The home is a gathering place, a refuge,

The Malayalam word for home, v?? (????), has been used since the 13th century by Dravidians in India. The word ‘home’ is described by Oxford dictionary as  “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” Since I was a child my family has been constantly moving from house to house, country to country, and my experiences allowed me to forge an accurate definition of home. To me, home is a place where you feel comfortable; a place whereupon entering, the stress of daily life evaporates and is replaced by a sense of safety. The word ‘v??’ is often misused and incorrectly defined, a home is much more than a house, and I urge others to use it to define a feeling instead of a particular place. A home is a gathering place, a refuge, and a sanctuary, granting liberation from the chaotic atmosphere and intrusiveness of the world. Home is (or was) for many a caring, supportive setting in which to grow up and invent oneself. But a home doesn’t necessarily have to be a house, or even a specific location. For many, home is their country, just being around people immersed in the same culture, environment and traditions makes them feel comfortable. This comfort might provide athletes in their home field a significant advantage over an ‘away’ team. Psychologists Mark S. Allen and Marc V. Jones analysed existing research on athletic competitions and found correlation between team performance and home field advantage. For example, their results show that large home crowds that encourage the team by cheering and applause significantly contribute to a home-team success. Crowd support can even affect the decisions officials make; when the crowd is backing the home team, officials are inclined to make rulings that benefit the home team and deal more severe penalties to the away team. In addition, the opposite effect takes place when one is away from home. “Homesickness Among Soldiers” is an article posted to the N. Y. Medical Journal on Sept. 17, 1898, and it describes the effect on soldiers who fight in foreign countries: “The depressing effects of this common ailment have a decided influence in increasing the rate of mortality of the sick and wounded and in impairing the effectiveness of the fighting line” (Homoeopathic Recorder Volume XIII 511). When soldiers fight in foreign lands, they lose motivation and passion which results in poorer performance. A home is not just a structure built with walls and a roof, it is a shelter gradually constructed through layers of memories and experiences and the pillar that holds it all together is the presence of family. There is a reason why we correlate the house that we grew up in to “home”. Our childhood homes are where we hold our most defining memories. Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” portrays the memories we associate to our childhood homes: “I thought if I could touch this place or feel it / This brokenness inside me might start healing … / Won’t take nothing but a memory / From the house that built me” (Miranda Lambert).What is most devastating is the destruction of a home, whether it be leaving the home behind, or simply not being able to see it anymore. Such is the case with Amir’s childhood home as shown in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner: “The house itself was far from the sprawling white mansion I remembered from my childhood…the roof sagged and the plaster was cracked. The windows…were broken. The paint, once sparkling white, had faded to ghostly gray and eroded in part” (Hosseini 224). The reason he is heartbroken, however, isn’t just the destruction of his childhood house; it was a representation of the loss of his childhood. Empathizing with Amir came very easily to me when reading this scene because I saw the same fate occur to my childhood home after returning to India from Hong Kong. My home, which we rented out to a seemingly responsible family, was utterly unrecognizable when we returned. The lawn was dug up, the dirt splayed all over the garden. Plants overgrown to the point where the house was barely visible through the forest that surrounded my broken home. The house felt foreign to me upon entry, with clothes, toys and utensils strewn over our previously spotless marble floor. The house no longer felt like v??, and I came to the realization that Hong Kong was my home now.Many people confuse homes for childhood houses. While childhood houses can and usually are most people’s homes, there are some who have endured unfortunate experiences such as abuse in their childhood houses. These houses cannot be classified as a home. For example, Clayton Moss, a six year old child,  was locked inside an unventilated, dim bathroom closet for months in his previous house by his parents. He was constrained with  chains and starved. Until his step-sister confessed to authorities, Moss was forced to stay in this house. For children like Moss, their childhood houses are not their home. The definition of a house and the definition of home should be separated and redefined. A house is just a structure in which you reside. A home is where you go to feel comfortable and escape the hardship of life. Homes aren’t constricted to architecture, organization or any systematic measurements. A home is a basic human need and a necessity, and everything we do is in search of a home, a comfort.