31st December last year had a sunny afternoon. The cobalt blue sky had been smudged by just one white cloud, and the sun was blazing down on the revelers dotting the golf course that afternoon. Ranikhet dwellers, young and old alike, had decided to spend the last daylight hours of the year on these sprawling brown fields.
Families spilled out of cars, kids rolled down the slopes, young couples held hands or took selfies, and then there were the boisterous boys singing songs and shaking hips! The festive cheer was palpable all around me while the dogs and me took our usual circuitous walk around the course, stopping for the usual water and fun break.
It felt good being surrounded by good cheer and laughs and songs. Though I couldn’t recognize any friends or familiar faces, just being among happy people was a good feeling. I strode on, happy with the sunshine and the sounds around me.
And then, it started. People calling out New Year greetings to me,children shouting out to Biskit and Pepper, young men slowing down their bikes to wish me for the New Year, families waving out to me and inviting me to join them for some tea and singing. Couples walked up to me and asked for permission to take pictures of the dogs ( and they knew the names!), cab drivers leaned out to ask if I was comfortable in the cold… suddenly, it struck me that people in Ranikhet now recognize me and I am one of them! The fact that the dogs and me are seen all over the town, in every season and weather..the fact that we are not here just to escape the hot summer of the plains..the fact that the grey winter drizzle, the snow and the cruel North wind have not pushed us out of the mountains..it was not lost on the residents of this little town.
What a great feeling for a service kid and officer and gypsy who has been moving around all her life! 12 years of an Omani village had also been a similar experience. I was accepted, revered and greeted by all the surrounding villages of the clinic. The only difference was that I knew I would not live for ever in Oman. The tug of home and India was always strong, and I wanted to return “home” as soon as I could.
Home, till now, was always a part of my heart. Wherever I felt comfortable, I would term it home. And how “home” kept shifting and moving with jobs, career changes and life.
In this fifth decade of living and loving, in this first week of this New Year, I am experiencing a new emotion. I have reached my home. I have found the place which is going to be my home for this life. I am putting down roots.
And I am grateful.