” . . .and I embarked on endless journeys in search of a new home.”Refuge-e : The Journey Much Desired, 225
My pain is unique. It is subtle. It’s not physical, unless I sleep much longer or much less than normal, in which case it manifests through my fragilized lower back. It’s neither psychological, even though often times it overshadows my faculty of reason. I wouldn’t say it’s emotional either, for what I project in the crowd is utterly different from that which I carry in my privacy, a clear demonstration that whatever emotional aspects of my torturer, it seems to leave me when I leave myself to be with others and to live with me in my perpetual loneliness. My pain is a mix of the physical, the psychological and the emotional. Sometimes I think it has a spiritual dimension to it too. Otherwise, how can God allow one to suffer so much yet so quietly, with no one seeming to notice yet everyone have their eyes on you?
My pain is the loss I have endured for more than a decade now. Loss of my family, my beloved ones. They visit me from time to time. They come smiling, laughing loudly that I see rainbows even with no rains and I feel soothing breeze amid a tornado that is my life. A promise of joy. Two problems: They are the way I left them, they haven’t grown an inch, their voices are either unchanged or perhaps a little faded – or fading – for I struggle to conceptualize their sounds and their intonations. I have even lost my mother tongue, no wonder I’m losing their chatter, our culture and their character! My loved ones are also accessible either through memories or through imagination, and more often an ungodly marriage of the two. It is very painful to wish for superpowers to turn back or to accelerate the times, knowing well that even the present itself is as precarious as the past and as uncertain as the future. Result? My pain.
My pain is both my connection to the land of my birth and my disconnection from the land that set me to flee. Two sides of the same coin! It is the joy of remembering late night jokes, oral traditions and hide and seek in the bright moonlight called off by calls from distant mothers or the smell of food from homes. It is the contentment of uninterrupted recollection of the taste of my mother’s food and my grandmother’s traditional beer. It is the memory of unwillingness to wake up as early as 5 a.m to go and weed my father’s fields or walk through the morning dew for kilometers end, toward the small stream where we fetched water; all-a-must-do before wearing the school uniform to gear up for a long and a not-so educational day characterized by both laughter and play in spite of motherland’s dismay. My pain is the disconnection from all this, the realization that they can only be in the past no matter how much I want my reality to change. It is the thought that by the virtue of being a refugee, I can never witness how slowly or quickly my motherland transforms – if at all – for the enemy of progress who sent me thousands of kilometers into exile still exits and sits on the highest throne.
. . . how can God allow one to suffer so much yet so quietly, with no one seeming to notice yet everyone have their eyes on you?
My pain is my mother, who is sickly and fragile, who is surviving only because of tons of drugs swallowed and pumped three times a day or more, for the past God knows how long! Where did the agility of a hardworking woman go? Where is the strength of a loving mother who carried me tenderly on her back and in her arms and on her lap, who run heart a drum and lungs out to lift me up whenever I stumbled and fell, who chased me from room to room to beat the mischievousness out of me?
My pain is my father, a man so respectable and able. His wealthy and unalterable worthy have been tainted by the lack and the bad luck of having been born towards the end of colonization, and in times misaligned with all that is wicked and evil. Like dictatorships, lies and murder. Now, he inhales dust and exhales poverty, despite having been the lighthouse to which my ancestral community and society sailed to see, to learn, and to follow. He cannot even follow himself!
My pain is my brothers and sisters scattered all over; like mushrooms, reconstructing their lives in this bushy and thorny world that only seems to hurt and prick the innocent. Self-denial, familial denial and denial of all that is us is characteristic of the pain we feel and the pain we share, and yet we embrace it with love and understanding and pray that one day; just one day, we can miraculously be cured of the rotten soil we are springing from.
My pain is my nieces and my nephews who are growing apart. They can’t enjoy the joy I had of having. The joy of having cousins and aunts, of having culture and traditions, of having dos and taboos and of having all that matter in life. They love Disney princesses, crave for Chinese food, and wish for the day they would play in snow. There is no snow where I come from!
My pain is my life, no wonder no one seems to notice.
But my pain is my pain, and mostly mine alone. It is mine to nurture, as I dream and hope, as I position myself to sail through the storm to lands unknown, to lands of beauty, progress and tranquility. My pain will bring me pleasure. As time gives way to life, pain can mean progress.