Lament of the dispossessed

Lament of the dispossessed

I am often possessed by a bitter-sweet yearning for a certain intangible something — an unyielding hunger so strong it gnaws at my being, bringing tears to my eyes. I pack my bags then, seeking it in the land of my birth.

This land my parents once left and then returned, I return now seeking solace in its embrace. I love the smell of its earth, the rush of rain on a harsh monsoon morning, the distant roar of an angry sea, even the sweltering heat that summer brings along with the sharp smell of just ripening mangoes.

I search for what I seek in the dilapidated, cobwebbed house my mother once called home, at the shrine of the goddess who answers every anguished prayer, at the once proud family pond, now dying under hyacinths and neglect. I struggle to lose myself in the serenity of lighted lamps at dusk, in mumbled prayers and the holy scent of burning incense. In between, I glimpse visions of fleeting rootedness, and wonder if this is what I seek.

Everybody knows me here, my many names, my family four generations in time, my myriad perceived transgressions. I try to blend in with my own — wear my hair wet, sport sandal on my forehead and delight in the warmth of many a familiar touch. What joy it is to sip life like a warm cup of morning coffee — leisurely, unhurriedly, savouring every drop, I tell myself.  What pleasure there is in the certainty of routines, in the predictable monotony of day following night.

Then why do I feel the murmur of a distant unrest tug at my heart? Why do I long to break this rhythmic placidness of life? Why do I want to snap my moorings, seeking flight? Why does my head pound with the refrain, not this, not this? I pack my bags again...

I give myself up to this city I choose to call my own and the blessed anonymity it offers.
 I love its spirited rebellion as it raises its head from the ravages of development and callousness to remain defiantly beautiful. What delight to watch it cheekily display its jacarandas and may flowers, as some dig the ground beneath its trunks!
Riding its smoke-filled, crowded roads I let myself be lulled into a soothing, numbing stupor.

I chop my hair, paint my lips, pierce my nose, and no head turns. There is great solace in being a stranger I tell myself, doing a little jig to revel in my inconspicuousness.
But soon the old yearning seeks me out. An inexplicable feverishness, it threatens to disrupt my equilibrium, shatter my tenuous bliss. I cannot quell the fear that rises with that old refrain, not this, not this. Yet I fight the urge to pack my bags once again. For I know the journey I need to take this time is an inward one.

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