As soon as I read the title of Salman Rushdie’s piece, Imaginary Homelands, I was conflicted because the title seemed like an oxymoron to me. Someone’s homeland is a place where they were born and raised and they know the ins and outs of that place. They know the language, the culture, and the way of the people. All that can’t be imagined, and if it is, then it makes that which is being imagined, not real. That is how I interpreted the title at first. However, when I started to read, I realized what he meant.
Rushdie moved to North London when he was extremely young and he didn’t want to forget about where he came from, because he would be losing a sense of himself. He had some memories from India, which lead to his “broken mirror” (11) approach. He stated, “The broken mirror may be as valuable as the one which is supposedly unflawed” (11). The memories that he had were all that more important to him because he had nothing else to work with in order to define his homeland, make a connection to it and even more than that, to understand it. It was up to him to fill in those blanks and work with what he had because, even though, he might be unaware of fit, that was a big part of who he was in the present and ultimately who he would be.
I think that the point of Rushdie’s article was that even if you haven’t lived in your homeland your entire life, a “home” is not necessarily a specific location. It’s how you use what you know of your homeland (the past) to gain a better understanding of the present and even the future.
I think Jago Antia, from Love and Longing in Bombay, embodies this perfectly. He spent his entre life trying to run away from his home, in this case, the actual physical house, and essentially who he was. It came to the point where Jago was in physical pain because he refused to remember his childhood. He even tried to sell the family home in an effort to repress the memories. In the end, he couldn’t move on until he had come to terms with his past and who he really was.