An essay i read on 27 April 2016
A hectic week of buying, sorting out and ticking off of the list, and packing; with farewell dinners and teas thrown in for good measure; found me sitting in the GTS bus for a journey to Abbottabad, with the proverbial pae’tie (tin trunk) and canvas bistar bund (bed roll) loaded on the top of the bus – yes in those days of non AC Foton and Daewoo busses the luggage was carried on the roof top rack!
And so on the evening of 4th June 1969, I reached Abbottabad, got into a waiting military truck along with a few other gangly kids for the 15 minute or so ride to the Pakistan Military Academy.
The next many years were spent serving between Somiani on the Arabian Sea to Siachen, the highest battle ground in the world and having the best of times.
Home was the sarkari ghar allotted – setting it up, decorating it, living and entertaining in it, till the time came to pack and move and the process restarted.
In all this setting up homes and moving from city to city, somewhere at the back of the mind was the picture of “back home” – the home I left in 1969 and visited once a year every year, meeting the permanent inhabitants of that home, my parents.
Welcoming us as they would do guests – who would soon go back to the alien world they came from and life would come back to the normal without such intrusions.
Of course there were unscheduled visits back home also, deaths and marriages called for our presence – obediently following the rituals returned to our life outside this cocoon of our youth!
In all these changes the only constant being a flower pot with a money plant planted in soil which like the money plant was taken from the flower bed back home.
And then as they say life came full circle and it was time to finish the business in alien lands and return home.
Roots tugged, I now wonder if it were the soil calling the money plant or home calling me?
Visions of walls with antiques, paintings, artifacts and rooms large enough to accommodate the whole house that we had lived in flashed in my mind. An empty nest was easy to pack for having lost my better half and knowing back home was also without the mother was hard; yet knowing I would be welcome to the home of my youth, missed for forty seven years but not acknowledged for fear of nostalgia intervening and making life difficult.
And then the off white walls of the house and the memories, and the laughter of days gone by, and the mischief filled hours, all started to pale before the reality of life back home; where once my youth thrived now lived a lost in nostalgia old man who responded to my calling him Daddy with a smile, and occasionally with stories of an age gone by.
And “back home” was no longer the colorful and joyous memories kept alive for forty seven years, but back home was blue.
I could not sit and enjoy things happening around me, because nothing happened unless I did it. Reality.
Reality also was that now I was no longer the same gangly footloose and fancy free boy of 1969, but a weather beaten experienced and rubbed on the wrong side by life garrulous, grumpy getting on in years man.
Reality was being called uncle or sir gee in shopping malls as I took time to read labels to see if the ingredients were good for me or not.
As I sat and thought about rediscovering home, I wondered if I was somehow thinking of and writing about what a few years from today my children would be experiencing when they came “back home” from their sojourns in foreign lands?
And I cringed, and wrote about rediscovering home.
Only this became back home blues.