Blog

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.
– Rumi

HOUSE, OR AT HOME?
Illustration by my beloved friend and artist – Zainab Tambawalla

In the last couple of months, I encountered the words home and house several times, due to a personal project that my husband and I have been on. I had to use these words, describe it to others (those who know me, and to strangers), and it is this that aroused my curiosity around the two words, nudging me to go deeper into the true essence they hold. 

What is a home? What is a house

As I stayed with both these words, and began to jot down what it brought up for me, it led me to a deep understanding, an insight, that has now begun to shift a few things for me within. And it’s this journey with the two words, that I wish to share with you.

I started by first looking at the non-human world. 

How do these two words – house and home play out for the other species?

In most of the species, a house is what a creature builds or modifies a space, for a specific period. It could be to give birth and raise their young ones, or to take shelter during a specific season/weather. In other words, a house is a physical structure/space that is meant to offer shelter and protection. It only serves a few specific functions, largely ones needed for survival, and not all that is needed for Life to thrive and flourish. 

A home or what is also referred to as a habitat is far more crucial to these beings than the house. It is the place where they are alive, and in deep interaction with Life. It is where they are in constant live feedback loop from what feeds, strengthens and nourishes them in more ways than one. They are always plugged into the web of interdependency. In the presence of other beings, in the direct or indirect engagement or alertness with them and of them, by cueing into the elements of nature, it leads to learning, attunement, adaptation, expansion, growth, partnerships, community, sharing, giving, awareness and evolution. 

This beautiful distinction of how these two words behave in the non-human world, began to make me feel all goose-bumpy with the following awareness: 

Home is interdependency. It is interconnection. It is me being engaged actively, participating fully in the web of Life. I am as much a giver here, as I am the receiver. Each of my choices at home, have consequences (nourishing or otherwise) because I am in connection with the other.

A house on the other hand, is only a part of a home. It is only a part of the whole.

I then wondered:

If as humans, we are very much a part of the natural world, how have these two words been playing out in our cultures, since we arrived on earth?  

I began to connect the dots:

  • In the 200,000 years we have been on earth as humans, we spent over 190,000 years of it, at home. The house was a part of this home and only built to meet a few specific functions (shelter, protection, nurture of young ones). We pretty much followed the time-tested pattern of the non-human world. 

    And so, it was the interaction and engagement, the interdependency and interconnection, with all elements that surrounded us, that the home provided, that helped us expand and evolve. Because our nourishment was directly linked to the well-being of all other parts (human and non-human) that made up the whole, most of our choices were made in alignment with this whole.
  • As we observe the human culture today, most of the 5000 different groups of Indigenous Peoples from across the world, still live in deep engagement in the home that belongs to the human and non-human world. They know that without this home, there is no house. They continue to show us, and offer us that wisdom, which we can find ways in which to smartly adapt them to our lives too.
  • That brings me to people within our circle of family and friends, in our community, in our towns, in the various sub-cultures within our countries, we certainly do know of, who have been borrowing and finding ways to integrate it into their daily lives. Who are in this active participation with home, with their habitat. They are part of the interconnected web, serving-contributing-giving & receiving. 

Whether in the non-human world, or in the human world, the house is a place of temporary retreat (on a daily, monthly, seasonal, yearly basis) to largely meet certain survival functions like shelter-protection-nurture. It nests inside a home/habitat. 

A home is where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It is where all beings (humans & non-humans) are interconnected through the web of life, and are interdependent for growth and expansion. 

This insight and understanding couldn’t have come to me at a more appropriate time. As I am shaping my work, it has left me to reflect on actions I am taking/actions I am not taking, which a dear friend further held mirror to, as I narrated the above to her. I share with you below how this learning is beginning to influence me: 

  • Where am I overprotecting myself and not stepping into the arena? Which part of my work is now ready to come out of the shelter? In other words, where I am still seeking the comfort of the house, when I need to be in the arena of the home, for it to grow and expand?
  • A part of my responsibility in a home is the one of interdependency. So –  Where am I asking? Where am I giving? Where am I not giving? What is my contribution/service in my home?  Whom am I in the service of? This reiterates interdependency is when both giving and receiving is welcome, and in flow.
  • If part of my work brings forth interaction with children, in which spaces will I be sheltering them, protecting them and moving them into survival? In which spaces will I allow for connection, growth and expansion? This offers a beautiful guidance to shape the interaction.

And from a big picture perspective, the followings questions come up, and I offer it to all of us to reflect upon:

  • If we as a species, need homes to be nourished for expansion, can it be fulfilled by removing balconies, play areas, parks, gardens, beaches, low compound walls, all the green and the blue, which is where we see-listen-sense-interact-engage with humans and non-humans? 
  • How big a  house is needed to meet the needs it fulfills? And how big a home is needed to nourish our interconnected, our interdependency and therefore our well-being?
  • We might be able to live without a house, can we live without a home

Journeying with these two words, brings both freedom and responsibility. Freedom, that we indeed have all the birds, the bees, the non-human world, coupled with the human world, to hold us, and our work and our actions. That we are not alone. It also means, it guides us to take more responsibility for our service, as now, we too are holding this web. 

This is home. 

I am deeply grateful for what this insight has opened up for me, to act upon.

As you read this, and sit with it, if this brings up anything for you, I ask of you to share, so we can weave this web of interconnectedness together.

Thank you for reading. 

Comments(35)

    • Aparna Philips

    • 4 weeks ago

    “A house is made of bricks and beams. A home is made of hopes and dreams.” That summarizes my definition of both.

    This year, more than any other, cemented more my belief that home is just a state of mind.. it’s a feeling that is founded more on the people you surround yourself with, the love you share and the sense of belonging it evokes. There are no physical boundaries and there is no place like home. Thank you for always sparking such curiosity and introspection with your beautiful words, Anjan!

    1. Dearest Aparna
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I just loved your summary `a house is made of bricks and beams. A home is made of hopes and dreams’ – how true, how beautiful.

      I hear you on your experience of home this year. It indeed is a state of mind, connected to a much larger community and emotions.
      Thank you so much for reading, for sharing what it brought up for you, and for your love. Big huggg.💚

    • Liz Virkar

    • 1 month ago

    Anjan, your lovely, evocative title hooked me immediately! I feel we are only old when we lose our sense of wonder and as, for me, this time draws near your blog is a lifeline!
    Your musing on house and home took me back a few years to when my grandson, all of six then, said,” I can’t EVER leave this house. All my memories are here!” Your blog would have helped me reassure him better!
    And while I always thought I had my home here in Bombay I realise now I have more than one home – completely different spaces where I feel the same sense of belonging, where I nurture and am nurtured, feel content and joyful. I’d never quite thought of that before. Thank you!

    1. Dearest!
      Thank you so very much for the reading of the post, and for sharing what it brought up for you. Yes, our wonder within is never lost, no matter what our age. Its always present. Only its intensity keeps varying. When we take time to nurture it, it just springs back like second nature again, because it is our second nature. That’s the reassuring part. It never leaves us.

      How really beautiful `I realise I have more than one home – completely different spaces where I feel the same sense of belonging’…’
      I love this. Totally.
      Yes, we can belong to many homes, as where we feel content-joyful-nurtured (like you rightly put), is our home :).

      Hugggg. Thank you so much for the sharing. 🌻

    • Bilkish

    • 1 month ago

    Hey Anjan, this is another of your insightful pieces. The topic is so simple yet so profound. I remember writing an essay in school on this topic.
    I love the many facets of home and house you have addressed, especially how the house is a subset of a home.
    The house provides the environment for a home, and both are very important for our survival and growth. Yet sometimes a house can be limiting but a home is always liberating.

    1. Dearest Bilkish
      Thank you for your reading, and sharing. Means a lot.
      How interesting that you remember writing an essay on this topic!

      `a house can be limiting, but a home is always liberating’ – that is so well thought of and put out. Thank you. Yes, indeed.

      Much love.
      Anjan💚

    • nik

    • 1 month ago

    Hi Anjan,

    So lovely. Thanks for sharing this Apt Homely message 🙂

    1. Thanks dear Nik. For reading, and for sharing what you felt.
      So appreciate it. 🐠

    • Mrinal Dossal

    • 1 month ago

    Anjan .. you are absolutely bang on .. have always said home is comfort ,warmth ,belonging .. that’s why “ feel @ home” was coined I guess .. house is the stepping stone but it’s only you who can transform it to a home .. lovely piece !!!

    1. Thanks dear Mrinal. For reading and sharing.
      `house is the stepping stone, but it is only you who can transform it into a home’…beautiful.
      Yes, `feel @home’…is a message that shows our interconnection and interdependency to all that makes up that feeling. A well-coined thought 🙂

      Love
      Anjan🐌

    • Archna Balan

    • 1 month ago

    Anjan,
    Loved this topic.
    A simple one, yet so strong.
    Home is always where your heart is.
    A home is your happy, safe and secure space – shared with your loved ones.
    A home is where you spend the best of best times with the ones you love.
    We create this lovely space – a home, from the house we move into initially.
    There are few houses I have been to that has given me the same warmth I feel in my own home.
    Your home has always been a home Anjan, its filled with warmth and smiles and love.
    Cheers
    Archna

    1. Dearest dearest Archna
      So so happy that this topic resonated with you. Thanks for sharing what it brought up for you.
      `We create this lovely space – a home, from the house we move into initially’ – that’s so true, and so well put. Yes. And this happens because of all the relationships we build around it. One in which we give, and receive.

      Thank you Archna…for feeling that way about our place. I think the feeling of family is mutual for the years we have known and loved one another. Its our lovely connection that makes us feel that way.🦋

    • Amestrice Talati

    • 1 month ago

    Anjan, I loved the elaborate write on such a sensitive topic and as always I try and find myself in it. In this case it’s like the head and mind (house and home). My experience with life has shown me that no matter where you are physically and how well it is shaped (head), in the most beautiful of houses, countries, locations,  unless the mind is joyous you won’t feel at home.  Yes it’s not the balconies and terraces, and huge tv’s etc  (infact thats too much to clean) it’s the mind feeling joy; thats home.

    1. Dearest Amy
      Thank you, thank you for your careful reading of the post, and sharing what it brought up for you. How lovely, `head and mind’. Yes, when we feel joyous, we are home. And there are so many things that contribute to it, besides just the physical house. And as much as the house is a part of our home, and is essential, being home is equally needed to feel that joy. Beautiful. Enjoyed your sharing.🌸

    • Ashok Gulati

    • 1 month ago

    A house is four walls. A home is where memories are made!

    Loved your analysis, although I’m not sure whether most of us think so deeply about it. I think most of us react instinctively – maybe pre-programmed by genetics, culture and upbringing.

    But this should make us more aware of the dynamics involved and make us act consciously rather than react instinctively.

    1. How beautiful, yes `a home is where memories are made’ – thanks for reading and sharing dear Ashok. 🐬

    • Nauru

    • 1 month ago

    Dynamic

    • Julie Gabrielli

    • 1 month ago

    Thank you for this beautiful musing. As an architect, I have long been curious about the way people use these two very distinct terms. I always refer to my projects as “house.” Here, the use of “home” to market residential projects degrades the rich reality of the wider environment in which we are embedded.

    1. Thank you dear Julie for the reading of the post, and your sharing. Yes, as an architect, you might often refer to these words. How lovely to hear of your curiosity around these words too.

      Our house too becomes a home, when it is in interconnection with all Life around. Which is why, when we think of the `home’ we live in, it evokes deeper feelings – of love, of connection, of a soul in action. 💚

    • Kanu A. Gupta

    • 2 months ago

    Really enjoyed this piece — it provoked a nerve within me.

    All this while we have been interchanging the two without really realizing that the concept of home is far larger than house and far less geographic in construct.

    1. Thanks dear Kanu, for reading and sharing what it brought up for you. Beautiful what you further reiterate…`far less geographic in construct’… how well said!

      Yes…even when we refer to our house, as being a `home’. For example, when we have been away from our place for a while, and we say, `I cant wait to be home’…it is not just the house we are referring to. It is the whole range of feelings it evokes – which includes where the house is located, all the things within the house, but also everything it is in relationship with – people, the food, the comfort, the knowing. So, a very interconnected, interdependent feeling, and never just the physical structure. And we long to come back to that whole.
      That’s how I began to see and understand it, as I explored them.

    • Kavita berry

    • 2 months ago

    So anjan once again you provide food for thought—- slightly disagree about being able to do without a house—very important too—a house is not just 4 walls but also a place where your life experience is reflected— it’s a place to incubate your thoughts — a place to retreat into when you need to be alone—a place like no other— the deep thinker in you brought out the necessity of the home which we moderns have neglected— thanks for a brilliant piece

    1. Dearest Kavita
      Thank you so very much for reading and sharing what it brought up for you. Thank you too for bringing attention to the last line of my `big picture questions’, and expanding on it through your lens. As I share, house is indeed a need, and what it fulfils is an essential part of the whole. Like you very beautifully point out – `where life experience is reflected…a place to incubate your thoughts…a place to retreat’. Truly a place of shelter – healing – protection, nurturing – all of which are needed for all of us as a species.

      I agree with you, and therefore the use of the word `might’. More to highlight that a house without a home, might fail to lift our spirit which is needed for our growth and evolution. Maybe I could word it this way: We know that we need the house, but can we live without a home?’ – Does that sound more true, feel right?

      When I write, I believe we are writing together. Your insights, sharing, feedback, helps me understand that my intention or understanding might be the same, but the way the last line was worded, could convey otherwise.

      Thank you Kavita, for your careful reading, for your beautiful words about the post, and for being a companion on this journey. To many more…

    • Madhu lahoty

    • 2 months ago

    Fabulous Anjan !
    House and Home .. great subject
    Great insight and I love your content !

    1. Dearest Madhu, thanks so much for reading it. Thanks for your words. 🙂

    • Mallika Iyer

    • 2 months ago

    Wonderful thoughts. Yes…makaan and ghar…the Hindi words make the difference more stark to me. Fell blessed to have a beautiful home – this planet and my immediate home. 🙂

    1. Dearest Mallika
      Beautiful – ‘Makaan’ and `ghar’- so true. These words in Hindi indeed bring out the distinction and starkness very well. Thanks much for sharing. Yes, we really are blessed. Thanks for reading, and sharing your thoughts. Much love.

    • Shabana M Mashraki

    • 2 months ago

    How beautfiul is this and how grateful I feel to you for sharing this with me. A house and a home , the tangible and the intangible, both important for its occupants to thrive. The cornerstones of civilisation.

    1. Thank you Shabana for your reading of the post, and sharing your thoughts. It is wonderful to have you on this journey. Much love.

    • Rita Afonso

    • 2 months ago

    It does not take much to build a house but it takes a lot to build a home. But, most of us spend a lot of our energy in building our houses and thus forget to build our homes. Anjan, you always invoke positive thoughts in us and help us to think deeply in small things and help to bring a great change.
    Continue inspiring us dear …❤️

    1. Thank you dear Rita for your sharing. True, we do look too much into the house, and forget the home. Thanks for your beautiful words, and your abundant love and support that comes through it.

    • Ashvin Shivaraju

    • 2 months ago

    Hi Anjan, we can rebuild a house, but we cannot rebuild the home. So it is imperative we save this one and only home which has been passed on to us and pass it on safetly to the future generations without altering it, rather rebuilding it now, as we now know what all we have destroyed, we now have the know-how how to rebuild.

    Live in harmony.

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing, Ashvin. Beautiful… ‘rebuild a house, but we cannot rebuild a home’. Yes, our attention to reconnect and expand is a responsibility. Thank you!

    • Keshav Prakash

    • 2 months ago

    Congratulations Anjan!
    Truly blessed to receive your invite to wonder, what a delight.

    1. Thank you. Thanks for being a strength on this journey. 🙂

Please Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *