On the verge of my third transfer from one place to another I am excited, a new house, a new environment, new friends but in the midst of it all I collapse on the recliner and take a breath. Shall I be on the transit all my life, waiting with bated breath at school admission tests, doing the rounds of estate agents offices, et al. Fun it is ay I’ve never denied that as I sit back to ponder what about the what if’s that life could have been. The year was 1947, the small district of Sylhet, in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was a war zone, as far as the minds of its inhabitants was concerned. The chaos on the roads was less compared to that in the minds of its people. Amidst the cries, the confusion, the stricken faces, a small boy talked to his cow. As he stoked fondly the ‘Chand’ atop ‘Chand Kopali’, and looked at her beautiful eyes, he reassured her and himself too that they would not be separated. As if in unison of mutual understanding ‘Chand Kopali’ (the one with a moon on her forehead) nodded and it was happy times again in the riot-less, unconfused and more or less secure world of the young ones. Bliss indeed it is not to know the pain of separation from one’s motherland, as that which could be seen writ large on most faces. Amidst the streams of humanity trickling into the ‘Mahatma’s free India’, a little boy trailed his footsteps minus his heart of dreams and games and ‘Chand Kopali’ into the realms of ‘free meals refugee camps’. Growing up amidst the constant chaos, where puffed rice was the hoodwinked game in fashion, days passed and years rolled into the consciousness of reality, where games where forever a thing of the past. Years later, when fish was affordable and ‘breakfast’ ( from Break- your-fast) not as literal a meaning, the eyes now grown, sometimes softened in absentmindedness of a memory long lost, of fishes from your own pond and vegetables that grew in the backyard. Life, they say waits for none, nor did it for the little boy who found his home and family a run between Shillong and Digboi, a tale of two places shall we call it… As a daughter of this father I was born and brought up in an industrial town ship where your house is yours as long as your dad’s next promotion. Being young of course has many advantages, you don’t question certain certainties of life and amidst the uncertainty, life assumes a tandem of its own. But not everyone remains a child forever nor do certainties remain certain forever. Somewhere down the lane, hostel and friends later, home coming came to be allied with borrowed proportions of being surrounded by your relatives, spending holidays among cousins galore, an ecstasy most kids miss. In the years that I called Assam a home & built my castes on its air, I learned of the love of the land, the love of the roots. Come adulthood and marriage and I was transported to another land, the land of the Bengalis, Kolkata. The same tongue that I called mother tongue they spoke, the same delicacies, the same idiosyncrasies, and yet it was not home. The minds were alien and so were the hearts. The people on the roads, saw differently thought differently and even spoke differently. Whenever I introduced myself to someone I never forgot to add, “I’m basically from Assam, that’s where I was born.” The more I tried to fit in, the more I found myself a misfit, be it in the language that I spoke that was not literary enough or the ideology I believed that was not Bengali enough… It was written in the silent glances, the smirk of ‘I know you don’t belong’ that need not be said. It was there in the unwritten circles that I was never allowed to enter, in books that we read, the songs that we sung, that we did not belong was obvious… perhaps we did not WANT to belong I mused.Many years and a daughter later, I decided to go back to show her the land I called home. As we travelled down familiar lanes, hide outs and houses so well remembered, all of us wondered at the beauty of the place, its greenery its natural essence, but where was home I wondered. The people it was made up of had all vanished into their own versions of home and mine no longer was ‘theirs’ or ‘ours’. Was this the land I had talked so much about, where were the shrieks of joy, the little me with wind in the air, the walks up and down. I sat down in shrieking silence and let flow in the floods, the home that I had lost. As life assumed proportions that were normal, amidst transfers, houses and cities galore, I longed for the call of the roots, once more. A familiar bend of growing up laughter, the knowing smile of the shop keeper at the corner, comfortable visages of neighbours growing old, the all encompassing gaze of a life well spent among the friends of childhood now grown in their primes, of dogs and kittens giving birth again. Home and homing was supposed to be this and so much more. Today when I’m asked where do you belong, I am not sure whether I belong or not and that’s not really a feeling you relish. As we grow older we all want attachments, we all grow roots and we want to spread them to the US and the OURS. My daughter complains from time to time about the friends she looses every time we move and I really have not much to say. I know the pangs of being displaced; I know it oh so well, the feeling of not belonging to nowhere. The search for my roots shall perhaps continue, but a little prayer lisps from the heart…let every child find his/her root & belong.
( Image courtesy Google)