Being Refugee

I am not an orphan; not even a terrorist in a land of foe; neither am I a person from the caste of ‘untouchables’. I am residing in the Republic of India since last thirty years. I have my driving license from New Delhi. I have my voter id of Chennai. I also have a Ration Card bearing the photo of my wife and three children, and also the address of my last to last abject tent-house. I have a saving bank in State bank of India, just because it is accessible from everywhere; a quality that is necessary, just in case of emergency. But I am not Indian.

Yes, I am, anything but not an Indian. I speak Tamil, bifurcated Hindi and Bengali accented English. But still, I’m not even an Indian. I came from many countries, mostly from the ‘friendly’ neighbors like Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet and Sri Lanka. My parents died in the villages of India and my children were born in the cities of this nation. Yet, neither my parents were Indian; nor are my children.

I have forgotten my gods and goddesses. Even I don’t celebrate the death or arrival of the angels. My children have never seen their uncles. They were three, all younger than my father. My youngest daughter, the only girl of the scorn of two boys and one girl, often asks me for a bicycle; and I often recount to her the days of my childhood, when I used to fly with my bike in the marshy lands of western plateau. However, she never listens to these stories. She just keeps gazing at the tall building, on the other side of the road on which we live. It’s a wide road. And the bus-shelter, our home, is quite cozy and warm. Especially in winters, my son looks on the sky through the hole in the fiber sheet of the stand. He does multiplication and subtraction of stars, I guess. However, I have never concluded what he does because I have never been to any school, nor have my children.

My wife is an expert in family business. She gets up early in the morning and rushes to the nearby colony to find our breakfast. The last night’s dinner of the colony people serves as our breakfast, sometimes even lunch. Then she wears the most rustic saree of all her half rotten sarees and goes out on the site. The site of our work is near the famous theatre of this city. People come there to with movie with fewer clothes. However, they do give my wife some pennies in spite of their own poverty of cloths.

Sometimes my second son asks me to go back to ‘our land’; the place of our great grand-father. I wonder how it would be. Will the mango tree of backyard be still giving sweet mangoes or has it turned unfertile due to my sudden departure in the times of war. I didn’t want to leave Nikky, my cat, but when a bomb came and blasted in front of my mother, Nikky ran away and never came back. I last saw her with Tiger, the most handsome dog of our slum there.

Amidst these thoughts a policeman comes with a gun in his hand and puts it in my hand. He thinks I have stolen the marble elephant of Yusuf uncle who lives in the building that is on the other side of the road. Nonetheless he suspects that I also supply RDX to the insurgents of the ‘enemy’ country. And because I am not of this country; I am not an Indian. I’M A REFUGEE.

Saurabh Sharma