Growing up, home was a crowded place. So many people; so many adults, so many children. So many girls.
We children lived in an alternate universe. The adults did all their adult things, while we played, and laughed, and cried, and ate and slept, and told stories, and heard stories, and played "ghar-ghar" endlessly. We went to the library in droves, and lived for the Sunday Morning cartoons on Doordarshan. Home was all we knew.
Home was where you always had your parents. They were often busy, but they were also always there, somewhere, around, and nearby. And that was all we needed to know.
Home was where Mom told us bedtime stories. Highly anticipated and eagerly awaited, those stories were what shaped us and molded us, I think, in retrospect.
Home was a lot of schoolbags, and lunch boxes, and water bottles, and brown paper covered books. Home was also where we lined up to get our hair braided in two braids with ugly green ribbons wound into them every morning.
Home was long waist length hair, well oiled through the week, and washed on Sunday Mornings.
Home was our favorite Sunday Mornings, with TV, and no school.
Home was reading every story in the English textbook in the summer vacations itself, before school reopened, and skipping all the poems.
Home was the shoe flower tree in the backyard, and the jamun tree in the garden beyond. Also, the squirrels, birds, flowers, fruits, chameleons, insects, fruit-stealing-men, jamun-collecting-escapades, and everything else that came along.
Home was space, and sunshine. Large, large windows, with the sun always streaming in. Wintry morning chills, and the perfect view outside the windows. Sitting over the window sill, your feet hanging down the grill, in the pouring rain. Home, was gorgeous.
Home was love, and family. Sunday lunch on the floor, and then dinner, and stories, and joy. Home was pressure-cooker cakes and spaghetti meals and steaming pav bhaji. Hot food, matke ka paani, that was always home.
Home was pouring milk into the kitchen sink and hiding rotis behind the dustbin.
Home was adopting stray kittens and puppies and making them sick with unhealthy food.
Home was where butterflies frequently flew in and honeybees sometimes tried to build hives.
Home was also awkward birthday wishes, and squabbles, and tears. Home was cat fights and shouting matches and temper tantrums.
Home was fighting against destiny and then accepting it.
Home was where first pets were brought and loved and lost. Home was where Barbies and Amar Chitra Kathas were collected and treasured and eventually given away.
Home was sisters' tête-à-têtes, late into the quiet of the night. Whispered conversations, shared philosophy, and muffled giggles.
Home was the chaos of the evening when Daddy came home, the quiet of the morning when Mom bustled in the kitchen. The shouts in our ears when we slept away the summer holidays, and the light poking our eyes when our blankets were pulled away.
Home was snuggling under blankets in the AC on summer nights. Home was rented VCRs and very fairly divided "foreign" chocolates.
Home was being afraid of the dark, forever and ever, and then one fine day, just becoming unafraid.
Home was solace, and solitude, and peace, and comfort.
Home was also the groaning swing, and crumbling ceilings, the peeling paint, the leaking taps, and the squeaking doors.
Home was religion, and home was principles. Home was knowledge, and education.
Home was where we left our nests, and flew away, as our parents watched proudly.
And home is where we assemble, ever so often, and then everything is just the same.
Home is home, and there's only one of it's kind, the only place we will ever call home.