My understanding of the word ‘exile’ was restricted to political leader’s exclusion or expulsion from their country of origin. I was brought up in Bangladesh reading news stories on South Asian leaders’ exile to Western countries for various reasons.
Recently I realised the word ‘exile’ is not exclusively reserved to explain privileged politicians who enjoy an elite life away from their country to take a break or to survive from adverse political realities. They often exercise the option of exile voluntarily or involuntarily with the grace of a host country who would register them as bargaining chips for future diplomatic manoeuvres. Exile is a luxury for them.
In contrast, we, the hundreds and thousands of us common Bangladeshi’s are exiled and separated from our motherland for a very different reason; a state failing to provide us physical and economic security. We are away from our country not by choice but by compulsion of our circumstances. Like many other Bangladeshis a decade ago I had to embrace exile.
|Amongst the definitions of ‘exile’ the ones which apply to me most are ‘a person banished from his or her native land’, ‘a prolonged separation from one's country or home, as by force of circumstances’ and even ‘anyone separated from his or her country or home voluntarily or by force of circumstances’.|
The most striking of the definitions of exile is ‘a person banished from his native land’. The word ‘banished’ made me realise the ultimate significance of exile. Let me explain this.
An event of exile can never be retracted, no matter how sincerely one wishes to return to his or her native land. The impact an exile imposes on reality can never be compensated with anything. As the time moves on the exiled and the native land both move on. So an exiled is never able to return as the same person or to the same land he left behind. There is a permanent loss of something that is mystically unexplained unless discovered and better remain undiscovered unless one is reflective enough to realise and endure the pain.
It is all banished, the natural nativity, and the very contrast between you and your soil; all is banished. The sense of belonging is strained severely. There is a terrible grief and the grief is greater for those who fail to find some solace in the place they are exiled to and for those who realise a return is impractical.
|Jagannathpur, Sunamganj, Bangladesh|
I felt that grief when I returned to my nativity for in my first visit following exile. Almost everything was there but something had changed forever. Some people who I expected to remain there had either embraced exile or changed as an individual. They were not there and they will not be there ever again. We will not be there ever again together like we were for those days, months and years.
Returning home for the first time I had realised that the ones who remained in the land had resolved something about me in their perception. They thought, ‘You have moved on and you are not native anymore’.
My friends and associates were there, those playing fields, broken roads, tea gardens, restaurants, rickshaws and motorcycled youth – all were there. And there were our occasional journeys within the small town to thrillingly pass by former lovers’ houses not knowing if she would be there or not. We roamed the town again and we smoked slightly expensive Benson & Hedges cigarettes and cursed freely in obscene language at everything we disliked in our life.
Still it was not enough. There was something missing. There was a compulsion to accept the reality that, ‘He will go back to his exile’. In our subconscious I have become a stranger to my own place, the very place that made me who I am, the place that I would always want to go back to. Something had banished. I would have to return to my new home to resume my exile. That reality dictated our being and I had to mournfully return back to my exile promising, yet again, that I will go back. I will go back to where I belong.
Part two: Myth of Return (hope to upload soon).