Consider an unbearable rift forced between a human being and his/her native place; between the self and the true home. Its essential sadness can never be surmounted.
If you were born in this country, you are not an exile – all the rest of us not born in Canada are, in one way or another. Whether we were exiled or left of our own volition, we are all diasporic, we all live in galut, we all know the strings, the tugs, the connections with our past: parents, forebears, birth place, culture, that which is so much, or was, part of every fibre of our being.
Think of when you are traveling and you bump into someone from Canada, Vancouver, Montreal, Scotland, India, anywhere, and immediately you discover what we call in Hindi a jhath bhai, someone who knows what you are talking about, with whom less explanation is necessary, and who could probably finish your sentences for you. A lantsman maybe?
Moonbeams are not tangible; you cannot stretch out your hand and touch them. These moonbeams, however, are human connections, family, culture, food, little idiosyncrasies and expressions we understand without further explanation on our part. And we miss these tremendously, in our inner core.
I meet taxi drivers, HandyDART drivers, people born and raised in India, and soon we are off and running in so many directions after discovering we come from the same country. On a scholarship in Montreal some 30 years ago, I was hitchhiking a ride one evening up University Avenue back to residence. A taxi driver stopped to pick me up – I kid you not! Before we reached the top of the hill, he had told me his name (which is also my maiden name in Arabic), that he was from Iran (where my father’s parents came from) and, in no time, we had shared so much and made so many connections.
My connections are varied and many, for which I feel truly blessed: Jewish (whether Ashkanazi or Sephardi), Indian, Israeli, Middle Eastern, British (well, I say, sod the lot of you chaps!).
And so it goes. In this manner, we also feel rich in connections. Imagine strings being tied from you to others with whom you have longtime and deep connections, not because you know them personally but because your well of memories might be the same. It is from these wells that you draw the richness of commonality, that make you feel you are part of such treasures, a history of which you can now share – even if only for a few minutes as you stand in line waiting to pay for your bag of bananas.
And why are these connections more real than moonbeams?
Seemah C. Berson, author of I Have a Story to Tell You (Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2010), is a freelance writer and occasional dabbler in art, children’s poems and stories.