Today’s sunset had seemed quite urgent, a tiger-like shade of orange. Absolutely remarkable, and its light had managed to find its way right into our car, without losing any of its aureate urgency. Mazhar in the driver’s seat, singing along to his ‘sad boi hours’ tunes. Maryam screaming impatiently at poor reluctant Moosa, trying to get him to photograph the sunset from his window for her.
As the car ascended up the hill, the sun (and with such grace) began to dip its head beneath this vastness of greenery. The trees, in all their rugged glory, their winding bones, coiled in some parts, outstretched this way and that, in others. And the fields, expansive, bucolic, majestic, interrupted only by emerald pool of water, an iridescent-seeming lake.
We found ourselves racing past all of it, the wind pouring into the car, beating against the sides of it, and against our eardrums. Meanwhile all else remained still; the flies looked golden, like little flower bits, tumbling to the ground beneath shade of enchanted shrubbery, at a most leisurely pace. I do so love this part of the year – when spring tickles the next part – summer, and all finds itself being in this state of golden stillness. And yes, it did all look quite still – that was, until London’s more recognisable skyline increasingly came into view. The Shard and his friends, I mean.
“Fuldi, did you know that Mazhar can drive with his knees?”
“Um… I do believe you. But please don’t show me. I don’t really feel like dying today”
Mazhar released the steering wheel from his hands in a hasty instant, and proceeded to demonstrate his unique skill to me. He sped down the road, faster than he probably (legally) should have done, making all the necessary turns…with just his knees. I put my seatbelt on in a hurry and instinctively grabbed the roof handle. My cousins are so crazy; I love them so; still, I did not really fancy dying in a car with them today, while listening to James Arthur through the Aux.
“You’re not in every window I look through,” we all sang uproariously, attempting to harmonise, me still clinging to the handle. And then, we all looked out of the window – on the left side – to find a middle-aged man sat in his car, staring, looking at us through his window, a puzzled and gaping expression painted across his face.
For a long time, it is true: I had quite missed home. But now, from time to time, I stay the night at home’s house. We talk – about the world, our lives, things we saw on Twitter the other day – all until the sky turns orange, and then pink, and then blue. Home is her, my (de facto) sister, and it is them, my brothers (one blood-, one a cousin), who habitually talk to me about all things Fortnite. And I do try to share their enthusiasm for something I do not understand at all…
Home is this: it is come exactly as you are. We’ll order some take-away today. Maybe we’ll lounge around in the garden for a while. Trust me, it’ll feel just like poetry, the best kind, as it usually does. Lal Mama will probably suggest that we all go for a midnight bike ride or something. My dad will make Mami laugh-laugh (and anyone who can make Mami laugh-laugh is actually funny, it must be known). Ranga Mama and I will probably talk about something that will make Sweetie roll her eyes out of annoyance (“ugh, they’re debating again”). Khalamoni might tell us all about something scandalous that happened a decade ago or something, and Nanu will eventually get sick of Saif and Isa’s playful nonsense.
Of course, now we have Siyana and Dawud. They hadn’t been here before, to see what home looked like then. They only know what it looks like now, with them here, stomping around, being carried around by this cousin and then that one. The world is their playground, and they already know that
Home is a place that is warm; it is where the sun shines endlessly through the windows. And nobody here is the exact same person they had been five years ago, but we manage to recall most former versions of everyone, through our respective lenses, with such tender fondness. We had all been children who were never raised by just two parents, but by everyone who is a part of home: these uncles, these aunts, and Nanu.
When you choose to love a person, you choose to love the space they are encompassed by; you hold a space for them. And inside this space exists an ever-changing entity, and one with its own wonders and goldennesses, complete with its own flaws.
Sometimes home is candle-lit, with plants on the window-sill, chicken-and-mushroom pie on the table – help yourselves, have as much as you want! And sometimes it is a campfire in the garden, a tray full of chai cups, a sky full of stars.
We are all growing up too quickly, aren’t we? Forever too young to be certain about anything at all, and yet always too old to be too stubborn and selfish.
Lal Mama is perhaps the most open and vocal about his fear of ageing. Forty-four years old already, as he keeps on reminding us. But we’re all, undoubtedly, so afraid of things changing, here. A scary prospect indeed, that of things changing to the point of eventually being beyond current We’s recognition.
But I must not fear: much of my home is in the spaces that they all hold for me. My heart is there, right there. It does not, will not, budge very much at all… that is, save for when Mazhar decides to drive at 85 mph down a road with a 30 mph limit and my heart almost falls right to the ground and my entire life is made to flash itself before my eyes, a sort of spontaneously appearing photo album.
Ah, nostalgia that is borne as a result of underlying terror, sheer bloody terror.
Sadia Ahmed, 2020