Odysseus & Me: A Quest for Home

 By Marzia Rahman

You once thought naively, oh no, not naively, but foolishly that the hardest thing to do was to sever the ties. To uproot. You did not know the true meaning of uproot back then. Or what it meant to sever the ties. You only wanted to leave your home. Your town. Your mother. Or maybe, you were just being a teenager with an insatiable thirst for freedom.


The mornings were the worst, gray and interminable, and you fought a lot with your mother. And at nights, you stayed awake. You imagined yourself as a princess, trapped in a palace waiting for a prince or maybe a demon to release you. You pretended to be a solitary prisoner some days, whose date of execution had been announced, but all she cared for was looking out of her cell window at a clear blue sky where a lone bird flied up, up, above until it turned into a dot. 


You thought you didn’t belong in that small town with half-finished buildings and mud houses that had faded and where people, too, had faded, and looked more like the forgotten characters of a history book. You wanted to run away from that godforsaken place. You knew there was a world out there, bright and shining, living and breathing, bursting with cafes and restaurants, salons and boutiques and with freedom sprinkled in the air.        


And then, one day you did walk out of your home and stepped into the new world. This new world—how much did you know about it? Was it a kind place? Sane and sympathetic? Or was it more crowded and chaotic than your old hometown? Could you read it the way you read the palms of your town? Did you know the name of the streets or the people of this city, the colour of its sky, the trees, the birds, the lyrics, the signs and the symbols?

No. You knew nothing.

You thought that you’d learn to navigate the roads, the twisting alleys and gullies, the hundreds of shops and days and nights. You thought you would slowly and gradually adopt to the new life of this new world. But it would take time, perhaps months and years. And in all those months and years, you’d peek into your old world sometimes just to see how things were! But you would not gaze at it for long, or you might miss it. Because you could never sever the ties forever. Forever is such a tricky adverb, an unsure word. But you did not know it back then.

You thought once you entered the city,  you would forget all about your past life, the white walls of your house, your mother’s sewing machine, the poems, the songs and the rainy nights. You thought it was fine to lose some memories, a few books of classics and the old school diaries. You wanted to build new memories, new friends.

You worked two jobs, one full time, one part-time. You cut your hair, painted your toenails, ate yogurts, made ginger tea and sang new songs. You thought you were content, and no memories of the past would ever come muttering after you in a soft November night when you were cooped up in your room, alone. You thought you would never wake up in the middle of the night to the pitter patter rain pouring outside and your heart would not ache for the starry night sky you used to watch, lying next to your grandmother on her cot in the open courtyard of your home. 

But you were wrong.


You were wrong to presume that you could erase the past. That you would never feel the urge to go back to your town. And you realised it when your little brother, a grown up now, showed up at your door one rainy morning. You never thought one single knock would usher so many memories of yesteryears; and made you ache for the home you left years ago.


When you decided to go back to your old town, you remembered how you’d once thought naively, oh not naively, but foolishly that the hardest thing to do was to cut the ties. When it was tying the cords that seemed to be much harder, a colossal task. Was it even possible to go back? You felt the pain that Odysseus must have felt. The quandary the great hero was in! You grasped why he though spent a lifetime at war, but found the biggest struggle was finding his way back home?


You were the new Odysseus, puzzled, lost. What if the house, where the bougainvillea bloomed on the roof in white, pink and yellow all the year round and a cat often came to sit, wagging its tail, in the wide courtyard failed to recognise you? What if your family had already filled the vacuum? They would be no longer willing to open an old wound.  

You boarded the bus, packed with people and your fears and a throbbing heart on a sunny morning in late June. And when the bus dropped you onto a dusty road of your old town in the afternoon, you were surprised to find yourself surrounded by a sea of green. The leaves of the trees on both sides of the road rustled and murmured, and the scent of some wildflowers wafted in the air and you wondered: Do you walk ahead? Or wait for a return bus? Go back to the city?

The dust beneath your feet twirled and swirled, and you bit your nails and looked at the sky, filled with clouds and your doubts. You stepped off the main road and walked down to a muddy field, flanked by bamboo and coconut trees. You suddenly remembered there was a short-cut path snaking through the bamboo groves and coconut trees. And you realised that you found your freedom, you needed to find your home now.


Marzia Rahman is a Bangladeshi writer. Her writings have appeared in several print and online journals. She is currently working on a novella. She is also a painter.



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