Where is “home”, really? My husband and I had a discussion about this the other day after he noticed I recently listed Bombay as my hometown. “Hometown means where you’re from,” he explained.
“Exactly,” I quickly replied. “I’m from Bombay. When I go somewhere the place I return to– my home– is Bombay.”
“No, I mean where you’re from originally,” he said, with not a little exasperation in his voice. He knows where these types of conversations go.
“But I haven’t lived there since high school. I don’t own property there, don’t have friends there, and just don’t see it as my home anymore.” We both got quiet for a minute as the deeper meaning of the question began to settle into our minds. Where is “home”, really?
Home has been many places at many moments. As a student my home home was my parents’ house. As a recent college graduate, eager to create my own life, home meant my new apartment. During times of transition home has also referred to hotel rooms, a neighbor’s house, or my friend’s living room floor. For many years home was my grandparents’ house, the one place in the world where I felt most loved, most accepted, and most cared for.
In my process of exploring what home means to me, I have often reflected on the classic film “The Wizard of Oz”. Dorothy sets out on the classic hero’s journey of Separation, Initiation, and Return after she is thrust into an unfamiliar and sometimes scary environment. Along the way she meets companions who are on their own journeys. Together they rally to bravely confront their deepest fears and meet the challenges posed by adversaries. In the end their wishes are granted not by the omnipotent (or impotent) Wizard of Oz, but through the realization of their personal transformation. The prizes they sought– Courage, Love, Intelligence, and Home– were in fact inside them all along.
What Dorothy learns through her epic adventure is what I have often recalled during my first year here in India. At the end of the film Dorothy discovers that she never really left her family home in Kansas. The grand transformation she experienced was the result not of an outward journey but an inward one. “Home”, she realizes, is not a place but a state of being.
As I approach my second year in Bombay, I keep in mind that “Home” is less where I am than who I am. I remember that sometimes the greatest adversaries or most challenging situations are actually the very things I need to grow more fully into who I am. And, like Dorothy and her companions, I remember that the Big Journey isn’t somewhere outside of me. It is in fact a journey to my Self, to the heart of who I am.