Many a time, I am being personally questioned – and even attacked – on my way of life as a person who live abroad, far away from my homeland. These questions – and so attacks – come from different people and different angles.
But at the core of it is a blame that I am loosing much of what moulded me into what I am and, as a result, I am loosing my children into cultural emptiness. The question of culture is indeed so deep into our veins that we always tend to associate it to the life itself. Without it, there is no WE.
“Do you teach your children to wear properly!?” “Can your children speak fluent Swahili?” “Do you pray and fast?” “How long are you going to stay over there?” “Do you send your kids to madrassah?” “Don’t you miss us here!?” Some of the questions are narrowed down to judge my financial and economic capacity and or incapacity. You have been in Europe for long time now, why can’t you build a house.. buy a car… estbalish a company… and the list is long. Very very long!
While these might seem to others as just innocent questions coming out of love and deep concerns of my countrymen and women, they are at the sametime a judgment and tool of torture against the imaginary crime I have committed. A crime of being away from home.
But let me be honest. Even without these questions, I have already put myself on the defensive side of the case. It is as if I already accept to plea guilty of this crime. Not once in my almost one decade in Europe, have I cursed the day I took a flight to here. Most often, in those times, I feel a burden of being an alien to either side of the river.
I am a stranger to the land I migrated with my children, as no matter how hard I try to intergrate, there are empty holes that will never be filled. Strangehood is always compared to ignorance in my culture. There is no guarantee of not being prey to making mistake and even made pay for them when you are a stranger in ‘other’ people’s land. Similar could be said, when you are ignorant of something.
I am a stranger to my home country and my own people, no matter how hard I try to reconcile them into my thinking. As for me, the country I know is the one I left a decade ago, the friends I have are those we were together then. But both the country and the people are not static. Things have changed and they have changed with them too. The fabric that used to connect us seems to fade away every single moment. This is even at a time of great revolution of information technology.
This sense of being guilty has, however, nothing to do with my inability to answer the questions posed to me by my countrymen and women. Of course, I do have some answers. For example, I do really really miss my home country… actually I miss my home village, where I was born and raised and left when I was just 18 years old and never come back. That age, that village, those feelings, are the ones that come to my dreams when I sleep.
Of recent, I have learnt that I am not the only one who has pleaded guilty to this imaginery crime. Many a people who have migrated here are sharing the same feelings. They are bleeding inside for the tortures coming from the above raised questions.
Yes, I do teach my children how to wear. But the adverb ‘properly’ is itself subject to far and wide explanation, because it is subjective and not an objective connotation. What is proper clothing in my home country – especially due to its tropical weather – might not be proper elsewhere in the world. There are a number of criteria to judge what is and what is not proper.
Again, on the question of instilling to my children the same way of life that my parents did to me in our village, the attack is too strong and the loss in me is too heavy. Because it wants me not only to reverse the clock but also to turn the soil. Possible is it not!
How do I cope with this feeling of being guilty? That will be a topic for the next post. Come back here and let me have your say.