What defines a home?
We often regard home as the physical place in which one permanently lives – barring the occasional vacation through which one seeks respite in some other temporary, idyllic accommodation – sometimes changing as one moves, in tandem with the updating of addresses. Yet, does the sense of home necessarily have to reside within the physical, material realm? Could the notion of home in fact transcend into our inner worlds, brimming with the magic of surrealism and intangibility, a place where we find, or become, ourselves?
Home has less to do with a piece of soil than a piece of soul.
Could home not lie in the little things, moments, people? Could home not be something we feel, rather than something that is, manifesting in the emotions it evokes from deep within us? In the course of my over two decades of existence on this earth, I have travelled to 47 countries, resided for varying periods of time in three, and whenever I am asked to declare my home address in the forms I fill, I find myself at a loss as to what to pen down.
Home, to me, exists in a medley of inexhaustible forms. For this single line on which I am to state my home, should I write, for instance, “the little, safe space under my duvet in the quiet of the night that offers me immeasurable comfort”, or, “the songs that I play on repeat, over and over, when travelling in a place with which I had fallen in love”? How should I consider this notion of home that reveals itself in the moments I reunite with dear friends, or connect so seamlessly with strangers, from lands faraway, or, when I fortuitously come across a poem which wields the power to evoke within me intense emotions from a time past? What should I make of this feeling, this inexplicable knowing that I have finally found and arrived home, each time I read the words that flutter from your extraordinary mind?
Home is neither here nor there.
Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
– Hermann Hesse
Is it strange that we could be living in a single city nearly our entire lives, yet not thoroughly know the place down to its very core, to every little nook and cranny, to each cultural nuance that might exist, not being able to lay claim to have understood it so completely or related to it so deeply insofar as it firmly entrenches an indubitable sense of home in our hearts? In a city that evolves faster than the eye could perceive, whose landscape and architecture could change almost in a blink of an eye, is it then even possible for us to continually hold a strong grasp over what such a place means, and relates, to us? A lush expanse of greenery or a new cluster of skyscrapers could lie right before our eyes, pleading for our attention each time we look out of the window, but we, the perceivers, seeing yet not seeing, somehow manage to miss it each time, until it is one day markedly pointed out to us by the eyes of a foreigner.
Perhaps, one finds home neither in the material splendour of new buildings and iconic landmarks, nor in the festivals which purportedly add to the vibrancy or even identity of a city, but rather, in the small, intangible things: the hidden, the obscure, and the not-so-glamourous. We find home in that which makes us feel; that here, in a forgotten, nondescript corner of a bustling metropolis, as the rest of the world falls away, looking into our lovers’ twinkling eyes, we are home.
– Agnes Chew