What Makes a Home
Read in Telugu: ఒక కట్టడం ఇంటిగా మారాలంటే…??
When we utter the word “home,” it conjures memories of comfort, companionship, and love. For most of people, though they have lived in different homes in the course of their lives, the most important one seems to be the home they grew up in. This is probably so because from childhood to adolescence and adulthood, our perceptions and perspectives of life are changing far more dramatically than in any other phase of life. It is a time when we explore different ways to experience our surroundings. Therefore, the ambiance of the home that supports and nurtures us in this period of our life naturally sticks in our minds in a much more profound way than many other things that we may see and experience later on.
I still vividly remember the different homes I have been in from an early age. My grandfather’s home was a kind of zamindari residence with a history of a few generations behind it. It was spacious and exuded power. Almost everything that happened in that region happened from this home. My father’s home, by contrast, was one of quietness, comfort, companionship, and love, but no great happenings. Then I crisscrossed India on my motorcycle. Almost all the time, except for a few days when I camped somewhere, I just knocked on someone’s door and said, “I’m hungry.” They fed me, and either I left, or they asked me to shower and rest there. Generally, they did not even want to know my name, nor did I inquire about who they were. Still, there was a fantastic rapport. We spent a few hours together, I slept there, and the next morning, I was gone. In different ways, these experiences cultured my own understanding of a home.
Building a home is a fundamental human need. Unlike other creatures, who are largely equipped to live their lives from the moment they are born, we need a lot of culturing to become full-fledged human beings. It is the incubator we call home which cultivates us to become human. The most important aspect of this incubation is inclusiveness. A home is a place that nurtures the few people who live and grow up in it. At the same time, it becomes a home because its doors are open to many others – family, friends, business partners, and whoever else the residents may have some kind of relationship with. Of course, some come to stay – particularly sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. Sometimes, wanderers like me slip in and out. I am a homeless person, in many ways. Most of the time, I live in other people’s homes, not in the home I built. When life incapacitates me a little more, maybe I will stay home.
I have been in homes with over four hundred family members. They may not have known everyone else’s names, but they sort of knew who they were. Generations of people used to live under one roof. People were born, grew up, got married, reproduced, and died in the same house. But not anymore – every generation moves into a new home. For various reasons, people frequently relocate today, which was not the case a few generations ago when societies were predominantly agricultural and mobility was limited. Our lifestyles, our work situations, and the world as a whole are quite different today. The physical structures and the aesthetics may have changed, but the fundamental value of what makes a home remains the same. A home should nurture a deeper dimension of inclusiveness. You need to learn to include and accept if not the entire world, at least those few people who are your world.
The people who live with us are not perfectly the way we want them, and they never will be. If you come to terms with that, you will be able to know life beyond what you think about it. A home should culture you for life, so that when you step out in the world, you are far more inclusive. Living together gives you the opportunity to learn to accept many things. But as the level of education increases, you lose the ability to let someone overstep your boundaries. If someone as much as touches you, either they are finished or you are finished. This is the kind of culture we are headed towards. We are fortunate that in this generation, we still have a certain dimension of inclusiveness. It was inculcated in us in our homes, where the lives of our siblings, friends, and family overlapped ours in many ways, and that was perfectly fine.
Though most homes in the world are built for comfort, companionship, love, and togetherness, in India, we had a special element to them. There was a time when every single home was consecrated. It was considered truly negative and uncaring to have people live in a space that did not offer the necessary atmosphere for wellbeing, growth, and inner blossoming. Therefore, every home had a consecrated space. Today, remnants of that are still there, though much has changed in the last few generations. My great-grandmother’s pooja room, for example, was the largest room in the house. There, she sang, danced, cried, laughed, and did all kinds of things. My grandmother shrank the pooja room to half the size. When my mother set up home elsewhere, the pooja room became a little smaller than a toilet. And when my daughter set up her home, the pooja room became just a rack on the wall.
Before my eyes, the significance of the Divine shrank in these four or five generations – from the largest room in the house to a rack on the wall. I am sure in the next generation, the rack will also disappear. This has happened because from being able to transform the energy of a space in a powerful way through the science of consecration and consequently transform lives, overtime, we came down to very basic forms, the meaning of which we were not able to explain to the next generation. What did not make sense to them, they naturally began to reject. A few hundred years ago, either your priest, your pundit, your guru, or your scriptures thought for you. Today, a whole lot of people are thinking for themselves. Whether they are thinking straight or not is another question, but at least they are thinking for themselves.
Once you start thinking for yourself, you cannot swallow anything that is not logically correct, no matter what kind of authority says it. We are transforming the world from authorities being the truth to truth being the authority. This is a good transition, but the in-between space can be a barren place. This reflects in our homes, where many things that used to represent our heritage, history, and culture, many knick-knacks which tell stories that not everyone is able to interpret correctly, are getting dumped by the next generation because they do not make sense to them. This is the nature of the intellect – it dissects everything. If I want to know you, dissection is definitely not the best way, but that is what the intellect continuously does. A lot of things may not make any logical sense, but they may make a lot of life sense. People, things, and structures that are part of your home need not make logical sense – still they mean the world to you.
Homes have to become incubation spaces which nurture the realization that ultimately, the only home a human being can really know is within. If you do not realize in this lifetime that the ultimate home is within, then the only home you will know will be the grave. That something does not make logical sense to you does not mean it should not exist. This is an understanding that a home is constantly culturing us towards. What one person likes, another person dislikes, and vice versa. Still, because you live in the same home, you come to terms with that. You do not have to try to like it. Learning to live with things you do not like is a huge lesson in life. A home brings us to a place. If you want everyone and everything one hundred percent the way you think they should be, no one will want to be around you.
In my efforts to consecrate as many homes as possible, we create the necessary energy that enables you to realize it is not the walls, not the décor, not the smells, sounds, and taste that define a particular home. Ultimately, a home is a space that is supposed to turn you inward and allow you to experience that there is only one home, which is within. That home is neither yours nor mine. If you turn inward, you become super inclusive. It is only in being identified with our body and mind that we have clear-cut boundaries of “you” and “I.” If you turn inward, there will be a profound sense of inclusiveness in you. A home should culture that inclusiveness. It is not the opulence of the structure but the inclusiveness of the people which makes a home.