I want to go home

Ghar jana hai - I want to go home - are three words that I heat twice yesterday. Simple words that could have been said innocuously by anyone. But in this case these three anodyne, words took on a whole new meaning as they were mouthed by what one may call homeless souls.

The first one to whisper these words was a little seven year old a.k.a Utpal. He is home for his end of school year break. Home in this case is our women centre. Since its inception in October 2007 it has been the place where little Utpal has come each holiday. Sometimes his mom is there, and sometimes not as has been the case the last three times he came. She is once again in rehab. But the tiny rooms of the women centre are replete with things that make a place home be it the heap of toys, many broken, the cupboards filled with clothes - his and his mommy's - the little shrine where mom prays not to forget the TV and all the favourite programmes. It is also where each one tries to make sure that mom is not missed each time the little boy lands for a few days. Kind Roshni aunty who makes all the special treats, or the 3 bhaiyyas - Rajesh, Ashish and Parth who spend the night with him in turns. And of course home is where all the little pals wait for the prodigal pal!

Yesterday I took Utpal for the mandatory shopping spree. We had to buy new shoes, new clothes and a host of things that the school wanted. Once the shopping done, I decided to bring him to my home so that he could meet my little grandson and spend some time with us. Now a two month baby is not really what interests a 7 year old. After the cookies and the cold drink and then lunch, everyone settled down for an afternoon nap. The house was silent and the little boy did not quite know what to do. A while later he came to me and whispered in my year: I want to go home.

I must confess that at first I felt a little peeved. Was this not home too? And was there not a time when this was the place this very little boy pined for? But then I realised that a lot of water had flowed and that rather than feel vexed I should be elated as one of the things I most wanted for this little boy was to give him a real home, and never mind if mommy was not there all the time, the women centre was his real home. A few phone calls later, Utpal was set to leave. I hugged him tight and he whispered into my years: come to my home tomorrow. The house felt strangely empty for a while...

Later in the day Shamika and Rani came back from the hospital where Manu is fighting for his life. Upon my enquiring how he was they said that he looked better and kept repeating to them: ghar jana hai.-I want to go home. The same words again but murmured this time but one whose home for years had been the street. The one for whom I had conjured a dream and fulfilled it. For Manu home was not where he spent almost 4 decades, but the little flat he had lived in for barely a year, the one he shared with his friends and roomies. The ones he missed as he lay in a lonely hospital ward. I decided to do everything possible to ensure that he returns home as soon as possible.

Two lost souls were pinning for what they called home. Homes we had crafted with love and care in the hope that they would assuage the years of pain and hurt and make up for all the lost years. Today three tiny words proved that we had succeeded. The remnant of sadness at not having a little boy spend more time with me lifted and was replaced by a feeling of joy and contentment. I too was home.

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