I remember some memories of when I first came to England. The electric green grass that didn’t seem real. How the streets were spotless. A young girl in the backseat of a car staring in fascination at the window as land and sky blurred into one moving pictureless motion. I remember familiar seasons differently. The English summer. Snow for the first time. Organised landscapes. Blocks of houses that I thought had no breathing space. My house in Nepal was big and spacious and lively with cousins, aunties, uncles and neighbours. With the uncertainty of tides, all was left behind but the familiar scent of my childhood. Scent is a vivid memory that seems to seep through nostalgia. Not the scent of marigold or the humidity of Dharan or the lingering Nepali summer. The smell of new. A tangible smell you can’t explain but experience. An immigrant who has never left home, crosses borders for the first time and miraculously lands in a foreign country for many years of life that at first remains perpetual to them. This newness was slowly stripping my body from its familiar senses, although I did not realise or pay attention to it. The home I knew was being built, demolished and built again at the fruitful age of 9.
I remember it like a sad dream. As a foetus leaves the womb of a mother for the first time. Trying to adjust in primary school with new white friends and an English language completely different to the one learnt back home. On the first day of year 3, I was struck by the green eyes of an English boy who sat on the same table as me. I remember having to introduce myself and feeling like there was a neon light pointing to my foreignness: to the way you look, talk and pronounce things. You feel like that for a while and wait for the inevitable shedding of the skin. Now you learn to eat with a knife and fork for school lunches, say sorry, thank you and every vocabulary with a British accent.
These years have unfolded to become a new dream. I live a life of privilege here compared to the ones back home. But these years have broken the umbilical cord of my motherland and my family. Can this ever be mended? Kindled back to life? I rose surrounded by the tender eyes of the Himalayas. I grew up with the freedom of lightning and thunder and monsoon rain. I don’t think I can belong here. This home seems but a state of mind.
It’s not the question of just feeling like I belong, it’s the question of feeling welcomed. Of my people, of the treatment resulting from anything that divides us. Immigrant. Colour. Non-whiteness. A new way of life where time doesn’t discriminate. A trigger by memorable smell, a surge of feeling, a photograph. I wonder where these memories of home live, if I can keep them alive forever. I wonder if they have forgotten and moved on without me.