Editorial – Scattered winds
By Bhaswati Ghosh
My husband tells me a story in which a relative of his is in a refugee camp set up along the Punjab border and hears a Hindi film song on the radio. The song, “Ek dil ke tukde hazaar huye, koi yahan giraaa koi wahaan gira.” A plaintive lamentation over a lover’s heart breaking into a thousand pieces and being strewn all over suddenly acquired an entirely new meaning for the woman relative whose family had lost its home and belongings in the Partition of India.
As a child, I wouldn’t tire of listening to my grandmother repeat stories of her village in East Bengal, which, lost to the Partition, too, had become a forlorn ache, a wound that found its remedy by scratching itself again and again.
So in a sense, I inherited diasporic sensibilities even before I would experience living in a diaspora environment myself. In the latter, I am a greenhorn; I have lived outside my home country for only the last five years. Yet, I can already sense the agony of the longing my grandmother must have felt in her new surroundings. One misses not just everyday signposts of one’s past–the flowers and the tart fruits, the heat and the hailstorms, the friends and the nosy neighbours. One also starts missing imagined yearnings–an impending monsoon, the autumn festivities that everyone back home is sure to greedily indulge in, the toddler nephew’s anticipated reaction when his hair is shaved off this summer.
And that’s the genesis of the title of this issue–Here and There. For, a diaspora creature never lives in one place with the rootedness of a native. The immigrant always oscillates between the living reality here and the imagined possibility there. This movement isn’t without rewards, though. It facilitates cross-pollination of ideas and practices, brings in unknown sights and fresh scents; and, most of all, it helps one discover newer shades of one’s definition of “everyday” and the known world.
In reading through the entries for this issue, I have discovered facets of my own diaspora life I hadn’t paid attention to. The writers and artists who have contributed to this issue have made it a fascinatingly enriched smorgasbord of journeys, internal and external. Sumana Roy’s Under a leafless tree has taught me the restorative effects of waldeinsamkeit, a translation-less German word that captures the feeling experienced while one is alone in the woods, connecting with nature. Except, Roy’s essay is much more than just that. Pritha Lal’s Of foreign words in foreign lands connects the dots between three different words, each spawning off a different geographic and cultural seed, and the way they weave her life’s story. Sudeshna Sengupta negotiates distances and memories through her stunning audio-visual-textual collage, Jet lagged Kolkata Night. And Pooja Garg Singh surrenders to the impelling persuasion of her car’s window to document the poetry offered by the road in her photo essay, Of Signposts, Snapshots and Sontag: Reclaiming a Diasporic Life.
We read about young Western women visiting third-world countries (Heaven Bound, Finding Piya), about winters in Germany that are made bearable by a lover’s awaited visit and a Vietnamese cook’s skill and friendship (More winters to pass, Mustard zing and noodle soup slurp) and of the many colours and contradictions the diaspora rainbow reflects (It’s all in a name, Diaspora encounters, Death by Snow, Odyssey, Turning a corner, Scattered walking: the point of no return, The agreement, Being Calamity Jane, Remembered alleys, forgotten darknesses).
My heartfelt gratitude to Mosarrap H. Khan and the entire Cafe Dissensus editorial team for trusting me with this special issue. I am grateful to our wonderfully talented writers for sharing with us their stories of hope and fulfilment and also for posing difficult questions, when necessary. And to our readers, who continue to provide us vision and direction for the road ahead. Thank you for joining us at this intersection of scattered winds.
Photo: Bhaswati Ghosh
Bhaswati Ghosh writes and translates fiction and non-fiction. Her website: bhaswatighosh.com.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.