Go back to where you came from

Charles Dickens was prescient, when opening his Tale of Two Cities in 1859 he wrote:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

A hundred and sixty years later here we are today, living “in an age of wisdom and an age of foolishness”, to paraphrase the legendary author.  One can see politicians of all stripes globally competing mindlessly to demonstrate this trite trait, their declarations indicating foolishness in greater measure than wisdom.  For instance, what can we make of one twit, whose tweets exhort citizens born in his country to “go back to where you came from”?  On a different note, another politician (I remain doubtful if we have any “leaders” today) volubly supports measures to limit the heating up of our planet while endorsing greater use of fossil fuels, in the same breath.  Or another towering personality from this new breed of magi, who is intent on creating a list of his country’s citizens to be classified as “alien termites” and deport them to, no one can say, where?  It now appears to be a global phenomenon.

Canada continues to welcome immigrants and refugees, but it is quite normal for even second-generation immigrants to be tagged as “Indo-Canadians” or “Chinese-Canadians” etc.  Perhaps others are similarly labeled “Portuguese-Canadians”, “Irish-Canadians” or “Italian-Canadians”.  I know, Indians have a penchant for self identifying ourselves with the “Indian” prefix.  This is particularly noticeable when someone of Indian origin is selected for accolades anywhere at all in the world.  Indian news-papers will proudly feature the story of a kid born of Indian parents, who may themselves be second or third generation citizens of the UK, Canada or the US after having immigrated from Kenya, Guyana or wherever else, proudly highlighting that an “Indo-Canadian/American is tipped to head the …”!  A great deal of pride is reflected in such banner headlines.  Conversely, should a citizen express an opinion contrary to the populist mood, they are readily told to relocate to other neighbouring countries.

This raises an interesting question; what are the special qualifications for someone to be considered a “local”?

On a lighter note, I share this interesting excerpt from the wonderful book, True Confessions from The Ninth Concession chronicling Canadian rural life, in which the author Dan Needles writes “… about a woman who was born on the mail boat that sailed from Halifax to St. John’s, Newfoundland.  She lived in St. John’s for a century.  When she finally died the news-paper headline read: “Halifax woman dead at 100.”

Meraj Faizabadi “ash’aar” (couplets) from his “ghazal” (ode) aptly sum up the sentiments of a settler:

Kyuuñ hameñ log samajhte haiñ yahāñ pardesī Why do people here consider me an alien
ek muddat se isī shahr meñ ābād haiñ hum I settled here (in this place/country) a long time ago
Kaahe kā tark-e-vatan kaahe kī hijrat baabā What emigration, why this (talk of) immigration, O (honourable) man
isī dhartī kī isī desh kī aulād haiñ hum I am born of this earth, a child of this country’s soil
Hum bhī ta.amīr-e-vatan meiñ haiñ barābar ke sharīk I too am an equal partner in nation-building
dar-o-dīvār agar tum ho to buniyād haiñ hum If you represent the door and walls (of this dwelling), I am the foundation



4 Replies to “Go back to where you came from”

  1. Thank you for introducing me to Meraj Faisabadi’s beautiful couplets. How sad it is, though, that one has to defend one’s right to belong, to call a place home.

    Immigrants will always face the Where-are-you-from query. Even second-generation ones, born here, are asked, “But where are you originally from?”

    How far back do we have to go to go back to where we came from? Where will our children and grandchildren go back to?


  2. Glad you liked the poetry; appreciate your encouragement, as always.

    I firmly believe the answer lies in being comfortable in one’s own skin, metaphorically and literally! Sufi saint Bulle Shah queried “Ki jaanaan mein kaun? (What do I know who I (truly) am”?

    Today, everyone is seeking a label to attach themselves to and use it to circumscribe their identity, seeking comfort in numbers that are confined within that circle/community. Shagorika and Pankaj are not, and cannot be limited by mere tags like Indian, Canadian or Indo-Canadian. We are much, much more than these terms.


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