After I spoke of the imaginery crime to which I pleaded guilty – a crime of being away from home – many good people have written and even personally called me to show up their support. Of course, they were not supporting me in committing ‘the’ crime, but in trying to erase that psychological torture they believe I am enduring on myself.
In their efforts to make me feel comfortable with my crime, they belittled it and even deleted the word itself in their description of what befalls my very inner-self. “Look Mohammed, you must accept the reality. Yes, you are now living where you are, but also you have not left where you were. Your presence is very much felt here and your contribution much appreciated,” said one caller who WhatsApped me with love and concern. I felt his heart.
Others took me to the best corner that we all use when we really want to make somebody feels both secure and irresponsible for his own making – God’s fate. “Being away from home with a cause is not a crime but a blessing Sunnah”, so writes one of them on my Twitter account.
Yet another one was drawing a very colorful and patriotic apology: “Of course, being away is a crime if you have forsaken your kinsmen and kinswomen. If you have not, then it is fair. The feeling is always there. It is a good thing to have a feeling of home. But, you have to sidestep home sickness.”
Home sickness? May be yes, but may be bigger than that. As much as I consider myself a grown-up man, I never feel grown-up enough to be leaving my nest. It is as if outside the nest, I am vulnerable to anything coming on my way. So weak. So insecure. So disoriented. It is as if my country invested so much in making me a strong son of hers but not strong enough to live without her.
This feeling could be easily confused with just another home sickness. But, in my understanding, it is beyond that. It is about the empty holes that one can never fill, no matter how hard he tries. The burden of living abroad at the cost of leaving your homeland is not as temporary as sea sickness that you could wash away once you are out of the sailing ship. There has never been a functioning compass to lead you to a nearby safe harbour. And even when you see a distant sand island, you do not have an anchor powerful enough to allow your ship to dock peacefully as the sea is always rough and the sky always cloudy.
Above and among all these, how do I cope with the sense of being guilty to the crime I have committed? How do I confront my own crime?
Well, first of all is listening to my inner-self. The voice from within that tells me all naked truths that, otherwise, I do not hear from others – not even from my own mouth. This voice is bitter, but it is better, too!
I have learnt also to recreate a little home of mine and take it everywhere I go. All those things I consider to be representing my homeland are the ones I associate with – food, music, attire, flag and even manners.
I have to admit some existence of ironies and satires on it. Whereas in Zanzibar I never appreciated eating cassava and breadfruit, these are the meals that I nowadays look and cook with all love and affection here in a foreign land. As expensive as they are, I still find it a neccessity to buy them.
Paradoxically, I was wearing ‘kofia’ and ‘kanzu’ only during social gatherings at home (Maulid, Juma’a prayer, wedding, etc) and these were the only occassions, where my Zanzibarism was to be seen. But now, I do wear them unilaterally, all alone, and sometimes finding myself a center of attention among the people on bus or train.
The best way, however, of combating my own crime is to speak openly about it. There are many people I have met here who have chosen to fight this crime by fighting their lands of origin. For them, everything about their countries is bad – primitive culture, backward life, lazy people, uncivilized language, name others… By turning their own country a monster, they are relieved of their own mistakes and legalize their own crime of being away from it. It gave them ‘strong’ reason to leave there and live here. It is their way of confronting their own weakness.
Mine is different. I do confront my crime by accepting it. By taking full responsibility and by showing my mistakes, I believe, it leaves me with some sort of inner peace. If I can not undo these mistakes, at least those who learn from me will be able to see them as they really are.