I am a wanderer in search of a nest in this vast world. I am a helpless woman, who, for over a decade now, is in search of a home of her own, in a city where she wants to live. I am Taslima Nasreen of Mymensingh, Bangladesh.
But to the world, I am an exiled Bangladeshi author: an author who is at the mercy of governments’ whims for permission to stay in their land. I am living out of a suitcase, shuttling across continents, without a permanent address, with the hope that very soon, like the teeming millions of this world, I too will have a shelter dedicated to my name.
I had to leave Bangladesh in 1994. Not that I wanted to, but I was forced to. One fine morning I found myself without anyone beside me in this world. I had nowhere to go.
Destiny took me to the distant corner of the globe where I had no idea how to live. I didn’t know the language or the culture of the place which was my first stop after being driven out of my country. I was, however, determined to fight it out. But there is no denying that it was difficult. I had none to share my sorrow with.
I was a brown woman in a white society. I found myself in a very neat and clean country where both covert and overt racism made me feel smaller every minute. After the media glare and the political sound bites were over, nobody even cared to find out how I was sustaining myself: whether I was dead or alive. I felt the society had ripped off my fundamental rights. In the meantime, my works became appreciated in the West. But after the banquets were over and the applause ended, I was left standing alone. Years passed and every day, I realised that I did not belong to this society. I kept on shuttling from one country to another. My father died without me by his side. My mother had to die without any treatment, and even though I am a doctor, I was not permitted to return to help my mother survive. I could not be there in their last days.
I have been knocking on the doors of India for many years. When the door was slightly ajar, I was able to enter in 2004. To my delight, I found a home and I felt like I belonged to Kolkata. Here was a brown girl living in a brown land, speaking the same language and enjoying a culture very similar to the one in her own birthplace.
I was a corpse who came back to life again, and who found the inspiration to write again.
Bengal is the land where I belong. Whether it is East Bengal or West Bengal, there is not much difference to me. It was the first time I was able to settle somewhere in my 14 years of exile.
But after living there for years, I was once again forced to move. I was once again punished for the crimes that the Islamists committed against me. Now I am homeless once again. And now I am moving everywhere. I don’t know for how long I will have to move from one country to the next. I don’t know how many years more I will have to wait to return to the land where I belong. The never-ending exile is killing me everyday.
Is death the only thing that would offer me freedom from my suffering?