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Home is where the heart is. Home is where you are counting the days till you can get out. Home is where you may never leave when you get the opportunity because nowhere seems safe any more. Home is where you walk hundreds of kilometres to, carrying your child on your shoulders. Home is where you may never reach. Home is where you have just had the most number of birthday phone calls since you were a teenager since everyone is suddenly free.

Home is where you catalogue the contents of your fridge with a concentration you last displayed for your class X exams pencil box. Home is inside a container truck until the police find all 300 of you in Yavatmal. Home is where you count how many paracetamol pills a family of five needs for three months. Home is where you set up a folding table with water pouches for the migrant caravan trekking on the arterial road. Home is where you remember that the last time you did this was for a 5km run.

Home is where you have too much dhaniya (coriander) and always, only half a lemon. Home is where you better not get any silly cuts or burns in the kitchen anytime soon. Home is where you wonder how tidying evangelist Marie Kondo is filling her days now since she has no drawers to sort through. Home is where you know you should have taken the children and left him before the lockdown, long before the lockdown. Home is where you try to hide the batteries of the noisy battery-operated toys. Home is where you wish you had a silent battery-operated toy of your own. Home is where the expensive lipstick is and you giggle to yourself again that it needs an insurance policy of its own. Home is where you can laugh at your own jokes. Home is where you wonder about insurance. Home is where nothing feels sure. Home is where you try to pray for the first time. Home is where you make a meme for the first time. Home is where you realize your grandmother has already been on Zoom for six months. Home is where you always have enough earphones. Home is where you wonder stupidly whether you will regret giving away that second cabbage you bought.

Home is where, while cleaning a drawer, you find a poem you wrote in 1999 at an inter-college competition. Home is where you remember that the youthful organizer of that competition found your office address and posted your poems to you in 2009. Home is where you wonder whether you should have fallen in love with him then. Home is where you remember that in 2009 you were in love already. Home is where you remind yourself that neither you nor he may live to fall in love again. Home is where you quickly write a poem.

Home is where WhatsApp video calls drop every few minutes unless you stand in the balcony under the clothesline with the breeze blowing the still-cool clothes into your face. Home is where you screenshot your first group video call. Home is where the sound of your rusty voice startles you because you haven’t spoken to anyone in days. Home is where you know it is going to be hard to go back to wearing a bra all day. Home is where you watch your son study for the exams he should have studied for but you know he won’t be writing any time soon. Home is where nothing changes and nothing is the same as before. Home is where you look up sweeping on YouTube because all you remember is your sister being scolded for doing it badly when she was 7.

Home is where you spend weekdays and weekends, mornings and nights and afternoons and midnight. Home is where you have to check your phone to remember what day it is. Home is where you know you cannot get through the next hour without jumping off the balcony. Home is where you wish you had learnt Kannada so that you could understand what the police are announcing as they drive slowly down your street but you are distracted by the row of tabubiea in glorious bloom. Home is where you have to decide which of your sons is less likely to get beaten when he steps out to buy milk. Home is where you can only smoke your last cigarette in the bathroom at 3am. Home is where you see the people in the opposite house laughing behind their masks as they exchange a basket of food and wonder what they have been cooking.

Home is where you prepare for grief. Home is where you remember you are alone. Home is where you are.

Cheap Thrills is a fortnightly column about millennials, obsessions and secrets. Nisha Susan is the editor of the webzine The Ladies Finger.

Twitter - @chasingiamb

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