Anybody Home?

When I thought two weeks ago what I would do over my winter break, the thing that was foremost in my mind was this blog. I was going to write to my heart's content. I was even planning to attempt another poem after months of being inspirationally barren. I was going to edit a friend's novel. I was going to cook. At least I did that along with cuddling with my baby endlessly.

I also did a lot of thinking. And I mean A LOT.

Most of the thinking was fueled by the terrible news I've been reading, both domestic and international. Dangerous and melodramatic questions like "What is the meaning of this all?" and "What will become of us?" kept me awake at night. Most nights, I was not able to fall asleep before 3AM. It was like someone had constructed a long winding staircase in my brain. Every night, I opened a door and ended up at the topmost stair. It was a long fruitless task to make my way one step at a time downward. I gained nothing, but I could not help myself. I did not have the discipline to hold back, wait a little, just stop. 

Before sleeping, my last thoughts were usually "I never want to go back home" or simple old-fashioned nostalgia, but I felt nostalgic for this moment, my present (aptly described by Gretchen Rubin in her new book Happier At Home). This is my perfect time, the three of us together, happy, content. But what about that nagging negative? Not wanting to go home? Isn't this home? Is Lahore, even after all these years, still home? 

The answer came to me suddenly just now. I was making my way down the wretched staircase when a realization dawned on me like a wave on a cold Northern California beach hits your feet and knocks the wind out of you. I must, no, I need to go home. I need to go back to Lahore. I need to go back and fret and worry and get food poisoning and obsess over Jahan's health and breathe in that air and taste that food and...

It has been ten years. 10 years. A decade. That is a long time to not see your father's face. It is a long time to be away from the ones you believe you still love even if you don't feel the love. I need to go back just to know if my father's hugs feel the same as they used to, one arm loosely around me, while I hugged him back with both arms holding on for dear life, dear love. I need to go back to see if the street I grew up on still looks the same, if jasmines still bloom everywhere, and if the Moon Market still has the same kebab-walla and Chinese-walla. I need to go home for reasons both big and small, but mostly I need to see the faces I can't picture anymore when I close my eyes. 

There are very important reasons for the three of us to go to Lahore - Jahan still has not met most of our family - but that is not my reason. That is one reason, which is also an obligation, but it is not the cause that draws me towards Lahore tonight. It is not what calls to me as I sit in my comfortable house with central heating and readily available gas and hot water.

My reasons, as I said, are big and small. I must see my father's eyes. I must taste Lahori barbecue. I must visit the Lahore Fort. I must embrace the only living grandparent we have left - Usman's grandmother. And even if I get food poisoning and if Jahan gets sick, I will give her a taste of the street food of my city, so help me god.