24 Mar, 2015

i think i’ve given up on the idea of one place being home for me…

Sehba Sarwar
24 Mar, 2015

photo by Salma Qazi

Spending spring break at our family friend Shaista’s home in California’s Bay Area is a welcome break from our hectic Houston schedule. One afternoon, as we recover from our long drives along the coastline, I chat with Shaista about my “home” project. Given her movement from Karachi to Houston to Lahore and now the Bay Area, she has given the concept of “home” a good deal of thought:

I haven’t had that “at home” feeling for such a long time. Every time you address that question, you’re so conflicted to find an answer.

I think that the way I feel in Pakistan feels more “at home” than here (California’s Bay Area). When I feel “at home” is when I can accept whatever is happening at face value. Like, you know, you interact with outside your world, when you’re almost forced to interact with people and things in the normal course of the day, like going to the market. That’s when you completely understand that everything around you is happening — even if it’s bad — you completely understand the reality you face. Here, that feeling only comes up when I’m with my own community.

That feeling of finding spaces or cities that feel most “at home” is a fleeting feeling that’s not very consistent. It can happen. It happens probably most in Karachi, but that’s not necessarily only in Karachi. I can be anywhere in Pakistan and feel like that.

It’s only when I feel part of a group or an event. And when it’s an event, the experience has to be mixed with certain things. It’s not only with things… I’ve thought about. I’m convinced I get that feeling when I have actually understood something about myself, like you know, some kind of music and certain kind of people. When you feel like the people around you are completely in synch with you…

I just feel like it’s not logistically possible to be in Pakistan right now. It’s more work, partly because once you live outside so long some practical things aren’t so easy. I don’t even know the streets of Karachi any more. Practically if I try to live there past a certain point, it becomes hard. In that way, the city is not familiar – like here, it’s familiar and maybe familiarity does give you that sense of “home”.

Also, I think I’ve given up on the idea of one place being “home” for me. I’ve just let that go. Intellectually, I can’t justify always expecting to feel at home. I can’t justify that necessity of being at home. I live with the knowledge that I can have that feeling – sometimes – anywhere. To articulate this is a struggle and it’s such an important issue because you can get into some sort of mission to create that feeling, so you have to deal with these feelings very carefully.

I think I’m at peace with where I’ve landed…I think so. — Shaista Parveen

This conversation is part of my What Is Home? project.