Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Love and Longing in Bombay blog post
Thus far, we have examined many different forms of home, and what it means to feel at home. While we have mentioned many different characteristics that home entails, a few seem to be universal to whatever category of home that one examines. Above all else, home is meant to provide a sense of security, familiarity, and comfort. These are undoubtedly defining aspects of home, and they are all implied when someone says that they feel "at home". However, through our first two readings we have already seen this notion challenged by both Chinua Achebe and Vikram Chandra. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe demonstrated to us what is left of a man when security, familiarity, and comfort are all absent in the place that he once called home. Chandra, on the other hand, examines this phenomenon in more than one way. In one case, he explores what it is like when someone actually finds themselves to be at home in the absence of all of these defining characteristics. As Shiv travels with his new wife Shanti on the train, he sits in self-reflection and recognizes that he is a changed man, and in fact embraces this change. Then he looks outward, noting that the "mountains here were unfamiliar to him, different in their age, their ridges, and the shape of their rivers" (Chandra 266). While this would not satisfy a traditional definition of home, Shiv finds comfort in the novelty of this journey that awaits him. He is excited by what prospects lie ahead of him, as he begins a new life in a different place with a new wife, and thus he is able to find home in this adventure, despite its unfamiliarity. However, like Achebe, Chandra also examines the adverse effects that can occur when home becomes unfamiliar. After losing Rajesh, Iqbal barely recognizes his city anymore, and the city seems to respond accordingly. As Iqbal's growing sorrow is reflected in the city's impending riot, he notes that "[y]ou can feel it coming, gathering in silence...the fear, the terror in the empty lanes, and the sky overhead" (219). Without Rajesh, Iqbal no longer perceives his home as the safe haven that it once was. In this scenario, the unfamiliarity does not bring Iqbal excitement, but instead, horror and anxiety. Interpreted most literally, this passage reminded me of the unrest that occurred this past Spring in Baltimore, and it leads me to wonder how the population of a city copes with watching it's home become nearly unrecognizable, even if only for a brief period of time.