The sky is getting dark and everyone is returning to their house.
He’s sitting on the edge of the road, facing me, oblivious or perhaps least bothered of the danger he’s in: a vehicle can run into him at any moment. He has a packet of food in front of him. I’m sitting outside a café, with a friend, having coffee and a conversation which seems to be shifting from one topic to another. As I see this man, in clothes which are torn and dirty, owning the space he’s sitting in, I wonder if he thinks that he’s sitting in the dining room of his house; he certainly is behaving that way.
He is having his meal with ease, taking his time, cherishing every bite of the food that he’s having. I do not see concern in his eyes for what people around him would think of him. He seems happy and content. He’s probably a homeless man. However, from where I can see him, he’s a man without a house but he has found a home in the space he’s sitting in.
I’m taking a walk, late in the evening, trying to organize the thoughts on my mind.
I see a group of children sitting on the pavement around a small screen. It appears to be a TV and the children are seeing a Bollywood movie on it. A woman is sitting just inches away from these children, preparing a meal for her family. She’s probably the mother of these children. It appears to be a scene of a regular household: the children appear to be in the living room of their house and the mother appears to be cooking in the kitchen.
As I walk a few steps, I see a group of women sitting on the pavement around another small screen. They seem to be watching a Bollywood movie or perhaps a TV soap. If we put bricks around them, this would probably look like a scene of a living room of a joint family or a neighborhood where everyone gathers at an individual’s house to watch TV and socialize.
I’m in an auto rickshaw with a friend, waiting for the signal to go green, heading towards the railway station to board a train.
As I look out of the auto rickshaw, I see a woman lifting her child from a cradle. She’s on the pavement and the cradle is but a piece of cloth tied to the railing on the pavement. I see two kids running around the woman, wanting to play with the baby. As they see that their mother is busy with the baby, they climb onto the railing and into the cradle to swing on it.
They appear to be a happy family, engaged in the regular affairs of their day, oblivious of the onlookers. If a house does not require bricks and walls then this seems to be a scene of a family in their living room or bedroom. From where I can see, this is a family without a house but they seem to have found a home on the pavement.
Every time I play these scenes in my head, I can see a thick line between the word house and home. I’m fascinated by how these people have been able to create a home without having the luxury of a house. While house is materialistic, home is a feeling. One can be in a house and yet, not feel at home. One can be without a house and yet, feel at home. One can feel at home with a certain person or group of people. One can feel at home even when he/she is without a house and alone.
The people who live on the roads and sleep on the footpath are referred to as homeless, however, when I think of these people that I mentioned in the three scenes above, I wonder what I should refer to them as: homeless or houseless?
FYI: I take no credit for the picture in this blog post. I found the picture on the internet and I chose to use it to help the readers of this blog relate to the content of the post.