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IT SMELLS LIKE HOME, IT SMELLS LIKE HERE by Saadia Ahmed

Graphic illustration of people lining up to embark on a plane at an airport

You know what? I am pretty nervous as I begin to write. Interestingly, it is not the first time that I am penning down my emotions for people I might never meet in this lifetime. I have been writing for over eight years now ever since the first time my work was published in an English newspaper back in Pakistan. There are some people now living in different parts of the world who kind of know me too. I am probably building this explanatory beginning just to convince you that I am probably not too bad at writing my heart out and that my nervousness comes from a dark place within my heart. Oh, did I mention ‘dark’? Yes, I said it.

It feels like I am writing for the first time in my life. It feels exactly the same as it did a year and seven months ago when I walked outside Sydney International Airport on a flight from Lahore that stopped at Colombo and Singapore before bringing me to a place which was to add a special chapter in my life. It was November. The air felt slightly warm and filled with a scent I could not figure out. My red suitcase had almost all the belongings that I needed to begin a fresh life in a new country. Dressed in my blue denim top and jacket, I felt a little lost. Same thoughts, right now.

If I try figuring out the possible reason behind my sweaty palms and rapidly beating heart hiding behind my chest, it is probably that I am writing for the first time for Australian readers. You might fall in love with me. You might not want me to be a part of your life again. Who knows? I am lost and I still need to figure out why. I am clearing the droplets of sweat on my forehead softly with a tissue paper lying on my side table. It has tiny roses printed on it. You would know only if you look closely.

I have no idea where this fear stems from. In five months, I will be completing two years in Australia. This is a beautiful piece of land with a sky that looks like Van Gough’s paintings at all times. And, the beaches with fiercely splashing waves remind me of the chaos within me. This is slowly turning into my home. It felt fascinating in the beginning but now it is more than that. Being a hopeless romantic at heart, my ideal picture of love and curry is also similar; slowly simmering to achieve the desired aroma and consistency.

After living seven much loved months in Sydney (which still happens to have a piece of my heart), I had no choice but to move to Perth. Sydney had everything I had wanted in life; just the right pace, just the right vibe, and one of the most beautiful sunsets one could ask for. To be honest, moving to Perth (which I already knew as one of the most isolated cities in the world) was not an exciting thought.

I cried a little when my flight from Sydney took off for Perth. After dropping the luggage at the hotel late evening, it was time to walk around and explore the city’s winter. It was June. As I explored the empty roads of the Central Business District of Perth, something inside me broke. I was tired of moving homes and unpacking my suitcase every now and then. I was not seeking hiraeth but a home. The silent broad roads of St. George’s Terrace felt nowhere close to home. I needed rapidly flickering lights, people of mixed ages chattering noisily, and maybe Darling Harbour.

Was home still a utopian thought? Would I always remain homesick for the rest of my years in this world? Despite being a wanderer by nature for as long as I could remember, I still thought that I deserved a home; a place I could come back to with fire lit in the centre of a warm living room with a vibrant coloured calligraphic painting by Sadequain and a warm soft bed to curl into. I badly craved a place I could call home, a place I could call mine. It was nowhere in sight. My heart was bound to sink into waters deeper than the Swan River.

Months passed faster than days and moments. But for all these days, I dreamt of being in all the places I had lived and loved. I was either in Sydney, Dubai, or Lahore but never in Perth. My past seemed to overcome my present, my reality. I did not even try stepping out of my comfort zone which was my past and not the present. I thought I would never be able to move out of it.

Life is funny. It laughed at me once again, heartily this time around.

I was visiting my home country Pakistan for the Christmas holidays. Right after my initial excitement and adrenaline rush after landing, I realized something within me had changed. I was missing Perth. I wanted to be at the bank of the river watching the sunset, at Hyde Park trying to converse with the ducks in the lake, at Cottesloe Beach listening to the music of waves, and simply at Miss Maud waiting for my turn to pick hot beef pies and salmon sandwiches for a hearty lunch. I wanted to return.

After returning and breathing in relief this January, everything started moving as if in fast forward. The pandemic had hit the world drastically turning everything for everyone around the world upside down. Initial days were not easy but seeing how Australia dealt with this outbreak by putting people before profit made me slowly and gradually fall in love with a country that had started feeling like home. It felt like home because it felt safe. The sunshine and cool breeze had started touching my hair now. As things started getting better, I started walking more and more wherever I could in Perth. Walking from East Perth to Northbridge, I started getting a taste of home.

Today, as I write this piece, I still believe that life is funny. But I know that for now I never want to leave the love that has simmered over time to taste as rich as it does right now. I have finally found a place in life that somewhat feels like home. I want to hold this moment and stay here forever, collecting autumn leaves from Hyde Park and watching the waves splashing across the sand at Cottesloe Beach. I do not have more to ask for.


Saadia Ahmed is a writer, journalist, voiceover artist, and activist from Pakistan who moved to Australia less than two years ago. An architect by qualification, Saadia Ahmed found her solace in writing and drama after graduating from the architecture school. Her work is regularly published in the leading publications in Pakistan with special emphasis on human rights in general and women rights in particular.

Copyright © 2020 Saadia Ahmed. 


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