I have been wondering of late: What makes the place where I live my ‘home’? What does my ‘home town’ possess that makes it so special to me? Ah, of course, my family and my dear ones. Wise men say that as bricks make a house, family makes a home. I differ. My recent family holiday was filled with fun and frolic and yet a nagging doubt kept plaguing me: something was missing.

A popular saying goes, “Home is where heart is”.

If a person falls in love with concrete and cement, I should feel equally strong for Kurseong where I did my schooling and perhaps spent the best days of my life. Each pine tree, every excursion reminds me of the nine years I spent there among the family of my best friends. My messenger status reads “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves”. This family of mine nurtured by years of tears of joy and sorrow alike is now spread throughout the vast expanse of India and possibly elsewhere, a gift I got from studying in a boarding school in Kurseong. But this place I now live in, my permanent abode, has no friends, just good neighbours.

When one speaks of home, one is supposed to talk about one’s neighbours with whom the exchange of pleasantries goes beyond customary smiles... But does such a clime make a home? Guess not. Just a month’s stay in the Valley gave me a great chance to meet some of the friendliest people in a place so far away from my actual home.

I read somewhere that freedom is the oxygen for the soul and long decades of human civilisation vouch for the necessity of free will in every field. Does freedom to do anything you

like play such an important role in making an assemblage of bricks your home? It allows us to do all we want in our own piece of earth, things we dare not do at some other venue. But does freedom alone justify the existence of a home?

I realise now that just as to cook something as simple as instant noodles a delicate balance of spices is required, for a place to be called ‘sweet home’ many ingredients are called for: family, friends, neighbours, all mixed with love and freedom. It is the presence of these spices that make one fall in love with a place that seems so filled with faults.