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Originally posted on Medium.

Home is not real life. Home has always been the place where I go back on vacations, to take breaks, from real life. To me, everything that is not remotely related to real life has always been home. When I left home at the age of ten, I was in my fourth standard. My parents had already taken the decision to send me to a boarding school not because I was an uncontrollable, miserable child – they had sent me thinking of my own good – to help me give a kickstart to a successful academic life at the best school in the state. You can’t blame them anyway. I don’t do too.

One week in, I realised that the life I had led at home was not at all real life. Fourth standard at home was when I used to travel to and fro school on a daily basis, after which I used to travel for a couple hours for tuitions and at the end of the day, would come back home to parents and an inviting bed. Fourth standard at home was when you could sneak out of the home when your mother was away and buy the exclusive shiny candy at the nearby store using the penny that your ailing grandmother had pushed into your hand when your parents were not looking. To a fourth grader, it was seldom difficult or life shattering when you always had your parents to fall upon. Fourth standard at home was when I first learned about the discrimination between boys and girls – little boys and little girls, yet to hit puberty – and yet, discriminated right and left. Fourth standard at school was when I first slipped a love letter from a senior brother from the Eighth standard at school into the folds of the bag of the most beautiful girl in my Fourth standard class. It was when I started to understand the big bad world and lose my innocence. But fourth standard still was not yet real life.

The boarding school was the harbinger to whatever was to follow in life. It all took a chipped front tooth to make me realise that I could not go to my parents and cry and let them take decisions for me. When I approached the hostel warden, his nonchalant reply was, “Go and see the doctor at the hospital. Things will be fine. This can happen to anyone.” While he might have tried to give me the strength of conviction or might have tried to help me fight my demons, it broke the heart and confidence of the ten year old. That was the hardest and most cruel way anyone had ever treated me, till then. I broke down. The hostel caretaker-cum-manager took me to the hospital inside the campus. I was treated swiftly and discharged. On the way back as the pillion rider of his rickety Hero bicycle, the realisation gathered on me. I grew up that day, aged ten years four months some days. Later on, twice, after minor accidents that included my spectacles’ glasses breaking and entering my forehead, I was not late to go inside the hospital alone and asking the attending person to get the stitches done as soon as possible. I had a football match to finish playing.

Odd sixteen years later, when I spent the yearly festival holidays at home this year, I realised again how much not real life staying at home is. I don’t mean to demean or devalue any of the people who have stayed at their homes, with their parents throughout their entire lives (well, in India, that is quite common), but I just have one thing to say to them – you don’t know how different the life is once you come out of that shade of safety and comfort.

Six days in during this festival leave, I was down with hypertension and related issues, for reasons that will need a separate blog post altogether. It was not the first time that something untoward happened to me – I had my first surgery of my life just three months back – an appendectomy. In the case of the appendectomy, writhing in pain, I visited the doctor myself, saw another surgeon in his reference, and finally went straight into the emergency ward and asked the nearest nurse to admit myself for the surgery. Startled as they were, the laparoscopy happened the same day, late night. I knew I was capable of it all, and I did not finch even for a moment in the midst of all the sessions of sedatives, injections and saline drips. Luckily, I do have a small ‘family’ here in this city. They were there with me every day and night for the next five days. As the insider joke goes, everyone of them can claim to have spent ‘quality time’ with me during those few days. 🙂

The case at home would have been different. I would have known that I was at home, with parents, and somewhere from within I would not have got the impulse to take any initiative to see the doctors or get the tests done. I would have known that I was in safe hands. I would have known that finally I could take some rest and let others take decisions for me with utmost care.

Home is not real life. It lets me down every single time, in the perspective that it makes me useless, it turns me into a mass of hibernating polar bear look-alike. Home did not let me take up the responsibilities I was supposed to take as an able adult.

But home is also real life, when you see your parents ageing and see that the frequency of visits to the doctors and OPDs have increased manifold over the years. That is when you realise that you can’t ignore the responsibilities that home has put upon yourself – that is when you realise that home is equally real life in the line of what the outside world is.

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