…and vice versa
Toronto is a region of neighbourhoods, every neighbourhood a different country. During the last decade & a half, wherever I moved I’ve arrived in a different Canada all over again. Thanks to colonialism, & globalization of media, neither the white shadow of main-stream Canada, and nor the bold presence of China Town have been “unfamiliar”.
The cultural shock, though, hit hard with “Writing in English”. To write in Farsi, I put my pen on the far right of the page and move towards left, whereas to write in English, my hand jerks from its usual direction of landing on the right, and drags herself to the far left, to move then towards right. There is a clash, in the middle of page, every time, when the old habit of “from right” meets the self-imposed skill of “from left”.
I wonder sometimes if it helped had I walked passed the margins, and let myself be led by the rhythm of spoken word into the patterns of the written. But here I am, still in the middle of two lines inching forward face to face, from right to the left, and vice versa. But the confusing clash doesn’t stop on the lines I write, it involves pages and passages I read, too. And so I can not deny the fact that I’ve become philosophical since I left Iran.
Over the years I have – out of habit – opened “English” books and magazines from the right end. And so, many times before I can say ooops, and flip the book over to open it from the other side, I have gone through a page or two of the ending. Thus, I’ve known how the story ends before I get to the beginning. That is the amazing part of living here, and not there.
This dilemma to search for the right destination to write expands in to everyday life as I gradually slip away from what have been my sense of morally / politically right back then. I stand -and not voluntarily- as far from there, as I am from here.
In the absence of a home, when my body becomes the virtual shelter, when my body is the only thing still in-hand, I stand in the middle of intersecting rights & wrongs. I trace on this body lines which are not right, but are mine. I follow curves and hollows which can’t be wrong, and are mine. I stop right here, in the middle, with me. And then, as if there is nothing left to love, I love my body from every angle.
This piece was published in Descant, Toronto’s Quarterly Literary Mag., 2003, when I was a guest editor there through PEN Canada’s Writers’ in Exile program.