Recently, I had a dream about the apartment me and my family lived in Dubai for the first eight years (2000-2008). When I had visited Dubai in 2018, I had asked my father to take me to our old apartment just to look at it from outside. The three-storeyed brown building had turned browner with dust accumulation and time. I saw the parking space where I played ice and water, gaadi ka number and hopscotch with my friends. I saw my apartment’s balcony from outside – it still had the old split AC’s condenser popping out. My entire childhood flashed by my eyes that moment. Somewhere in 2019, the building was razed to the ground. It felt as if a small part of my childhood had just been snatched!
Few days ago, when I dreamed about it, I found myself in tears in the morning. It was so surreal. Do you remember the ending of Titanic? Gloria Stuart (Rose, the old lady) dreams Titanic coming to life, where the gallery ruins leading to the grand staircase transforms to its original state and Jack is waiting for Rose on the stairs. My dream was similarly dramatic!! While the manner of my description is a little humorous, that was not at all what I felt when I woke up in the morning. The building entrance, staircase and my apartment came to life with colour as I rummaged through the ruins. The sight of pink walls of my living room with my favourite green sofa, my study table with Arabic letters printed on it and my cupboard with all the free stickers that came along with Boomer chewing gum -I used to collect during my summer vacations in India-filled me with a warm gush of happiness. It was a mix of lot of things. The dream was nothing short of a bizarre emotional rollercoaster ride!
It was a 25 years old building in the year 2000 already. It wasn’t a fancy apartment when compared to the houses my friends lived in back then; but not to me. As a four-year-old girl, it was all I ever wanted. It was all I ever knew. My house. My toys in the living room. My favourite sofa (strategically placed by my mother to cover a crack on the wall in the living room). Everything I ever needed and wanted, was right there. Except Barbie’s make-up set – my father always told me it would give me skin rashes and I should play with the doctors’ set, building blocks and kitchen set instead.
The door handle of the bedroom was used to tactically pull out my milk teeth using a thread by mom. The walls were craftily scribbled with the tables of 2, Arabic and Kannada alphabets and a family drawing. It was the house where my sister was brought home to after mom’s delivery in India. It was the same house where everyday dad would enthusiastically play hide and seek with me every evening as soon as he came back from work. I would always hide in the same spot (under the dining table) and he would always pretend to look for me in the bathroom, inside the cupboard and his pockets before looking for me under the table.
I always wondered why many of my friends had their own bedroom and not me. But probably even if I did, I would have preferred sleeping with my parents till I left for boarding school anyway. It was the same house I would cry of homesickness during my first year in boarding school at the age of 10. In the corridor of the apartment was where I gave roller-skating a try, learnt how to draw rangoli and rang the doorbell of neighbours and ran away inside my home before they opened the door. After staying in that home for eight years, we have moved to nicer localities and nicer houses since then. But that apartment will always be my favourite and stay close to my heart.
We all have such homes that we hold so dear to our hearts. If you have been lucky, then you still live in the house you spent your entire childhood in. Having been raised as an expat who studied in a boarding school, I have had many roofs to call my home. But hey, even I have my favourites 🙂