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Away from home and searching for one

Sunset at Victoria Harbour. Hong Kong. Personal collection.

“Do you feel at home?,” my new flatmate asked me last night. As I was cleaning the kitchen counter, she sprang the question out of nowhere. I turned around and almost said yes. But suddenly stopped. Do I feel happy with my new life? Yes. Do I feel a new connection with this Cantonese speaking metropolis? Yes. Do I like figuring out my way in a foreign place? Yes. Do I like getting lost and asking people directions? Yes. Do I like new colleagues, new office, new flatmate, her dog, the new neighbours, cleaning lady, strangers on the daily metro ride, the wet market Uncle? Yes. Do I feel at home? No.

Moving to a new place is always exciting. Dreary too, but exciting nonetheless. In the last nine years of me having moved out of my parents’ home, I have lived in three cities, five accommodations, and with 15 different housemates. Each place, each time has been an enriching and learning experience for me. I have made new friendships and broken some, found love in all its variations, renamed challenges as opportunities, almost missed trains and flights, cried and laughed the loudest, broken rules and lived by some, felt defeated and proud, changed and remained the same somewhat too.

However, through everything, one thing has remained constant. I have never been homesick. There is an unflinching taste to independence that once found, can make you feel home. And every new city has given me that. The freedom to begin another chapter, the freedom to experiment, the freedom to learn and the freedom to undergo new emotions. Perhaps, this is why, I’ve found a corner in every part of the world I resided, to call home.

The reference section of my undergraduate college library, the roof of my shared flat from where I witnessed Delhi’s skyline in the evenings, the balcony of my youth hostel room, or the study desk in my room by the window in Singapore; have quietly been named as ‘second homes’.

Those territories have made me self-sufficient. These have been my relationship havens. They have consoled me in my most perturbed moments, and encouraged me to continue with life’s oddities. These are where my tears have rolled and laughter has echoed, without inhibition.

As I step into a new city, this time, however, it is different. I have left home with a deeper sense of longing. A part of my mind is subconsciously managing Dad’s daily routine. The chemo session, the morning routine, the evening teas, the bedtime medicines. A part of me still hopes I was with him. Holding his hand as he gets his IV medication, discussing household chores, and watching cricket.

I don’t want to make him feel I’m gone. Every video call, every WhatsApp text is vital. Necessary to not give into homesickness. To not give into guilt. To value my decision and execute it. To make him a part of this experience too. To make him feel comforted in the experience of his child becoming an adult. Becoming, herself.

I’m still finding my piece of home in Hong Kong.

Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. This is part of my series on decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love.

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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