Vacating a house that one made into a home is a painful thing. In the weeks before this happens, I leave my space in disarray on purpose. It’s as if I can’t bear for it to be perfect – a space so imbued with my energy, my signature, that an intuitive friend who visited a couple of months after I moved in said it was like I’d already lived here for years. Such perfection is futile, for it is finite. I don’t know yet where I will next roost, only that there is a deadline by which to find it.
So there’s a ruthlessness in the way I look at my belongings, and in how I’ve decided to pare the contents of my wardrobe and my bookshelves down. Clearing of this nature has meaningful emotional ramifications. I will not do it sensibly, so I leave it for later. The weeks tick by, but I refuse to start packing until I know where I will unpack. Someone who has known me for a very long time links it to trauma during my teenage years when I repeatedly lived out of boxes. But that’s not why.
Now, it’s because when I place each thing into a carton, I want to hold the foreknowledge of how it will exist in the time to come. Of whether the window that this curtain will cover will bring in light from the west, for I love to read in such light in the late afternoon. Of whether this painting I made still feels true to who I want to be in that environment, and whether I will paint more in my new surroundings. Of whether I myself will move through that space with a sense of certainty, or only a sense of having borrowed something.
The knowledge of how it feels to feel at home is a luxury. I’ve lost so many homes in my life and not always known that’s what they were until after. But not this time.
A long time ago, I was a month-long guest in a community where the residents moved out of their rooms to make space for their visitors. I made friends with the person whose room I occupied, and he told me that he’d coped with his eviction because someone had told him to imagine that a magical person would come and fill his room with their energy, and it would linger after they left. My friend still uses that word for me: magical. Someone will live in this space I have lived in, and for a little while the love I put into it will brighten it like the scent of bergamot.
Before all that though, the pigeons I’ve struggled with for years, refusing to get the wire meshing that would keep them out but make me feel cooped in, will inherit my precious balcony. Alas, they win! But then, the landlord’s son will inherit them, and all their colonising crap. So I’ll win too. And I’ll move away with my magic, and my sparkle, and this new skill I didn’t learn from birds but taught myself somehow: how to build a nest.
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on July 26th 2018. “The Venus Flytrap” appears on Thursdays in Chennai’s City Express supplement.