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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Diwali Special: The idea of home amid precarious living

Exclusive: Artist Gigi Scaria writes, "At a time when the pandemic has unmoored our sense of place and comfort, what really does home mean?"

Updated: November 2, 2021 3:25:39 pm
Home is where the art is: Scaria’s brass installation Home In/Out (2021) (Courtesy: Gigi Scaria)

By Gigi Scaria

The idea of home has been at the centre of discussions and debates in a constantly changing perspective introduced by the pandemic. Many of us had come back home, never to return to the places we used to work. Many were stranded, as if stuck in limbo, never imagining that their stay would be extended for so long. Many of us felt the frustration of being back to unwelcoming homes and imposed stays. Many heaved a sigh of relief to have a home to return to and enjoy its comfort — always impossible owing to our tight work schedules and constant travel earlier.

These thoughts bring me to the question of what constitutes a home? As we all know, the answer to that question is entangled in various factors. It will never be understood in the conventional sense of the social system alone. Home is a comfort, a longing, a never-ending search for the pursuit of friendship and happiness, for mindfulness, understanding and connection with nature and family. But home is also understood by homelessness or a transit home, that offers temporary shelter; it is also a social and political construct. Home is something on sale when we look around in this vast urban reality. It is a built structure that keeps your entire life in debt to a bank or in mortgage. Nations are built on the permanent assurance to citizens that generations will be nurtured and will prosper on this land because of a secure environment for work and life. A false assurance that fell flat on the reality of internal migrations, farmers’ suicides, the widening gap of disparity between the haves and have-nots and the forced displacement from one’s land and livelihood.

The hard reality of homecoming is further blemished by the uncertainty surrounding the home itself. Returning to one’s abode may also be met with alienation and unfamiliarity. Our mind has to be constantly readjusted to own the unfamiliar. There is an unsettling condition that is brought by the pandemic to reconfigure the reality we live in — a situation where our existence is on shaky ground, living through a prolonged experience of being nowhere along with the hope of “things will be all right in a few weeks or months”. The physical stagnation propelled the mind to wander for a time being, and then stooped into depression. With an unstable mind, we are witnessing changing ecosystems, shocking political indifferences and various mutations of the same virus. Homecoming or being at home continuously threatens our ability to own a space in the world. The price we pay for being and belonging is much higher than the one for the state of permanent transit. The current system of politics and their various cooperative initiatives make every citizen a fugitive in their own country, running away from the idea of belonging, home and homeland.

(Gigi Scaria is a Delhi-based artist)

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