By TANISHA MOHAPATRA
When a new friend said he was homesick and looked at me, awaiting a response, I was a little perplexed as to how to react. I could listen to and talk about pretty much anything with anyone, but this had me on a tightrope. I have seen so many people leave, come back, repeat the process and yet nothing has ever changed. At my boarding school, this was routine; there was always something distinct about the feeling in my stomach when it was the last day of term and when it was the first day of a new term. These were probably my two most favorite days — you could say that I have some unspoken love for witnessing packing and unpacking despite not being much of a traveller. If I could go places and skip the whole act of travelling, life would be the sweetest, but I’m digressing here. I had to say something to said friend, and for some reason I blurted, “Let’s Google it.” He gave me the most bewildered expression I can imagine his face scrunching into and whipped out his phone.
We took a look at one of the first results the search returned, an old article by CNN, and it was full of so many truths about why I was at the world’s end when it came to considering what must be one of the most common feelings on campus, especially during any given fall semester. The article said that homesickness “stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security — feelings and qualities usually associated with home.” And that’s when I apprehended the catch in my case: I didn’t have any concrete block that meant home to me. I had quite a few competing for the coveted title. For some reason, in my head, every place that has been a sojourn in my life so far has meant the same as home. I associate the same warm fuzzy feeling that my house’s red cobbled roof brings out with the white walls of Connaught Place, with the bajri in the six-acre campus in that small, breezy Himalayan town and with the frozen waterfall that my room in a certain Gothic-style building looked over. When I packed up my dorm lockers from school, I had the same lump in my throat that I felt when the New Delhi clouds weeped at my departure, and I had the same one when I left home for school the first time. Weirdly enough, I find an odd sense of security in knowing that I fall in love too easily, and it’s always with a place. It is probably harder for some to accept this than others; some, like me, perhaps find love in all things they come across.
This summer, I got strange looks from all of my friends at Cornell when we discussed summer plans. Mine didn’t feature a torturous 15 hour ordeal in a pressurized cabin, after which I’d spend weeks being the family’s early morning wake up call. It did come at the cost of taking off to the beach at a whim, or being force-fed yet another oily parantha made by Naani that I secretly loved, but for some reason, I didn’t miss the comfort that came along with home. So as my friends one by one made their way across the country and the globe, I re-opened boxes I had freshly packed only a few days ago. I made friends at work, went on numerous walks to Flatrock, went art shopping for a friend at the Commons (bought nothing), took off to Syracuse to expand options (still nothing), had a conversation about poetry with a cashier at Target and probably associated a hundred other things I found in the Ithacan summer with the notion I had of home. I didn’t know homesickness, and these three months away didn’t seem to present an opportunity to become familiar with it.