I’d forgotten about the smells. Every inhalation is an intoxicant. Returning to Mysore is a trip.
I arrived on the tail end of weeks of sleeplessness and living in freezing temperatures without heat and water. Disregarding rest I walked across the town back and forth high as a kite. I kept seeing faces distort. I swear I was hallucinating.
Being here is like a dream. I feel as though I’ve gone back in time. Or that I’ve always been here wandering these dust roads and the past three years never happened.
On the last leg from the dark grotty streets of downtown Bangalore to the contrastingly quaint morning glow of Mysore, we made a quick chai stop. That first cup of chai, injected into my sleepy stupor, was blissful beyond words. A kid nearby kept staring at the odd lonely pasty woman and I stared back at him, stoned on just everything.
Entering the bubble, I have already made contact with the politics and the scene. It amuses me to think how much this turned me off, how much it disappointed me, all those three years ago. I have been to register two times now only to be told “You come tomorrow”, “You come tomorrow”. People wait from 1pm for 3pm registration now. Things have sped up in my absence. Okay tomorrow, tomorrow. I turn away with a smile.
Mysore is evolving. It’s bigger, better and shinier. This is how it should be. Mysore is evolving the way its people are evolving. Where it’s headed, no-one can tell. Time collapses in on itself here.
I ponder sometimes whether Mysore is only a world created inside my head, complete and perfect in its myriad imperfections. Bodies travel space and time to this place where everything moves in circles. Time and space and bodies folding endlessly. Daily existence is first and foremost sensory. That’s why the memories last longer, and the love happens easier.
I am walking through the overgrown garden, grass up to my knees, wading across the lawn. The unruly stems and branches of the surrounding bushes and trees appear almost grotesque, hideously deformed from their previous groomed shape. The garden thrives on its neglect, out of control, greedy it feeds upon the loss. I enter the house, as ever it is empty, silent, cavernous; I am alone. A languid warm summer glow illuminates the rooms. Ahead I see the front door, slightly ajar, light lurking around the door’s edge. I hurry towards the door, it is open. I push it shut but it swings back again, the glow from outside overwhelming my vision. The open door fills me with an unspeakable fear. The fear of someone (thing) inside the house, intruding in my home. I try once again to seal the door. Panic.
As I begin to acknowledge that my time in India must come to an end I wonder where to go when I leave. People speak of going home – ‘when are you going home??’ But where do you go if you have no home? If my home is wherever I am then to where do I return? Is home not just a fiction we construct to enable us to feel secure so that even if it remains a lie, at least we feel assured and contained in our illusions.
As I am met with ambiguity in my life – the precariousness of my future, the lack of vocation, a restless disposition – I struggle to form a home inside, a stability dependent on neither people nor place, wealth or possessions. But to find this home I must first dissemble the home of the past. In my dreams I find myself continually returning to one place. The house of my childhood. Even as I actively seek a new home in my waking life I return to the only home I know. As much as I wish my imagination to be free of this ghost I protect it against intrusion. I keep trying to shut the door on the world outside, maintaining this little bubble of sameness inside. This phantom house possesses me.
I have not walked through this house for years and yet in my dreams it appears vivid and alive. My dreams remind me of things I had forgotten (or choose not to recall). The garden of the house was once grand and as a child, a wonderland in which I would spend hours roaming alone. After my mother died, it grew and grew. I would peer at it out the window as the chaos multiplied. It disgusted me. The insatiable appetite of nature. Relentless, no pause to mark my grief but just going on, taking over (me).
In my dreams I keep going home again but this is a place that no longer exists. I can never go home again. But somehow the child in me doesn’t give up trying. So in my dreams I return, returning over and over and over again. There will be no end to this. It can never be changed. For this house (home) lies at the heart of all things.