On ‘homesickness’…

I came across these lines in a beautiful short story called ‘Blue Mondays at the Gearshift Lounge‘, which is part of Mahmud Rahman’s ‘Killing the Water‘. In Blue Mondays, a former Bengali captain from the Pakistani Army tells a blues singer in Detroit how he felt being posted all the way in Kabul while a war for liberation raged in what is now Bangladesh (then-East Pakistan) — his homeland.

When you are far from your homeland, and your people are in trouble, you feel it deep in your heart.‘ He made a fist and struck his chest, hard. ‘You feel utterly helpless. Then, to get a chance to see your country again — and I arrived just as the yellow mustard flowers bloomed in the countryside — and then be able to play a part, even if it was a small part, in making history — can there be anything as fantastic as that?

Later in the story, the blues singer, an African-American woman from Alabama who had moved to Detroit, wonders about what the ex-captain has said, and tries to connect it with her own life:

She had gone home, ten years after she’d left Arkansas, and she arrived in October when the cotton was in bloom. When she’d grown up there, she’d worked on those fields and there had been nothing pretty about that; but when she returned, she was simply awestruck by their beauty. The heart plays funny tricks with one’s memories.

Two lives, continents and oceans apart; two very different ‘lived experiences’; and yet, they come together to understand one of the very basic human emotions: love for what one calls home. Pakistan is a fucked up place; news from there is rarely happy — heck, it is hardly ever in the same ballpark as ‘happy’ — but a place which is currently part of it, Sindh, is home to me. When I say I’m homesick, I don’t mean that I’m necessarily pining away for my house or my family. I have no notions of vacuous ‘patriotism’. When I say I’m homesick, I mean that, among other things, my heart is breaking over the fact that I’m sitting all the way here, feeling utterly and completely useless, while my people battle one of the biggest natural disasters of this century. And as the ex-captain in Rahman’s story puts it, ‘When you are far from your homeland, and your people are in trouble, you feel it deep in your heart.

  1. October 27, 2010 at 22:20

    Hello!, Very interest angle, we were talking about the same thing at work and found your site very stimulating. So felt compelled to com?ment a little thank you for all your effort. Please keep up the great work your doing!

  2. October 20, 2010 at 22:12

    Strange this post is totaly unrelated to what I was searching google for, but it was listed on the first page. I guess your doing something right if Google likes you enough to put you on the first page of a non related search.

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