: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/offthecuff/going-back-home-will-never-be-the-same-1.1267375
My head is bent low over my phone, and I am totally absorbed as my fingers nimbly tap the screen with a definite sense of purpose. I look busy; indeed it would be easy to (mistakenly) think that I am in fact the CEO of a large corporation. Of course I am faking it. There’s no one I am chatting to, and absolutely no one that I am emailing at this time of the evening. Yet, what else can I do to inconspicuously merge with the decor at this woebegone party where I feel about as comfortable as a ballet dancer on a football pitch? Thank God for internet and for smartphones!
Soon enough though, a long lost cousin wanders up to my chair, the chair that I have carefully chosen which is to the extreme left of the hall, hidden behind a large table. My attempts at blending with the decor do not appear to be working particularly well and I pretend to be delighted as we catch up. I steal an anxious glance at my phone but remain resolutely polite. She finally walks away and I breathe out.
So you’ve probably guessed that I’m not quite the party animal, to put it mildly. When we go home for the holidays, I find that there are parties to attend left, right and centre. Everyone who was single is getting married, those that got married last year are going to have a baby, and those that aren’t celebrating something decide to throw a party for no particular reason except sheer boredom. That means yours truly must attend parties, armed with the right gifts, and smile till the cheeks hurt and know just what to say to the million relatives and acquaintances omnipresent in such places.
I am usually squirming in discomfort at social gatherings, but the fact that they eat up valuable vacation time when I go back home annoys me. My main reason for travelling to Karachi is to meet my dad, my sister and her family, and my inlaws too. I do sometimes go on shopping excursions as well (persuaded by said sister), but the fact that I truly and sincerely hate shopping hardly helps. This time, as I get ready for a short trip back home, I am hoping to spend some quality time with the family.
Bringing back memories
There is of course another thing about my hometown that attracts me.
The house. The big old rambling house that I grew up in, the place that has always felt like home, for as far back as I can remember. Each room reminds me of countless anecdotes and stories growing up and the old mosaic floors and the big desktop computer look as though they belong to another era. Yet no place in the world could be as cozy as this unique haven of security. But this time, by a strange twist of fate, I won’t be visiting the house.
My father, now being the only occupant of the once full house decided to sell it. He now lives in a much smaller, but far more manageable house and I can no longer walk into ‘my room’ and feel 16 again. One thing about the house was that you could practically feel mum everywhere — the curtains, the furniture, the kitchen, even the crockery would remind one incessantly of mum. It feels as though a great chunk of bittersweet memories have gone away with the house.
I wonder if the new place will feel anything like home. It has been a few months since the house has been sold off, yet whenever I dream about mum, or about the family, I invariably find myself in the old house. It is weird because the place doesn’t even belong to us anymore. Between the parties and family time, I wonder if I’ll have time to just drive over to the old place and gaze at the huge, ancient tamarind tree that hides the facade of the structure. I hope the people who live there now realise what a special place it is.
PS: For more on the house, and for its photos, click here: http://mehmudahrehman.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/d8-i-miss-you/