The smell of freshly washed and starched bed sheets underneath my sleeping body. The heaving of the street as the traffic starts to roar to life at 7 o’clock on a Sunday morning. The clamour of pots and pans being thrown around and the bellows from my mother’s age-old morning rage. My sisters evacuating to my room, pillows under their arms and eyes barely open, to catch two more minutes of sleep before they have to go off to school. There are bangings on doors and some fateful mornings there are even tears. And then there is silence. At the earliest hours of the day, home is a warzone.
But home is also waking up to the aroma of milk chai that Nanu (grandmother) brings into my room with a plate of the exact number of rotis I eat every morning. It is the ability to get out of bed and make it to the bathroom and reach for the toothbrush with my eyes still completely closed. It is being able to guess what we are having for dinner just from the scent of the spices brewing in the kitchen while I finish up my homework. Home is familiarity, a soothing repertoire of everything I need, just when I need it. Home is a stationary calmness, a blanket of invincibility so strong even Achilles falters.
Home is in Dhaka, the city we love to hate and hate to love. The city even when it is killing our lungs, somehow keeps us going. The city that never stops, never sleeps, and never gives up. It is a city I do not dare romanticise because the reality of it is cruel, it is unfair. But it is the city that built me a thick skin. Dhaka is overcrowded and arguably almost unfit for life, but it is a city where people come to, from all over the country with small hands and big dreams. It is the city where kindness comes from the most unlikely of places but so does hostility. It is the city where all my loved ones, no matter where in the world they are right now, always come back to. It is the place I know that I will always have someone.
Dhaka is not easy to love, but it is filled with the memories of family, friends, and my love. It is made up of streets I have walked back and forth every single day, cafes I hung out in after school, and places I ran off to when things got dreary. It is made up of life experiences, good and bad, that made me who I am today. The thought of home makes me beamish, but it also makes me ache. So, I believe it is safe to say that home is where my heart is.
Author: Protiva Iqbal
Editor: Gwendolyne Cheung
Illustrator: Lisa van der Loos