It was as if all my life I had been walking towards that door. Should I let this stupid instinct override my practical brain? Or should I just turn back and keep wondering for the rest of my existence? Because whatever happens, I’ll never be able to forget it.
Usually, I am not like this. I am a straight-headed guy who puts his brain ahead of his heart. That’s the only way I survived after being dumped at an orphanage as soon as I was born. Without parents to wipe my tears and siblings to trust, I had no one to love or care for me. They say you don’t miss what you never had. I disagree.
All my life, I have worked hard to stand up on my feet. And once I could afford it with my own humble means, I have travelled across the country, stopping in places I liked, taking up odd jobs to pay for the stay. Though, not sure why, every time I felt as if something was amiss though I knew not what it was that was missing. And now that I stand in front of this door, my heart knows this is it.
But my brain warns me it is just wishful thinking. I hesitate. Honestly, this is the first time I have stepped here. I just reached the capital city of the state via bus a few hours ago. I was looking at the map for places to stay and see when I saw the name of a small village in the periphery of the city. The name caught my fancy. So, I took the next bus to visit it.
It’s a place of a fairytale—rolling green hills dotted with grazing sheep and cows, a lake with brightly coloured fishes and waterbirds, and small farmhouses. As soon as I got down at the bus stand, the fresh air hit me with full force—my breath hitched. It was surreal. The place was familiar as if I have spent all my life here and I was just returning home. Maybe, I saw it in a movie or one of the calendars in the orphanage’s office, or maybe, in my dreams when I was hoping and praying for a home. A prayer that was never answered…
Wind with a faint whiff of woodsmoke and homecooked meal pulled me on a well-beaten path. It looked familiar, like a childhood memory—there…but not really. The fields on both sides were almost ready for harvest. People worked in them as their children ran wild in muddy shoes and clothes that had seen better days. I never had that childhood but could almost picture myself in their place.
A farmhouse stands at the end of the path. The simple building is made of stone and its garden is a riot of colours. The simple door is framed with flowers…
I’m spellbound. I stand outside for an endless moment, wondering if I should knock. Deep down, I know, I must knock that door and find out who lives here, and whether I am finally ‘home’. My practical brain shouts at me to leave while I am still sane. It reminds me that I can’t find ‘home’ by knocking on random doors but my soul is tethered to this place, atleast, until I get my answer. The truth may hurt me but it will, atleast, let me leave so that I don’t spend the rest of eternity standing at a stranger’s door. So, I knock.
The door opens. An old man with kind eyes and a wide smile greets me, “Hello there, son! How can I help you?”
I hesitate, “Hi! I’m a tourist. I was just looking around and I couldn’t help coming here. You have a beautiful garden!”
His smile grows even larger until his eyes are barely visible. “Ah! My wife would be delighted to hear that. Why don’t you come in and have a cup of tea with us?”
Not waiting for my reply, he ushers me inside the simple, cozy home where an old woman with smiling eyes greets us. Probably it is the newness of it all, but their simplicity breaks through my initial reservations. As I sit sipping tea after tea with them, we talk about our lives, as if we have done it everyday—as I had dreamt of doing with my family for all these years, if I ever find them. We smile at our simple pleasures, laugh at our pain. They talk about their children and I imagine how it must have been to be raised by such wonderful people…I tell them about my own humble beginnings, laughing at the memories of bad food and caretakers who didn’t care.
They don’t offer fake sympathy. They laugh with me and offer more muffins, though they wipe their eyes secretely when they think I’m not looking.
I change the topic and talk about my traveling adventures. They talk about seasons and crops; their children who are in the city with their families, not interested in the ‘backward’ lifestyle of the village; complain about having too many rooms and no one to live in; worry about having too much estate but no one to manage in the future as they get older.
Though they don’t say it, I can sense their deep loneliness and the feeling of being discarded by their own family, and I can hear it echoing my own longing to belong…somewhere…to someone…
Sooner than I’d like, the day comes to a close. All I’ve done all day is wolf down the tea and muffins fresh from the oven, and meals twice my average meal-size, and talk to the strangers who make me feel wanted. No sight-seeing. But it feels enough, as if all my life I have travelled only to reach them. I wish I had found a connection—some relation with them, however distant—so that I had an excuse to return. Alas, no such luck. The thought of leaving makes me ache all over.
It is close to the time of the last bus to leave. Finally, I force myself to utter the words that have been weighing on my heart, “I think, I should leave now. It’s getting late.”
After an uncomfortable silence for a second, he counters, “But you never saw the place. You can’t leave until you are done sight seeing,” She joins him, “Tell you what? You stay with us for as long as you like it here. We have spare rooms. And I am baking cake tomorrow, so I’d love to have someone to share it with.”
My heart swells until it is ready to burst open but I try to tamp it down, “But I can’t impose on you. You just met me. You barely know anything about me.”
“Son, we know enough to trust you. Would you like to stay a few more days and provide company to a couple of old codgers?” His words and smile are mocking but his eyes are solemn.
Hesitating, she adds to what he said, “I know you come from the city and are used to the luxuries it offers, but maybe, you’ll like the sights and the slow pace of life here? A lot of city people are moving to villages now a days, you know. Maybe, give it a chance before you go back to live your city life?” The offers is casual but her eyes say differenly.
From the corner of my eyes, I watch him cross his fingers, and I know what I had to do. “I would love to stay longer. But be warned, I might never want to leave. Some day, you might have to throw me out forcefully,” I say jokingly while my heart thumps as if I have run a marathon, “But I have two conditions—one, you will let me work on your farm, so I can pay the rent. Two, hopefully, you’ll let me have those muffins everyday.”
He laughs out loud and claps my back while she hugs me happily.
And just like that, I’m Home.