Our home is such an essential part of our existence that sometimes the importance of it can get overlooked, which is why I want to delve into what ‘home’ means for so many of us. I wanted to gauge peoples’ reactions and learn their thoughts, so I posted a story poll on Instagram and asked two key questions I thought would help me get a grasp on this topic; “what is your understanding of the meaning behind home” and “what does home mean to you”?
A wide range of themes were brought up, from spiritual and emotional, to a home being a specific place or person. ‘Home’ is such a broad concept that it is very difficult to pinpoint its meaning.
It has been officially defined as ‘the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household’, referring to a physical space that you can call your own.
Personally, I feel that there are several factors which contribute to the concept of home, for me there are a few locations which I would call my home; the house that I was brought up in Portsmouth, the city in which I studied for my undergraduate degree and worked my first graduate office job in, my mother’s childhood home, and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Leave me in any of these places and I will feel at home, but I also need my family with me. I feel at peace when I am with my loved ones. Although I was in London for my studies and work, I felt alone because my family was not physically there with me, I longed to be with them and this is the reason behind why I returned to Portsmouth. My aunt visited us during the holidays and I asked her about what ‘home’ meant to her and she said that it is a place that you can call your own, that you can decorate and reshape as you wish, reflecting your identity on to your house. I probed her to talk about her childhood home and she spoke about how she will always yearn for it, how she sometimes dreams about picking mangoes from the yard, and certain areas in her home invoked fond memories growing up.
The most common theme that came up in the answers was of feeling welcomed, and certain people that made them feel at home.
One person mentioned that home is ‘a place of comfort and acceptance, where no one can tell you to leave or make you feel like an alien.’ It is important to be able to feel comfortable in your own skin and to be accepted by your family. If your family does not accept you for who you are, who can you turn to? Comfort and happiness are key components to making a home – sometimes people can truly only be themselves when they’re in the company of those who accept them and are in familiar surroundings. Home is a place that you feel accepted by those around you, and more importantly, by yourself. A few people had a religious outlook and stated that their goal is Jannah, so it becomes a place that one longs for.
One of my friends, Raiyan Ali, came up with a wonderful analogy about his ancestral home:
“My ancestral home is like a port, and we are like boats coming in to anchor ashore whenever we can to the place that holds together so many bonds and relationships and feelings together so that we never lose touch.”
You feel nostalgic when you return to your paternal or maternal grandparents’ homes, you start to reminisce about the games you played when you were young, the crying, the laughter, and celebrating how full the house was! All the extended family members gather in one place and there is always so much light and cheerful banter. We also return to our parents’ motherland when a close relative passes away. The atmosphere changes and you can feel their absence.
Raiyan also states that on returning to the ancestral home, ‘it revitalises us, charges our batteries, and feeds our soul.’ We are reminded of our roots and we appreciate everything that our parents have done for us.
Following on from understanding our roots and traditional values that our parents hold dear to their hearts, a key south-Asian tradition that is often upheld is the perception of daughters living in their father’s home temporarily. It is believed that they are destined to get married when it is their right time and they will make their home at their husband’s house. Does this resonate with women living in the UK today? For me, I have felt at home in many places, but I will always see my father’s home as my own as I have spent most of my life here. I have never been made to feel that I do not belong, and I am grateful for that. I know that there are a few women who have not been treated the same, their parents have traditional values and want to fulfill their duty by ensuring that their daughter has settled down.
I now pose the same question I asked my followers, what does home mean to you?
Jennifa Chowdhury is a British Bengali motivator who loves connecting with people through her love for photography. Being the founder of @photowalkfamily she has empowered participants to host their own photo walks. She has a strong passion for stories about India and the South Asian diaspora from the time of Partition. Jennifa is Portsmouth-based, with a BA (Hons) in English and History from Queen Mary, University of London. Instagram: @sweetjrc