Dharma is such an interesting story in that Jago Antia seems to be faced with an unconventional breech of his parents home, which certainly represents both that the home has been impeded upon and that his past “ghosts” have come to commuicate some sort of message to him. Through this story, I was able to derive a more abstract definition of “home” as communicated by Chandra. The sort of haunting of the ghost of his boyish self has caused Jago Antia’s home to no longer be a place of refuge, but rather a place that challenges him to become more self-aware through swallowing pills he previously chose to bypass. I believe that Chandra challenges the reader to feel at home with herself. If being “at home” is immutable comfort and blissful vulnerability, than being at home entails self-acceptance.
What I loved about Dharma was that Chandra really set up multiple dimensions of “home.” Surrounded by Bombay, Jago Antia is cast back into the unfamiliar. He is famished, exhausted, and has been emptied of his pride from years of exhibiting staunch virility, he has returned to the buzzing city. While the city may hold a special importance in his past, it is his childhood home that is a microcosm of his past life. I couldn’t help but associate with Jago Antia’s first encounter with his childhood ghost. Of course, I have never really been haunted, per say, but I feel that in a sense, we are all “haunted” by memory of a time(s) in life, especially a time we chose to sweep under the rug for one reason or another.
The moment that Jago Antia realizes that the ghost is, in fact, that of his young self, he is struck by the old him, by a child who felt married by weakness. I found it to be so profound that the man who cut off his own leg was faced with the ghost of his past—a boy who simply never felt good enough. Jago Antia tells the ghost: “There is no need for you to go anywhere now, you are already home. There is no need for any mask, no need to live a ghost like life.” Interestingly enough, he ceases the haunting by choosing to incorporate his past into the man he is now.
I know that the way in which I’m choosing to connect this may seem a bit abstract, but I have always viewed home as something abstract. At this point in my life, whenever I return home for a visit or a longer break, I feel a bit like Jago Antia. No, I am not saying I’m scarred by battle and a fatal, self-invoked amputation, but I certainly feel as though I’ve journeyed through life independently and with newfound companions. Home, is in a sense, a physical place where I am haunted by shadows of the past. But it is by confronting those dark corners head on that I learn about myself, my family, my home. I also love the idea of dharma, in the definitive Hindu sense of the term, as relating to how one retains the wholesome idea of “home” as encompassing past and present. One definition of dharma is “that which holds a thing and maintains it in being.” I interpreted this to connect to how, like Jago Antia, all of us have a duty to allow things—shadows—of the past to just be.
Whether I am physically home or just “at home” in mind, I feel as though I am always thinking about times in life that have made me who I am today, even if I choose not to face them. Like Jago Antia, I must sometimes confront the past and, in a sense, tell it that it is allowed to exist. I think that we all feel most “at home” when we are able to confront our ghosts of the past. Especially as a college student who has gone off and had ventures, experienced positive accomplishments, and endured crushing blows and then come home, I have experienced that feeling while in my house. I have felt that unidentifiable presence of my young self. The physical home will do that to you—it will cause you to feel the need to push yourself, to become closer and closer to feel completely at home, completely at peace with one’s past, present, and future selves.