This has been the longest and one of the most gratifying vacations that I have ever enjoyed in my adult life. With absolutely zero responsibilities, no job to report to and no school to pack lunches for I had a whale of a time meeting family and friends (some old and a lot of new ones). A lot of happy coincidences helped and one among them was a wedding in the family.
This wedding took me back to Panipat, my father’s place of birth, which in essence, was going back to my roots. I hadn’t been there in the last 15 years and it could only be God’s design that I was making the road trip back on the GT Road (Grand Trunk Road). As I looked out of the car’s window at the paddy fields with its saplings submerged in water, at the buffaloes grazing lazily and the tall brick kilns that still billowed smoke, I was reminded of all the road trips that I used to make with my parents. With my daughter by my side this time around, I loved sharing this familiar and yet a strange experience. She is a city bred child and her sense of wonderment was infectious.
Nostalgia is a great place to visit and, in my mind, I often visit this place. The longing and the yearning I have for it is indescribable. As my eyes soaked in the sights, a word that kept coming back to me was Hiraeth. That was when its meaning came to me with a clarity that I hadn’t known before. The word had been with me for a while now but at that moment I knew my search for my upcoming book’s title had ended.
Hiraeth is a Welsh word, which they claim is an emotion and something that cannot be translated. At best it can be construed as homesickness for a place to which you cannot return to. A home which may be, never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past. An insatiable longing for the place we consider home.
My book is a collection of short stories centred around partition that divided independent India in 1947. It is my tribute to my grandparents and the millions who became refugees overnight. They packed their bags to move to a foreign land assuming they would come back but never could. While researching for my book, I spoke to quite a few people as they revisited the dark times. A similar emotion of nostalgia echoed in these people.
As I now wait in the wings for my first book to release with a mix of nervousness and excitement, I so well relate with its title. For me and for some of the characters of my stories, the bygone land of our ancestors stands for exactly that… an emotion that defies translation.
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