‘Listen to the story of the reed, of being separated.
“Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.”
Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back.’
“Where are you from?”. This is the question I am asked most frequently since having moved to London. It could be a host of mannerisms that give my immigrant status away. My accent, my (slow) pace of walking, my being a few minutes late to every appointment, my need to find some sense of belonging with the transient souls in central London, my anxiety and self-consciousness in social interactions with locals… I could go on and on about how foreign I still feel in this place that I thought I would fit into like a lost piece of a jigsaw puzzle. If I didn’t fit in the East, surely that meant I would gel in the West, right? Wrong. The irony is that I am more aware now than ever before about how much I am a product of my Eastern culture, if not in its entirety then perhaps in unconscious ways that one takes for granted. Having consciously rejected many parts of my own culture I cannot say that distance has made me grow fonder of every aspect of it. It is more of a humbling self-awareness that I do miss the home I tried so long to flee, the country that made me feel unwanted and unsafe. How is this even possible? But there it is, that unreasonable longing for home. I miss the sunshine, the smell of the rain as it fell on dusty pavements, the old trees, the roads I know so well, the delicious food, the ease of conversations in my own language, the music, the cotton clothes, the colours in the sky…
Most of my adolescent life I felt caged by the traditional values of my culture; they impinged on my personal preferences which veered towards New-Agey and feminist ideologies. However, now that I am in the land where the monarch is a woman, modern values prevail, peace and security are the norm and alcohol is legal, instead of feeling liberated I feel a bit like a villager who keeps getting lost on public transport. I find myself questioning and re-assessing my expectations, and I find myself feeling the ache of all thats missing from my previous life. Well, the nice parts anyway ! It is amazing how much euphoric recall one can indulge in when engulfed in a wave of homesickness.
The trouble is, I escaped one hateful system of patriarchy and dropped through the cracks of another brutal framework where the amount of dignity you are owed as a human being is dictated by the colour of your passport. I didn’t think it was impossible for anyone to loathe my passport more than myself, but it turns out that there are whole office buildings full of people that do, indeed – and they are on a pay roll by their government to make it illegal for you or your passport to cross borders into their country without going through checks that are fit for the most hardened criminals. No one warned me that the process of immigration into the UK would be so wounding to my pride, so heavy on my heart (and pocket), and so very alienating. If I can feel this isolated being a person with liberal-secular views, having had a Western postgraduate education, speaking the English language and living in a good neighbourhood, I shudder to think of the hardships of migration for those who do not have all these advantages.
Perhaps it is all a matter of what is written in the stars for each of us. If someone had told me a few years ago that I have the planet Neptune on my natal IC which indicates a person who leaves their country of birth only to come to long for the place from which they have escaped, I would never believe it! I can hardly bring myself to accept it now that I am experiencing it in real time. For those who care to know, Neptune is a planet that describes collective and individual longings, and the IC is where you come from. In my case, the conjunction of the two gives a sense of yearning for having lost something before having fully appreciated having it.
On that rather melancholic note, I’m signing off and hoping for a bit of sunshine to warm this rather cold May morning.