The ephemeral place called 'home'

Temporary settlements

This is my room, my table, my home, everything is mine!’ That is how innocent sibling rivalry rolls out. When they get into a tug-of-war about owning their parents’ place, they get emotionally possessive.

Fast forward it to Delhi, 2014, “Urgently, looking to shift to a 1 BHK. No landlord interference, no brokerage, please”, read the innumerable posts searching for a new house in the numerous flat and flatmates portals online. And the story repeats, year after year, or as and when the house lease gets over, and they immerse into a nomadic lifestyle, moving every 11 months to find what they
call ‘home’.

“Familiarity breeds contempt,” says Manjari, a software professional living with her family in Noida. “Agreed that I spent the last 25 years with my family. But I need to find my own space, and break out of here. How long can I sustain my lifestyle, living
in a 2BHK with my parents and sibling?”

Manjari’s concerns emerge from the space and familial constraints that perhaps encroach on her personal freedom, but there are a number of migrants who leave their hometowns, enticed by the idea of a Metropolis, to come and stay in Delhi.
“It’s a cycle you get into. First, you tell your parents, you want to study in a big city and then you want to settle down there. Back in 2007, when I started working, I could only afford a joint flat in Khirki Extension, the place I shared with a total stranger. Then I got married and moved to a rented flat in an apartment in east Delhi. But the idea of owning a home in this city hasn’t even struck me in my wildest, fanciest dreams!” says Pranav Mahajan.

Staying in her parents’ home in Faridabad, Surbhi Kaul did all her schooling in Delhi but never thought of shifting here. She believes, “This idea of freedom doesn’t enchant me. I have seen four friends cramped into a single room in a house in Munirka. Why do we have to force ourselves and imitate a western idea if our parents
do not forcibly oust us out of our houses?”

Speaking of her suburban dreams, she says, “Living in Faridabad, as a youngster, all that I aspired to have is a car. Unlike Delhi, we do not have proper Metro connectivity.”

So what is ‘home’ for youngsters living on their own?

“It is a space that I call my own. Every year when I have to move out of a rented accommodation when the landlord increases the rent by 10 per cent, all I ask for is a small place, which may not be owned by me, but a place that I would never be moved out of again.”

“But on a paltry salary, home always remains a dream. Car, you could always own, the starting rate for a decent one is Rs 3 lakhs. You can always take it on an EMI. But home is a far cry, something I am scared to even think about. Ideally, I would marry a working woman in Delhi and together we could invest and afford a home in the suburbs,” says Zeyad Khan.

The innocent little wars over possession at home are bygones; every year when a fresh crop of students get into the tussle of joining the best colleges, they get enrolled into a life of temporary settlements, shifting from being paying guests to tenants. While the idea inspires freedom and adventure, it is both tantalising and dangerous to the ones who get to live it.

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