Vikram Chandra has a knack when it comes to inventing endings to his chapters. Initially I found it odd how much he switched tenses in the last few pages. In Artha, the second to last chapter of the novel, Iqbal tells his readers of how the story ended: Sandhya will get back together with Anubhav, Rajesh was never found, and the two men who stole money from the computer company got fired. He reflects on the past and what has happened, but then he quickly switches to what will happen when he returns home to his family. In the last chapter Shanti, the novel ends with Subramaniam telling his story in the past tense, but then Ranjit narrates in the present tense how he is walking around Bombay discussing what he knows he will do in the future. Although abrupt, these tense shifts are effective in developing his characters as both of them demonstrate certainty and self-awareness when they are home. It is evident that the comfort of home allows them to reconcile their difficult pasts with their present sense of self. They demonstrate a sense of peace and confidence within themselves that Ranjit, Subramaniam, and Iqbal never showed throughout their stories.
For Iqbal, his original home was an apartment where he lived by himself, portraying his characters as lonely and somewhat depressed. By the end of the chapter, he truly returns home—a place where he comes to terms with Rajesh’s disappearance and the support of his family members. He knows exactly what his family will be doing when he returns home and his knowledge is reflected back on himself. When he is at home with his family, Iqbal is a much more self-aware and confident character in his honesty about how he feels. He is definitely still grieving at the end, but he recognizes his emotions and reconciles his past with Rajesh and the present state of his life. This acceptance of the past and present leaves him at peace with himself when he says, “I know what it is. It is the absence in my heart.”
Subramaniam’s home is the city of Bombay when Subramaniam’s wife says “we’ve had our life, our Bombay life.” Similarly, Ranjit walks around the city calling it “his city.” In his home of Bombay, Ranjit ends knowing what he is searching for. He is searching for life with his future wife in various Indian cities. Ranjit walks the streets confidently because he knows his city and he knows what he wants. His pride in Bombay is something very similar to what any American experiences during the Superbowl or World Series. We rally behind our states or cities or sports teams because there is a loyalty and familiarity to us that we feel most comfortable with.
As a whole I think many Loyola students still don’t get that relief and confidence at school as they get at home. Many times I hear students, including myself, telling people they are from New York, New Jersey, or other places because that is their hometown. Just like Ranjit and Subramaniam consider Bombay their home, there is still a strong geographic tie to a student’s hometown despite living in Baltimore for the majority of the year. Technically, we are Baltimore residents yet rarely do we identify as Baltimore residents. However, this is why Iqbal returns home to his family. We all return home to relax and be with family. Just like Iqbal, we live in apartments as students and whether we are with friends or we are alone like he was, we still may not always feel that sense of security or confidence as we do around family members. From my own experience, I can be around loads of people at school, but no one knows me better than my family, so home grants me true comfort. College in general is deemed “your new home” when the freshmen first arrive. But homes cannot be dropped or remade. Iqbal could not just buy an apartment and have a new home just as Ranjit will never consider another city his home. The feeling of home is very interdependent on both geography, feeling a link to the land, and the people who made that land so special. Overall, I think it is a combination of both definitions of home that forms my own homeland.