Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mirrored Homelands

Upon reading Salmon Rushdie’s Imaginary Homelands, I was struck by the line “the present is foreign and that the past is home” (9). Considering Salmon’s time away from India, his original home, it makes sense that he would write this. He explains that he fears his time away from India has put a barrier up that has blocked him from fully regaining his true memories of his old home. Instead he is left to “create fictions” (10) about his homeland, essentially imaginary ones. But what does this mean? Is this necessarily a bad thing? Rushdie explains “I was constantly plagued by this problem, until I felt obliged to face it in the text, to make clear that what I was actually doing was a novel of memory and about memory, so that my India was just that”(10). This decision to follow his memories seemed like the right idea to me, for what are homelands without memories? This quote reminded me of our class discussion on our homelands. I was interested to hear how everyone felt differently about their homes, especially student’s immigrant parents. I remember someone saying that their father, when he came to America, chose to embrace American life, yet he would still subconsciously cling to things that reminded him of his homeland; certain meals, music traditions. After hearing this I began to understand what Rushdie was saying in his article about broken mirrors. He explained that “he is obliged to deal in broken mirrors, some of whose fragments have been irretrievably lost” (11). I became clear to me that since our futures are foreign to us and we are constantly adapting to new life situations, we can’t help but lost parts of our pasts along the way. Essentially we are creating new memories, which is what Rushdie did in his novel. It seems to me that just because we cannot remember our past fully does not mean that we have completely alienated ourselves from our homelands. If anything our past memories of our homelands act as connection between us because we all have them. Rushdie describes this perfectly when he writes “the past is a country from which we have all emigrated, that its loss is part of our common humanity” (12). I feel as though sometimes this loss can help us move forward in our lives. Not everyone’s pasts are the same, some are filled with happiness and other with sadness and struggle, but they all share a commonality of learning from change. Writing this I am reminded of Okonkwo’s struggle in his past and how he used it to become successful. When he is banished from Igbo he is forced to return home and work for several years until he is allowed to return. This change in Okonkwo’s life strengthens Rushdie’s idea that “the present is foreign” (9) because Okonkwo was not expecting this to happen. Seeing his struggle in having to adapt once again makes him seem more like a relatable character. Though I was never banished from my home, I did have to leave home and come to college (a new environment) and adapt. Okonkwo and I share “part of or common humanity” (12) through our experiences with lost homelands.
Whether we still live in our homelands or we have moved on, our fragmented memories are what keep us connected to each other and to our homes. It doesn’t matter where you are in your life, as long as you have some memories you essentially are carrying your homeland with you where ever you go.

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