Liese Doucet said in her Desert Island Discs last week that “the word ‘home’ is one of the most evocative, the most powerful, the most beautiful words in the English language”. She’s right. It’s all of those things. But it’s also a bit enigmatic.
Since the coup in Burma last February we’ve been displaced from our home. We left Yangon and are now living apart from our things, our friends, and our future plans in that home. But over the months since we had to leave, we’ve settled and rooted back “home”. We’re surrounded by our families, our friends, our old things and our memories. And the longer we’re here, the deeper the roots go. Will we ever go home? Are we home?
For any expat, the concept of home is a strange one. You arrive in a new place, somewhere so different from home, yet it becomes home. How can that be? How can you have two homes?
The easiest explanation is to understand that home isn’t a place. It’s a feeling. A concept. An atmosphere. It’s contentment, comfort, confidence. It’s a community, a culture, comfortable silence, familiarity.
Home can be things. A jumper you’ve had forever, a particular copy of a book, a chair from your childhood bedroom. It can be smells or tastes. It can be people; the ones that make you feel totally calm. It can also be places (but it doesn’t have to be).
What is home for Kalinko?
It’s our favourite food. Particularly Burmese coconut chicken noodles. Make them here. In Yangon, eat them here. If you’re in London, eat them here. You’ll need this chilli oil, and this crunchy topping.
It’s our people. The people without whom Kalinko would never exist. Our team, our makers who carry on making until they really can’t anymore. And also the unsung ones who got Kalinko off the ground: Lin, Koko, Su Nge, Dr Moe, Billy and Soe Maung. The people who let us work in their office for free for years, and gave endless time, advice, resources, and passion for absolutely nothing.
It’s the sound of monks chanting, of the beyond-loud caterwauling of the roaming lottery carts, of the bonkers music which makes no sense to the Western ear, but total sense in context. The chaos. The disordered order.
It's the places and the memories. The views down from mountain-top pagodas. The calmness of the pine forests. The intense monsoon rain. The teak forests, the rattan jungles, the marble mountains.
All of these things inform our products, and our products therefore take us there. They’re little portals that take us home. But they’re also designed to be part of your home. A bit like how a singer releases his song to the world, and it ceases to be theirs; it becomes the listener’s – part of their world, their memories, their tempo. Our products come from our home, and are built from everything that home means for us, but once they’re in your home they weave into your lives, your memories, your comfort and familiarity.
Perhaps the greatest feeling of home for Kalinko (for anyone new to the brand who hasn’t heard us go on and on about it) is the light. The flitting, beautiful, soft light. See what I mean here. It’s magical and the perfect expression of our home. But the light in the UK, particularly in winter, is also spellbinding. And it comes from the same sun, doesn’t it? The same homeliness in a different home. The same creeping shadows, the same warm patches of floor.
It's a big old world, but home is a big, encompassing concept. It’s a thousand things, from all sorts of places. For Kalinko, it will always be Yangon in all its guises, but Yangon exists far, far beyond Yangon.
Where – or what – is home for you?