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     Volume 5 Issue 111 | September 8, 2006 |

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Straight Talk

Home is where the heart is

Nadia Kabir Barb

'Home is where the heart is', 'Home sweet Home', 'There's no place like Home' … right now you could throw any number of these rather clichéd and saccharine sweet sayings my way and I would agree whole heartedly with every single one of them regardless of how cringe worthy they might sound. The last week or so when the children have asked on more than one occasion, “When can we go home?” I have wondered as to what the answer of their rather simple question might be. Little did we know that having taken the plunge to have major renovations and restructuring carried out to our house; we would be left homeless for over six weeks. To be perfectly honest, I have no real reason to complain as I have had a wonderful four weeks in Dhaka followed by a couple of weeks relaxing in Spain! The fact of the matter is that we were not able to move back into the house when we were supposed to. As seems to be the case with many builders in this country, the estimated date of completion of work should be viewed with a little bit of scepticism. In other words, add on at least a few weeks to the time you have been quoted. This is how we found ourselves technically homeless up until a few days ago. Luckily a bit stubbornness and an iron resolve to move back in regardless of the house still being a bit of a building site paid off and much to the consternation of the builders we ensconced ourselves back in the house!

As all our worldly possessions have been packed into numerous boxes and put into storage, home right now is a very Spartan existence for us with the bare minimum of furniture and luxuries. But I might as well have been living in Buckingham Palace for all I cared because the feeling of being home was just unsurpassable. I think at the end of the day we all need that feeling of having our own space, whether it is in a little shack or a pillared mansion. The saying 'You are a king by your own fireside, as much as any monarch in his throne.' could not be truer. There is always something very reassuring about being surrounded by our own things-- maybe it gives us a sense of security and stability in the same way that routines generate a feeling of continuity and constancy. It is within the confines of ones own home that we can be totally at ease and be who we are and not have to worry about the world outside.

It is not only four walls and a roof that makes a house into a home; it is the memories that are generated within those confines that give any place its character and charm. Having lived in one place for a while you get to know every nook and cranny and become aware of all the character quirks of your home. You know exactly how to open that stubborn door that refuses to open for anyone other than the members of your family, or the cooker which needs to be handled with care to get it to even light up! At the end of the day when we are tired and world weary, the one place most of would like to be is in our own homes. Therefore, the thought of not being able to come home for an indefinite period of time almost gave me a sense of displacement. It was a very unsettling feeling. But I can only thank God that my current predicament is wholly self induced and completely insignificant and inconsequential compared to those who are genuinely homeless.

It made me think of all the people who are affected by natural disasters and are the casualties of war. During the Tsunami and earthquake of December 26th, 2004 about 500,000 people were made homeless. Then there was a staggering figure of more than four million people affected by the Pakistan earthquake and an estimated 2.5 million homeless. More recently, Lebanon has been on the brink of a humanitarian crisis with almost one million people having to flee their homes. After the ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon, tens of thousands of people have not been able to return to their homes as unsurprisingly they feel too insecure about the current situation. Others who have ventured back to their homes have been devastated to find that their houses have been destroyed in the conflict. Jack Redden spokes person for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the charity organisation Caritas had estimated the number of homeless in Beirut at 35000. “Some people have reported they cannot go back because the area is just littered with unexploded ordnance,” he said. I can barely imagine how terrifying it must be to realise that you have nowhere to go - that your home is no more than a pile of rubble. My six weeks away from home is really nothing more than an inconvenience and it gives me a perspective on my circumstances and humbles me to think about those who are genuinely suffering. Life can throw many challenges at us and it is amazing how people have the ability to face adversity head on. For these people wherever they can rest their heads will be home for them until they can begin to rebuild their lives and their homes.

Even as I type, I can hear the banging and drilling noises of the builders, electricians, plumbers etc. and it is like music to my ears. Right now I am thankful to have a roof over my head and no amount of disruption is going to change that…

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