My first afternoon in Delhi is at the IIC – the Indian International Center – at a lunch hosted by Professor Alok Bhalla and organized by writer Noor Zaheer; writer Sukrita Paul Kumar also joins us for a visit. A few days later, I return to IIC to sip wine with publisher Urvashi Bhutalia, a friend of my sister Beena Sarwar.
The next day, I return to IIC to attend a symposium on Sindh, organized by Professor Chatterji at Delhi University, to meet writer Rakshanda Jalil, who edited an anthology in which my short story appears. There, I run into Mumbai-based academic Nandita Bhavnani, who’s in Delhi to give a talk about Sindh at the seminar. Although Nandita and I have not met before, we’ve been introduced to each other online by mutual friend Karachi-based researcher Aslam Khwaja; Nandita’s essay, Revisiting Sindh, is being published in VBB’s Borderlines Volume One.
After the symposium ends, I sip tea in the downstairs patio with Rakshanda, Nandita and others. As we get ready to leave, Rakshanda raises her arm and says: Look who’s there!
My eyes fall on family friend and poet Kishwar Naheed, who’s visiting Delhi from Islamabad to give a poetry reading and talk at IIC. We embrace and laugh. What a small world, Kishwar says.
It’s only fitting that I spend my last afternoon in Delhi at the IIC once again, where artist Veer Munshi, has invited me to lunch. He, too, has many ideas about the subject of home:
My art practice has become political-turned personal. My art practice has become displacement and I have migration within me. I’m always walking and am never settled. I never untie my shoes to sit down and relax. Life is different from my childhood where you had evenings and you rest. Now, home, you make anything and everything, and you are detached from your physical space. Anywhere and everywhere becomes home. Transit becomes your way of life.
In these times, you do so many things. Your mind travels and you never settle. And you do so many things for permanency, but you are not contented with anything. Process is more important. As you work on installations and art. you’re always looking for home, but never reaching it. Hope makes you work on the idea of return, and you never return. And home becomes multiple: where you come from and you’re always going somewhere.
No city feels like home.
I lost a sense of home. I like to have activity around. I like Delhi, Mumbai, places that are cosmopolitan. I may also like Kashmir, but it doesn’t stimulate. Home is places made by people and I like cosmopolitan energy.
Every place has its possibilities. Home is these creative people that you have grown with – not gardens. It is not the house that is home, it’s my studio which is where I like to create things. That becomes my home. – Veer Munshi
This conversation is part of my What Is Home? project that is funded in part by the Mid-America Arts Alliance’s Artistic Innovations grant.