Home is where the heart is
The Coronavirus outbreak and the long phase of lockdown has refocussed our attention to our personal haven — our home
Around nine months ago, in this very column, I had written about the importance of 'home' and the various meanings that it denotes. A place of origin is 'home' while so is an adopted city where one works. 'Home' could mean the azure blue skies ahead of Durga Puja in Kolkata or wrathful rains of Mumbai. It could be shopping for fresh flowers near the Mylapore temple in Chennai or the 'azaan' of the Jama Masjid in Delhi. When I wrote those thoughts of the vagaries and yet also certainties of the meaning of 'home', I had no inkling that in less than a year, the word 'home' would be stripped of all connotations except the most obvious one. Here we are in the second half of the year, smack in the middle of a global pandemic, taking cognisance of that unassuming word once again — home.
COVID-19 induced prolonged lockdowns have refocussed our attention on our abodes. Every activity that we can indulge in has emanated from the confines of our home. The four walls have witnessed our joys and frustrations, our fears and anxiety, standing by us as we indulged in outbursts or crawled into our shells. With little chance of a normal life outside, our 'home' has become our focal point. From home improvements to shuffling furniture around to create neat workstations, we have been engaged and invested in our homes in the last four months.
We have discovered dust and mites in the crevices of our homes that have been overlooked by domestic help. We have enjoyed the satisfaction of sweeping and swabbing the floors and cleaning every dust spot, leaving behind sparkling interiors. The feeling of being 'home proud' has returned to a lot of us. Earlier, the first impulse was always to head out to a restaurant or take a holiday. With Coronavirus making eating out and leisure travel unsafe, it is within our homes that we have cooked up lavish feasts and set up entertainment dens, turned amateur hairstylists, and hosted our own spas — our home has been our battleground and also our personal haven.
Gyms being out of the question, our living rooms have turned into fitness centres. Maybe a yoga mat and some dumbbells too have been added. Missing the greenery of neighbourhood parks, self-trained green thumbs have turned their balconies into mini-forests. Quaint or quirky ceramic flowers pots, maybe even growing a make-shift vegetable patch on the terrace — we have welcomed nature and the outdoors more readily into our homes.
With staying at home being encouraged, advertisers and marketeers too sniffed an opportunity to recast their messaging. A Nike advertisement, for example, said, "If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Stay inside, play for the world". Toyota urged customers to "Enjoy the interiors of your house rather than our cars." From Asian Paints to Castrol Activ, most brands urged people to stay home. Products tailored for home has also received a renewed push — from apparels to be worn at home while working to furniture that has been specifically made to help through this transitional time.
We are lucky and should be filled with gratitude to even have a home at a time when many less fortunate than us struggle in the virus-infested world outside. Today, even as we venture out for work and essentials, it is only once we are home that we feel truly safe. Life will return to normal in a few months perhaps, maybe even a year. And we will return to the outside world with gusto. But we can never forget this phase in our lives in 2020 when our home was our only shelter from the storm raging outside.
The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal