Sunday, March 8, 2009

Restless rain

Dark gray clouds threaten the angry sky above me. The raindrops continue to pound noisily against the rooftop just as they have all morning long. A silver bolt of lightening darts through the sky, its silvery whiteness brightening up a dark gloomy day, if only just for a moment. A loud roar of thunder escapes through the clouds, its resonating boom waking up the quietness of a lazy afternoon. I gaze out of the window and watch the water puddles swallow up the ground beneath them, growing bigger in size, one quick raindrop at a time.

When I lived in Kenya, rainy days made me feel happy inside, in an ethereal, dreamy sort of way. There is something extremely satisfying about watching the first of the long rains of the season end a stubborn drought. The dry thirst of an entire savannah quenches up before your eyes, as the yellow brown ruggedness magically transforms itself into a luscious green. Back then, I found rains inspiring. They quenched the thirst of my own parched soul. This Midwestern winter storm that rages around me just doesn’t soothe my soul quite the same way. Instead it makes me unbearably sad. And restless. And extremely homesick. Except that, for the longest time, I’ve been wandering around lost, and just can’t seem to find where home is.


Splat! I stomp through mud puddles, a spunky five year old, dressed in my favorite bright yellow rain coat, holding on tightly to my mother’s finger as I skip along the road. We run from one side of the pavement to the other, hiding under the rooftops of various stores along the way, seeking shelter from the monsoon rains. The streets are already starting to flood and I’m just happy that school has been cancelled for the day. As we pause for a break through the rain under a rooftop, I spot a man roasting singodas (chestnuts) on a charcoal stove along the side of the road, a big red umbrella covering both him and the singodas and the stove all at once. The earthy smell of the fresh roasted singodas wafts its way through the raindrops towards me. It’s my favorite street food of all. “Pleeease mum, can we buy some? Pleease? Pleeease?” I beg and plead. “Okay, okay…we’ll get some.” She gives in. “But you can’t eat any until you get home. You’ll get the black soot all over you.”

In that moment, beneath the flimsy shelter of a roadside store rooftop, basking in the warm heat emanating from a charcoal stove, watching the monsoon rains flood the crowded street ahead of me, reveling in the thoughts of eating hot singodas once I got home, I felt completely at home. It was the only home I had ever known.

Mumbai, India. Where countless memories of a carefree childhood lie buried. Where the earliest of my memories were formed. Is this home?


We’ve been driving in circles for the past hour. The rain continues to drum a steady beat atop the Range Rover as the windshield wipers sway wildly back and forth frantically trying to clear away every drop. Long branches from the trees around us reach out and grab at the windows of the car, scratching it as we drive along the narrow dirt trails carved into the forest. In the midst of the thunderstorm, the forest ahead of us looks dark and eerie and we are by all counts lost. Lost in Mau Forest. I regret ever coming out here today. I regret my year long internship with the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). We had gone into the forest to search for the mouth of a river, had found and marked the origin of the river but lost ourselves on our way out of the forest. We didn’t have any food with us, no water and we were slowly running out of gas. And the steady rain made it impossible to see through the forest ahead of us. What was I thinking when I had decided to go along? A herd of gazelles suddenly bursts out of the thick forest around us, interrupting my thoughts, darting out from the trees on one side of the narrow road, disappearing into the nothingness on the other side of the road. I never should have come.

And then all of a sudden, the forest gets thinner, and the narrow trail opens up and we look through the rain to see a small village dotted with mud huts along the edge of the forest. We search around for someone to ask directions from and then we see her. She sits by the doorway of her mud hut, watching the rain pour down, patting to sleep a baby wrapped up in a bright purple khanga around her chest. She looks at us with curiosity as we approach her, her face lighting up into a bright smile as she realizes that we’re just lost. She invites us into her cow dung plastered mud home as she calls out to her husband to help us. “Mzungu! Mzungu!” a bunch of small children surround us, touching our face, feeling our hair, exclaiming in joyful astonishment over how different it is from their own African features. As I stood in the doorway of her mud hut, sheltered from the rain, I felt safe once again. I felt at home.

Kenya. Where I first discovered what I wanted out of life. Where I first learnt to pursue my dreams. Where I truly grew up. Is this my home?


And then there is this angry Midwestern winter rainstorm that I watch outside my window today, that bears an eerie resemblance to all the storms in my life that I’ve weathered over the past few years to create a career and a life for myself here.

America. The country that I came to in the hopes of turning dreams into a reality. The country that showed me a secret courage I didn’t know I possessed. After having lived here for eight years of my life, shouldn’t this be my home? And if it is truly home, then why does this storm outside sadden me, and make me miss home today?


Living segments of my life simultaneously on three very different, diverse continents allows me to soar free amidst them, opening up my life to cultures and customs so different from and yet so alike to one another. And for that unique perspective of a free flowing life, I’ll always be grateful. But it also gives me the saddest feeling of fitting in everywhere and yet truly belonging nowhere. Each of these places that I’ve lived in, that I’ve grown up in, that I’ve had life changing experiences in, holds on to bits and pieces of my soul, but there is none that my soul stakes its claim on. I recognize the turbulence of the storm outside. I recognize the restlessness it brings. It’s time for me and my gypsy soul to move along, in search of a new home. I’ll wander. I’ll roam. I’ll search some more. And perhaps I’ll realize that while there is no one place that I can call home, all these places that make me me together define home.

~vagabond~ © 2009

PS. This post was eerily written around the same time that Bindu asked "where is home?". She has an extremely interesting post (read it here) answering the same question. Bindu, you have my answer now.