Study Guide

Homeless Bird The Home

By Gloria Whelan

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The Home

The day I left home, there would be a little more for everyone else. I had known the day was coming, but the regret I saw in Maa's eyes made me tremble. (1.1)

We feel for Koly and her mom when Koly leaves home for her hubby's house. We know it's traditional and all, but it's still hard on Koly and makes her feel lonely and confused. She's not sure if she'll even like her new husband, family, or home, and feels, well, homeless.

As I lay there in the strange house, I felt like a newly caged animal that rushes about looking for the open door that isn't there. I thought I might be able to endure one day in my new home and perhaps two, but I did not see how I could live there for the rest of my life. (1.80)

Koly compares herself to a bird a lot in the book (head on over to "Symbols" to really explore this in depth). Here we see that she's restricted in her new home and doesn't feel a sense of comfort. She even wonders how long she can stay. That's what we'd call foreshadowing.

I thought of the excitement of the city. But what would I do for a living, and where could I stay? I remembered all the families living on the streets. (4.39)

As Koly first starts considering how to escape her life and make it on her own, she's excited. But then she considers what it really means, and she's just not so sure she can make enough money or find a stable home. It turns out even the depressing Mehtas' pad is more like a home than the big wide world.

He sighed, and I knew he was thinking of Hari, so I began to read aloud to Sassur from my favorite poem. It was about a flock of birds flying day and night through the skies. Among them was one homeless bird, always flying on to somewhere else. (4.51)

The homeless bird in these poems means a lot to Koly because she super relates to it. She also feels like a bird waiting to take flight, wandering around in hopes of finding a home.

Because I was leaving it, my sass's house, where for so long I had felt unwelcome, now seemed like home. I even said goodbye to the bandicoot, which switched its tail and twitched its whiskers at me in a friendly way. (7.25)

When Koly and Mrs. Mehta leave their home, Koly's surprised at her sadness. Sure, it hasn't exactly been a kindhearted and comfy place with warm chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, but Koly has had good times there. It makes her sad to leave because this place has become her home in its own way.

All around us people were settling down on the sidewalks. Babies and small children snuggled against their mothers or sisters. Some of the people fell asleep immediately, as if their square of sidewalk were as much a shelter as a house would be. (8.11)

No one seems to have a home in widows' city; everyone is wandering around, looking for a place to stay. This makes Koly feel lost and frustrated, but it also gives her a sense of hope—if everyone around her is going through the same homelessness as she is, she doesn't feel so alone.

That night, for the first time since coming to Vrindavan, I felt safe. Lying nearby were other widows, their soft sighs and turnings like so many doves fluttering around me. (9.1)

The widows' house brings comfort to Koly. It feels more like a home to her than the Mehtas' place ever does, and here she finds peace and encouragement from Maa Kamala and Tanu. Most importantly? She feels safe.

Tanu and I were proud of having our own place. We put pictures from old magazines on the wall and bought two charpoys and a small hot plate to cook on. (11.25)

This time when Koly moves it's because she wants to. Unlike the previous times we've seen her pack up, she chooses to get her own digs with her friend. Notice how Koly tells us that she's "proud"of her new place because it's something that she and Tanu have created together. You go, girls.

I thought often of the room Raji had built for me. (11.43)

Our hearts melt when Raji builds a room for Koly's embroidery work. It's a sign to her that he totally gets her and wants her to be happy doing what she loves. It also shows us that she can make his farm her home instead of just a house that she lives in with him. Swoon.

Immediately I knew that it would be the homeless bird, flying at last to its home. (11.67)

It's only fitting that the homeless bird—now free—closes out the book (and this theme), because it shows us just how far Koly has come from the beginning. No longer is she caged or forced to do something she doesn't want it. Koly finally has a home.

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