The new, familiar home

When we were packing and moving out of our previous homes – Wife’s apartment in Brussels, mine here in Germany – we had these waves of premature nostalgia that made us think we would miss these places – old, familiar, filled with memories – a lot, at least in the early months of the transition. But life in this new home has proven us wrong: we’ve plunged into the business of living here, and although there are moments when the views from this apartment make us stop and stare (and we remind ourselves how lucky we were to find a place like this), for the most part life simply moves along a straight line and keeps us busy, from one week to the next, seldom permitting the extended leisure that is needed to drift into reverie and to think back to the weekends in Brussels.

We’ve grown used to this new place pretty fast, and I wonder why. It wasn’t exactly this way when Wife had moved to Brussels in 2007, but that was a new city, a new language – actually, two new languages – a different way of life. Here, for me at least, the surroundings seem familiar: the new apartment is less than ten kilometers away from the previous one. And while the apartment is new, the furniture and all the stuff we fill our lives with has not changed. The music we listen to is the same, the news that BBC spews out sounds routine, the magazines that arrive by post have the usual caricatures, the contacts listed on the phone are familiar and I’m sure Wife would add to this list her social interactions on Facebook, which haven’t really changed.

So it seems that we tend to carry our lives around with us. Our attachment to physical things is not new – anyone who has moved would know how difficult it is to part with the otherwise-useless utensil that Grandma handed to mother who passed it on to you – but these days there is the stuff they loosely call ‘information’ which you cannot throw away even if you wanted to. The instant accessibility of all kinds of information – your mails, files, photos, and even your Facebook-friends! – no matter where you are is touted as a big advance, a convenience previous generations could only dream of. These virtual world artifacts may offer a sense of familiarity in a foreign place, but they also snatch away any possibility of total immersion in a wholly new environment. When as a child I moved with my parents, my whole world would turn upside down, and I recollect these transitions – the strange surroundings, the new friends (and bullies) in the neighbourhood, the new rules at school – more intensely (and fondly) than other periods from the past. I would love to experience such a change now – something that causes a dislocation, a new-new beginning.

Is this possible at all?

7 thoughts on “The new, familiar home

  1. No, I don’t think it is, at least not for those of us who are “connected” now. Our vacations and even evenings and weekend blur into the weekdays because of the habitual behaviors computers and cell phones seem to “impose.” Still I hadn’t really thought of it the way you put it — so well — in this post. Moving recently was so jarring for me, and I was glad for the continuity of my internet friendships and the blog, but I can also see that an entirely new start might have its advantages, just like a week away from the computer seems to clear my brain.

  2. No, maybe such a dislocation isn’t possible any longer because we are connected in every way. A very dear friend who became my lifeline after we moved to Bangalore relocated to another city last year and though I do miss her physical presence at times, honestly nothing much has changed for us. I still do little details of her life, down to the absconding maid and she knows mine, because we are on phone, we have sms and though she isn’t a regular on FB, she is on gTalk.
    The other reason could probably be that every place nowadays is more or less the same, though I speak of my experience here in India. When we moved from Delhi to Bangalore I didn’t find anything that different. Ok the city had a dfferent vibe but the things that were part of our daily lives, stores, movie halls, restaurants were essentially of the same kind.
    I moved a lot as a kid too and I remember my mom’s great friend in Farakka who wept the day we left. For a while she and mother exchanged letters and then one of them moved houses or something and the contact was severed. I can’t imagine such a thing happening in our times. Unless someone doesn;t wish the connection. That’s a different story altogether.
    It’s a HUGE comment, sorry couldn’t stop writing!

  3. I think its mostly because even before we shift, we know all about the place/city. what it looks like, what to expect etc etc. that info was not there when we were kids…so everything was strange and new.

    my shifts to delhi years ago and bombay recently both have been very strange and jarring. i think as a kid i found it easier to adjust to a new place. as an adult, i still find it difficult.

  4. May be it is the age or perhaps it is my contant travel, but the idea of a new-new begining induces anxiety in me! But I can understand the idea of it and feel a kind of macabre fascination about it – death will be really new-new begining! 🙂

  5. May be it is the age or perhaps it is my contant travel, but the idea of a new-new begining induces anxiety in me! But I can understand the idea of it and feel a kind of macabre fascination about it – death will be a really new-new begining! 🙂

  6. Your experiences are unique, but the pattern is similar. So I wonder how someone who has – in the recent times – experienced such a dislocation would answer this question.

    On the matter of Death: won’t this concept also be affected by all this connectedness? What if, after a friend’s death, there is a way to continue chatting with this ‘person’ (through an interface that knows of all this person’s online habits and can thus simulate responses based on a pattern)? If we do not notice the difference, if he or she continues to exist in our mind, what then is the meaning of this person’s “death”?

    1. There’s an episode of Black Mirror whose premise is a copy of your comment, maybe you might want to check it out 🙂

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