I was born in Bombay and brought up in Delhi. After living a good part of my life there, I have returned to Mumbai, completing the cycle.
My father [artist Jatin Das] is an Odiya and my mother, a Gujarati. Every summer during my school and college days, we would go first to Baripada, the district headquarters of Odisha’s northern district of Mayurbhanj, and then to Mumbai, to my maternal grandparents’.
With my roots spread all over, it is difficult to know where they are thickest and deepest. I do feel at home in a lot of places. But if I had to pick one place that truly makes me nostalgic, it would be Baripada.
I remember the quickening of my heartbeat as our family home in Baripada grew closer. It was a long, tiring journey involving a train to Balasore, a bus and finally a rickshaw. In later years, the journey was reduced to a flight and a car, but the excitement of the last 500 metres was no less. The city child in me used to wait for the wilderness, the well, pond, trees and farms, and, of course, lots of cousins to play with. Not to forget the absolutely delicious Odiya food that even today, sadly, one can’t find anywhere except in Odiya homes.
I may not have had such a deep connection with Baripada had it not been for my father, whose roots there are thick and deep, despite having lived most of his life in Bombay and Delhi. He left home at 17, but wants it, even today, to be exactly how it was then, despite all the changes—most not for the better, though often inevitable.
My childhood memories are of a town where everybody knew everybody else. Temple festivals were more social and cultural gatherings than religious ones; we could be out in the sun all day playing around with sheer abandon. The peace and intimacy of a small town was the perfect antidote to the noisy chaos of the big city. It helped me straddle different worlds with ease and that has been a big boon.
My father is a painter, poet, gardener and cook, and has a host of other talents and interests. But beyond all that, what has influenced me most is his sensitivity, integrity and passion for everything that he does. What impacted me even more than growing up with art and culture was growing up with freedom and the space to question—this has had a profound impact on my choices, the values I hold dear and the person I am.
Over the years, I have travelled a lot, met many wonderful people and I increasingly feel like a citizen of the world. But I am still searching for a place where I would like to raise my child—and call home.