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Sometimes I see myself climbing the forbidden stairs of my home (Image for illustrative purposes) Image Credit: iStock

If you ask Google, it defines home as a place where one lives permanently with a family.

But in times like these, when moving from one house, country and continent has become a new normal, the definition of home keeps changing for many of us.

When I finish my day’s work at office in Dubai, I tell my colleagues that I am heading home. Every time I travel to my hometown to meet my parents and stay with them, I tell my friends excitedly that I am going home. Indeed, I call my husband’s house, home as well.

The house is no more there. It was demolished and a new house has now come up. But in my memories and heart, that house still exists and it is the only place I would ever call ‘my home.’

- Sana Altaf

But in my mind a question often pops up as to what place is my home as real, what place feels like home always, eternally.

So far in over 30 years of my life I have lived in several homes. I was born in our ancestral house built by my grandfather. I was fortunate to be surrounded by my uncles, aunts and cousins during the prime years of my childhood.

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We lived in a huge three storey house with rooms around 20 in number to accommodate a big family. It had large stone walls, spacious veranda, many washrooms, three kitchens and a big lawn.

All day we children would be running and playing around, sometimes climbing the trees, other times spending the whole day playing cricket. I still have a clear memory of every wall and corner of that house.

Walking the long corridor

I remember how scared I would be to walk the long corridor connecting the kitchen to my room upstairs. I would run straight, without looking around, calling mom repetitively to overcome the fear if I went to the room alone.

However, when we moved to a new house in a new location few kilometres from my ancestral house, life never looked the same. We felt lonely and isolated. That home was, home but something was amiss.

For some reasons we were unable to continue living in that house and so my father decided to shift to another place. In few months’ time, we constructed a new house and moved in.

It was there that I spent most part of my life, lived through teens and adulthood. In that house I have the fondest memories. I lived through various stages of my life and grew up into who I am today.

However, after getting married, two more homes got added to my list. One that of my husband in our hometown and the other being the place where I currently stay in Dubai.

Unique place and special memories

All the places I inhabited provided comforts of life, even as their locations, structure, size, colour and decor varied. They all played diverse roles in different stages of my life. They hold their own unique place and special memories are attached to all of them.

But when I lie down in the night on my bed here, my thoughts often run back in time. I see myself on a single bed, a poster of Humpty Dumpty on my side wall.

I find myself staring at the window where I would sit sometimes in the middle of the night to watch the stars. I would tell stories to myself before being put back to bed by mom. I can feel the peace of those moments run through me today.

With these thoughts when I fall asleep here, I step into my real home, my ancestral house. The home where every room carried the air of togetherness, love and care. Where each wall bears the imprints of my happy and carefree childhood.

Sometimes I see myself climbing the forbidden stairs leading to the big hall on the top floor of the house. Other times I am running quickly in that scary corridor. I am always happy in that house.

I wake up to see myself here, I wish I could go back to my real home, to lie down on that bed once.

The house is no more there. It was demolished and a new house has now come up. But in my memories and heart, that house still exists and it is the only place I would ever call ‘my home.’

—Sana Altaf is a Dubai-based freelance writer.