‘Welcome Back- Idrian. Home is Everywhere.’

Vancouver writer Idrian Burgos caught a flight from Taipei, Taiwan, after a short vacation in the Philippines, and he said on facebook:
Departing for YVR. But what is home?’
My response was:
Welcome Back- Idrian. Home is Everywhere.’

Home is where the heart is.*

Home away from home.
Go back where you came from.
Home sweet Home.
‘Where thou art, that is home.’**

At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.‘― Warsan Shire. ‘How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.’― William Faulkner. ‘Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.‘― James Baldwin.

Home is where you park it.

A house is made with walls and beams. A home is made with love and dreams.’― Unknown. ‘Our country is where ever we are well off.’― John Milton. ‘The first essential for a happy Christian home is that love must be practiced.’― Billy Graham. ‘Sell your home for $3499‘.

It takes a woman…

A hundred men may make an encampment, but it takes a woman to make a home.‘― Unknown ‘Woman, the more careful she is about her face, the more careless about her house.’― Ben Jonson. ‘They created a home where I felt safe. I could make mistakes. Failure wasn’t punished.‘― Sarah Williams.

I thought, enough people had written and are writing about home for me to begin as well but some themes are never fulfilled. A desert of unquenchable thirst, a deadly predator in the clutches of its own obsession, the ‘home theme’ is the Demon Deity of thought and emotion. Home is love of a person, warmth of many people; it is past, childhood, youth; it is the first love, the initial betrayal, a deep loss. It’s a carefree smile, unstoppable giggles, resounding laughter. It’s everything that was, and can’t be. It’s a village town city province country continent, the earth; it is a building, hut, a tent; it is investment, property, commodity, mortgage and debt. Some homes are taken away, demolished, lives threatened, lands taken, people murdered.

The theme of home as we have constructed it, attacks migrants, the ones who leave their home countries to live elsewhere, from all sides. The personal loss of people, things and places that is experienced by a migrant is topped with racist slights of ‘go back where you came from’ in the host country; and accusations of familial and national betrayal, selfishness and greed in the country of origin. The sense of security and ‘ownership’ of a home-space that an individual may need to feel grounded, is constantly challenged and obfuscated in both places. In the racialized colonial cultures of host countries where most colored migrants come from the ex-colonies or from countries that are now being colonized through drones and wars, it remains forgotten that many Brown people are forced to leave their homes because of violent situations initiated and created by these same governments; that most Black people are here because their ancestors were brought over by White profiteers; that Indigenous people did not come from anywhere else; that the White people are migrants as well.

The flare of ‘nationalism’ to the theme of home is the deadliest double edged sword that we face as colored migrants. In 1941, BC’s Japanese people were picked up from their homes and shipped to a camp in another province of Canada: ‘Japanese-Canadian Internment was the removal and detainment of Japanese Canadians from the British Columbia coast following the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong and Malaya and attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent Canadian declaration of war on Japan during World War II. This forced relocation subjected many Japanese Canadians to government-enforced curfews and interrogations, job and property losses, and forced repatriation to Japan.’ (wikipedia.org). The White-Supremacists in Canada and US wave their ‘nationalism’ flags when they attack or spew hatred against colored people in general and Muslims in particular. At places, they are so bold that they wear their hate symbols and slogans on their police uniforms (Sign, if you have time: campaigns.organizefor.org). On the other hand, i know many writers in the diaspora who are challenged by their peers back home on their right to write about their home countries because ‘they left’, as if the act of leaving was a surgical operation to extract the brain and the heart. For example, i am allowed to miss Lahore, Punjab and Pakistan and express my remorse at leaving and sing praises for my city, province and country but i better not be critical of anything in there because then ‘go back where you came from’ of the ‘host’ country is used as a silencing weapon in the ‘home’ country. No wonder, so many writers become ‘Homeland Wailers’.

As well, in the nostalgic throes of its loss, we forget that ‘home’ is where most women and children are abused, that homes are also ‘cradles’ of prejudices against all who are placed as ‘others’ by the mouthpieces of prevalent systems, that the ‘nationalism’ flare is added by the moneyed classes to get more control for themselves. As a house, a product, most people on this earth can’t afford to buy a home; that they are built on land- yes, land that may have been stolen to benefit settler colonial economies, and that settler-colonial economies may still be the beneficiary of these lucrative real estate markets. In short, the ‘home theme’ is employed to buy and sell many things to benefit the Privileged of this World ranging from satisfying a basic human need for privacy and security to waging wars to gain more influence for the Influential.

Where is home?

As i begin to explore the theme of ‘home’ for myself, i realize that i actually DO have several homes- different for different levels of existence. My first home is where my soul resides, in my body. This is the most vital, the first and the last home without which i would not exist. My second home is in the cities where my children are, and those are Surrey and Vancouver in Canada, and that’s where my third home, where i now live, is also located.

Then i have a few ‘memory homes’ or ‘homes of memory’ or ‘memorial homes’, out of which the largest and the loveliest is Lahore (‘mera sohna shehr lhore nee / my beautiful city Lahore, girl friend’), the city where i was born, grew up, have family, school/college/university friends, where i knew the names of trees without learning them; recognized the birds from the songs they were singing. Where i heard the sound of the night in the plainfields, saw the brightest stars, the hottest sun, and experienced the thickest monsoon rains… Yes, memory retains it, and cherishes it- to nourish the soul, my actual home.

I am lukewarm about Toronto, where i lived for a decade, and Lyallpur aka Faisalabad, London and Rawalpindi where i spent a couple of years each.

It’s not just a place, it’s that time and those people in a place that i retain and recall. In that, memory plays many tricks, it omits, presents incomplete scenes and undefined feelings. I want to visit a place again to finish memory puzzles, but no, i don’t want to move back. Mainly because it’s not there any more, my home, with my mother, sister, brother, and everyone, in and around it.

Home is where my mom is.

My ‘mom’ is in the ‘other’ world, so to speak, and that’s where my future home is.
But, for now, my home is right here.
And, that’s where my heart is.
In my body.

* Pliny the Elder
** Emily Dickinson


Image from AneezaNaseem RoshniChanda.

Fauzia Rafique
Surrey, August 4/17

Toronto’s Tempting Wild Flowers



Before reading this story, you need to know that I grew up with the belief that I can’t defend myself in a physical fight. Some of it has to do with the way I was brought up but more comes from my few experiences with physical violence in my youth where I did not hit back, and so was easily overpowered by the offending party in an all-girls school yard. It was un-settling, so I tried to figure it out and discovered that there was no desire in me to have an eye for an eye, one was enough, even when mine; if at all. As well, I realized that Gandhi, another skinny South Asian, had the answers for me in this area: the tactics of nonviolence. To stand your ground without hitting back, and to continue to speak your mind. This, as we know, is the backbone of any protest movement across the globe.

So now, the story. The first week I was in Toronto, it was summer of 1986. Me and my ex partner Saloo Khan Durrani had had some tense few months while packing up and leaving Pakistan with our two children and to start living in Canada as Convention Refugees. We had a rental apartment in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto much like Surrey is to Vancouver; both stigmatized and frowned upon for their dense South Asian and other colored-immigrant populations. We were out with our children Mariam 10 and Yermiah 6, to do groceries and we decided to go to the mall through a park.

It was nice, but it rapidly became exciting as we went further in. Away from flowerbeds and green patches and paths, there were wild flowers on a slope, loads of them, the likes I had never seen before. We all have something or the other that we are drawn to. My friend Nefertiti SheLa is drawn to traumatized bub rats and she writes stories about them, Janene White is transfixed by all small animals and she goes onto write poems for them, Janet Kvaman can’t get enough of the dragonflies, Deborah Kelly coo-es over cats, and my long time friend Broyni Baxter is crazy over dogs. For me it’s flowers, and fruits, and any vegetation. Now, having lived in England for a couple of years, and from knowing gardens of Lahore, I was aware that in a city even if flowers appear to be wild, they probably are not. But I was a new refugee, there was no question for me to buy any kind of flowers, but I still had a heart. So, I went in, and began to touch and smell them.

Saloo saw that, and he hurried ahead with the kids, encouraging me to follow. I did feel that pressure but could not leave the flowers, and then after asking their permission, I began to softly pick them. I chose and took a few, long-stemmed, one each of a kind. As I was admiring them right at the scene of the crime, a young white woman passed by on a bike. I held up the flowers, and with a big smile, shared their beauty with her. She did not smile back, and continued on. Never mind, I thought, she must be in a hurry. I got up, and began to walk to the path. Just then, I saw her come back. Something in her manner made me stop.
‘Do you know that picking flowers is against the law in Canada?’ She asked, disembarking from her bike.
My mind shouted NO but ‘Yes’ came out because it’s hard to tender lies to sudden direct questions.
‘So, you broke the law on purpose?’
‘Look at the abundance! They won’t mind if I took a few’, I said.
‘Who won’t mind?’ She asked
‘The plants’, I said.
‘You broke our law and you think its a joke? Fucking Bitch! I am making a Citizen’s arrest’, she gave a quick look around for a place to rest her bike.
‘Do what you like but please don’t use abusive language’, I said.
At this, she dropped the bike, and began to shout and froth about dirty brown immigrants, criminals, lawbreakers, welfare bums, and illiterates; a barrage of filth that I don’t remember.
A small crowd was gathering around us, and I felt as if I was being enclosed into a rapidly forming, and moving, boxing ring with a crazed individual who was about to pounce at me.
‘Are you trying to assault me?’ I asked her to make sure.
And she did.
She pounced, I ducked; but what actually saved me was Saloo who had wedged himself between me and the blow just in time. With that, my situation changed as I could now take cover, even when human. Meanwhile, the young woman’s tongue was getting the best of her.
‘You are a racist, violent and abusive individual’, I said, raising my head over Saloo’s shoulder.
She hit again. Saloo stopped the blow.
‘This is assault!’ I said.
Some people in the crowd also began to challenge her, and because Saloo was non-violent but firm in his defensive moves, she finally left, still hurling insults at me and my brown-ness, paki-ness, refugee-ness; my visible-minority-ness. Most of all, at my insistence on my right to have a bunch of wild flowers even when I was a newly-arrived, unemployed, paki brown, refugee woman, living in Scarberia.

During all this strife that took about 10-15 minutes, where the ring of violence was moved from a narrow pathway to open area; ducking, retreating and standing my ground; after taking a load of verbal abuse and close encounters with violence, i still had the flowers in my hand; beautiful, fresh and smiling.

The interesting thing is, that this somewhat is the story of my life. At the end of each unpleasant experience, I find myself standing with a few beloved people and some very supportive strangers while holding in my hand an equivalent of a bouquet of fresh cut, undamaged, wild-looking, bright-colored flowers.

Perhaps because i’m not, for example, a Black man in America, an Indigenous woman in Canada, or a member of a minority in Pakistan.

Photo: mehi.me, Inset: Saloo Durrani

Presented at Surrey Muse August 28/15