“You want to help me change my life?” Mom asked. “I’m fine. You’re the one who needs help. Your values are all confused.”
Rose Mary Walls-telling Jeannette
Using literature as a lens to see some family dynamics, I went through the discussions of the February 2020-book club meeting in Courtney Park Branch of Mississauga.
The Glass Castle-by Jeannette Walls brings forward the theme of home and responsibility in several ways.
The evolution of the characters-the relation of the daughter to her dysfunctional parents comes through a in different phases of her life.
As a child- Jeannette goes along with her family-her parents running away from bills and minor infringements with the law. Then at a more mature stage, she finds her parents in squatting in a New York subway- fifteen minutes away from the apartment which she calls Home.
CONCEPT OF HOME
As an immigrant- I find that home is not only a physical place but also a community.
A school newspaper. A poster.
The group which you make friends with over say a Book Club meeting.
We build memories around these.
Remembering Community around our schools-Pune-1970s
We stayed in Pune-Maharashtra -Western India through our childhood and both brother and sister still have fond memories of the schools in Pune Camp (St.Vincent’s and St.Anne’s) where we spent many of our formative years.(1970-1982)
One of our Grade 6 geography projects was to build a poster of communities in a city.
This concept set me thinking of a community library, a place of worship, roads, city hall,schools, running clubs, stamps, and the different maze of human activities. This was the period when I spent summer holidays visiting the British Council library, studying books on chess and we also went to our ancestral home in Upper Kaithu Bazaar-Shimla and got a sense of the family as we lived around 70 years ago.(first quarter of the 20th century)
Parks have been a part of this concept over the decades.
In Pune area we used to go to the Parvati temple-which overlooks the city. This was a place where the concept of museums and heritage was imbibed in me.
Later , whenever I used to visit Pune from hostel in Delhi in 1980s, I would go to pray at St. Vincent’s and Parvati temple.
EARLIER PERSPECTIVES-WALKERS IN LULLANAGAR-2008-AUGUST-
PUNE OF 1970 s….My father and I would go for morning walks in the hills of Lullanagar. And that wonderful gift of the morning hour, which my father gave me, lives on.
Through these walks I have come across wonderful people and many lovely hours sitting on hill tops, becoming one with the universe.
The Church of Dahra-Tripoli and the communities around that
The San Francisco church of Dahra-Tripoli, has been run by the Franciscan order priests for over hundred years. It gives a sense of the expatriate communities who made Tripoli their home.
The Cemetery is in the Mansura district of Tripoli, 2.5 kilometres west of the city centre. It is located off the western end of Sharia Jamahuriya, close to the major roundabout at Bab Gargaresh
For earlier perspectives- See blog- …thoughts on the passing away of a veteran expatriate originally from Pakistan,in 2014-September, who made Tripoli his home.
Parts of his family still stay in Tripoli, Libya.
Interacting with this family , made me remember the words of Gabriel Garcia Marquez-in One hundred years of Solitude
”We have still not had a death,” he tells her. “A person does not belong to a place until there is someone dead under the ground.” To which his wife replies, “If I have to die for the rest of you to stay here, I will die.”
After the rituals, I walked through some of the other parts of the Italian cemetery of Mansoura and the Commonwealth war Graves commission section.
Today..with the families of Bettuchis, Ostuni.who lived here over a century ago..a Pakistani family-of Isaac Almaas will have a very intimate link with the Italian cemetery of Mansoura
Every journey has it’s surprises.
Our family stayed in Malta for two years from 2010-12.
We used to stay in Sweiqi, near St.Julian’s. The Indian community of Malta would gather for Satsang in San Gjwann.
On father’s day -2012, one of the veterans of the community-Mr.Vaswani, graciously invited us for lunch. After that we went for a short walk through the cemetery at Floriana and remembered, paid homage to community forefathers.
Our home in Mississauga carries in it, the memories of four continents
The momento which my father -Prem Narain Bhatt- got on his retirement-on April 4,1996, after 33 years of service in the Army Medical Corps of India sits in our house in Mississauga, Ontario as a proud reminder and inspiration of the dedicated years of service and many community associations.
The schools where my sons studied and the parks, themes around them have been a way to feel home.
School projects in Glenforest-from writing an extended essay in Grade 9- which Sagar wrote about turtles (which reminds me of the tortoises of Tripoli) to the essay on -The Handmaid’s tale -which he wrote in Grade 12 have been markers.
Our book club discussed -The Handmaid’s tale in 2019-December.
SEE BLOG-FOR A FEW MOMENTS MORE=SAHIL PASSING OUT OF GORDON GRAYDON-JUNE 2018
But as a parent, I saw the movie of his school days come across me, in a few magical moments. I remembered the times he told of his school trips to Stratford, in 2016, on the 400th birth anniversary of Shakespeare. Or the times when he would go for live-Ins in St.Edward’s college-Malta.
TALKING TO OTHER IMMIGRANTS
In discussions with other immigrants from different parts of the world, the concept of home and home country tends to differ with age. There are many seniors who prefer to go back to their home country in the more mature years. There are others who are firm that now, this is their home country and they will pass away here.
Looking back -around a year ago- our community had met after the passing away of Parveen bhai- an Indian origin family who had settled in Tanzania-Eastern Africa. Parveen bhai had shifted to Canada in the mid 1990s. We used to occasionally meet in the Mississauga Ram Mandir. In a memorial at the MRM-around a year ago,(2019-March) his sons played the mouth organ – and told about Parveen bhai’s love for music. It was a touching moment, where all the community came together remembering a kind soul, caring father, and loving grandfather.
LITERATURE AS A LENS
Using Wall’s book- we had an interesting look back on the years gone by, the various ways different immigrant communities develop life in faraway places which they call home.
The poster on communities project which my geography teacher gave in Grade 6 -St.Vincent’s Pune, India, lives on in different ways.