August 2008


Home.  That was where I have spent my last four weeks.  And it is only appropriate that I spend some time reflecting on what home means to me now that I am back in Cairo.  What does being “at home” really mean to a wanderer (albeit temporary) like me?  Did going back to my HDB flat gave me a sense of comfort?  Did walking those familiar streets provided me a certain sense of relief?  Was coming back to Singapore “going home” or merely a stop in my life journey? 

If home was a physical entity, then it was strange that my heart did not so much as stir one bit since touching down at Changi Airport (or even during National Day for that matter).  Instead it was the ones I cared and loved, those who had touched me, walked with me, played with me and even laughed at me that made my heart flutter.  If home was about security and familiarity, then it was bizarre that I did not feel any discomfort or cultural shock on my return this time round to Egypt.  In fact, I felt completely at ease since returning – roaming the streets alone without a map and conversing easily with the locals in my woeful Arabic once again (I was even surprised that I remembered my Arabic!).  If home was about the food, then I dare say that this was deteriorating as much of my favourite local food was now cooked by other nationalities with disaster results!    

A family friend who had left Singapore since the age of 16 to study, live and work abroad shared with me recently that she had never felt any real need to reside in this little island throughout her life.  This was not because of a real loss of attachment.  In fact, her family and some close friends were still here.  Rather, home would be where one could live better – be it a better pace of life, or perhaps better work and play opportunities.  That set me thinking.  A globalised world has made physical things meaningless to a certain extent.  Your home is now where you want it to be.  The place that you were born and all the other memories ceased to be as important as how your present and future would pan out.  After all, we cannot always live in the past but we would want to live the present and take charge of our future, wouldn’t we?       

So where is home?

In the classic fantasy world of “Drangonlance” (jointly co-authored by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman), the authors wrote of a hobbit-like race called kenders, who at their teenage years, would all be stricken by an insatiable desire to ‘see the world’ or what the writers coined as “wanderlust”.  But no matter how long or far these young kenders wandered, they would return back to their homeland, Kendermore, one day – older yes, wiser maybe, but return they will. 

Perhaps like the kenders of yore, despite my logical reasoning, the heart still ultimately ‘sees’ home as Singapore.  Yet in the meantime, I hold home to be at wherever what I truly care about is at.                                 

“… and when I no longer wished to celebrate Christmas with her, when I lost the desire to hold her hand, and when I had no inclination to get her a present for her birthday, that was when I knew I no longer loved her …” 

“If we are afraid of failure, then we are afraid of living … for success and failure go hand in hand with life.”