Ihad always found comfort in my home in Chandigarh. After marriage, I had three places I could call my home — the place where my husband and I resided, my parents’ home and my in-laws’. A nagging question came to my mind one day, where did I truly belong? Is it possible to belong to more than one place? A place is the main element of identity for humans and social belongingness is a fundamental human need hardwired in our DNA linked to our happiness and well-being.
Our interests, motivation, health and joy are inextricably tied to the feeling that we belong to a place and a greater community that may share common interests and aspirations. This also leads an individual to adopt some of the same behaviours and attitudes to conform and gain greater acceptance.
I remember how when we had gone to Halflong, the headquarters of Dima Hasao district, a small hill town of Assam — 20 years after my father had served at the place — while walking through the busy market street, we heard a shout directed at my mother, asking her if she was indeed the wife of Mr Kumar who had once been the Deputy Commissioner of the town. We were astounded. How was it that a shopkeeper, after two decades, had succeeded in recognising my mother!
It made me realise that the beauty and the madness of it all is that there is no place where you truly belong, but the feelings in all the places and community that you live in create an everlasting bond. Here was one such memory, a feeling infused with the perfume of the past. Not just because how it was simply existing, enduring with time, but because we seemed to hold within ourselves the weight of an old, wise norm that our mere existence does not necessitate our belonging. But our actions do. We are all born with an innate power to make a lasting imprint in this world — to carve out a place where we belong, however humble, and that aches for us when we leave. A place that grows with us and fits us. It's a place that we create ourselves through sharing our hearts and minds.
What is important is that it needs to come alive within us. We need to bleed into it and leave a lasting impression, and these are the nuances that need to be archived in life. I asked my mother how she felt being a Punjabi who had spent half her life in Assam. She sighed, pouring into herself countless Assamese memories, habits and teachings that had become a part of her Punjabi way of life and exclaimed: ‘I belong to them and they to me, and that feeling, devoid of place and physical structure, is true belongingness.’ Our life is all about cultivating relations that create belongingness through the remnants that we leave, wherever we live.
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