Beyond smoky bars and darkening city pavements, in my small apartment in Cambridge, I let the night get the better of me, for nothing seems to ease my questioning heart. The air moves, fire ascends, water shapes and reshapes itself, yet the earth which stands still breeds the most change. My questions arise from the pit of this changing earth where I belong.
I go back in time. I was born in Eastern India. My father was a Hindu, my mother a Christian from Northern India and I attended Jewish Girls School in Calcutta India. My mother’s reasoning was that the unyielding Teachers in that particular school would be able to drill the hideous concepts of Mathematics into my rather poetically inclined sensibilities. The fact remains that till date I equate mathematical figures with passport-less Devils standing at the gates of Hell. With passing years I was admitted to a Christian Convent School and Catholic college and never found it imperative to ask how and why. Religious bias did not exist in my parents’ decision towards carving a better future for me. I am so glad they felt that way. They separated, but that did not affect me much, for their general stance towards my well-being did not differ.
My education taught me to believe that my existence was not meant to be cloistered within boundaries or walls. My language was the pollen on flowers susceptible to capricious Bees-gathering and spreading the wonders of transformation. I learned to stay away from those who were half-blind or deafened by the dark myths of customs and religious misnomers. I fell in love with many an author and poet and recall the words of Virginia Woolf who in her treatise Three Guineas wrote: “As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world”. These lines could be interpreted in a myriad of ways, but I tend to construe this as what holds true to my life: my country, my motherland is where I can claim myself as a global person, un-restrained by the shackles of nationalism.
I watched the world being pounded and stung by the winds of religious extremism, but I did not find the need to hide from the torrent. I was too soaked in the honey of ink that gratified my (oft) disturbed soul.
And then the mirror cracked. Not once, but several times in my life. I was swathed in a shroud of numbing incidents and I felt I could never free myself from the abyss. I felt the blood freeze in my veins and could hear far-away choral voices:
Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
A corse between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
And yet I lived, or should I say, I was born again? Born again, in another land. The land that snuffed out all the blinding gloom and smothered me with compassion and so much freedom of thought and expression that I felt like wave tossed and catapulted foam and spray. I felt like a book laid upside down in the blue sky seeking the clouds and wanting to know the origin of this design, called the Universe. When I wanted comfort this land lay me in her soft lap and allowed me to wake up each day to birdsongs so all my pains of the past could recede into the distance like a forgotten painting. I was born again in America: My mother: My motherland.
If I have ever known how a mother truly is, then yes America is my motherland and owe my life to her. They say, when one is close to one’s mother, a deeper space opens, where you can just be. We rise out of ourselves and heedlessly run into green fields where the scorching sun almost burns the skin: because we know the Mother to alleviate the sting and lead us to a paradise only expounded by angels.
I trust you again Mother to let me drown in the gurgling surge of your white sand seas- cleansing me clear of the nightmare of explosions and black dust, violence and loss, death and disaster. Everything about you assures me that the exile is over and that out of this we shall rise in glory and strength.