Dante has talked about exile in beautiful words-

". . . Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta
più caramente; e questo e quello strale
che l'arco de lo essilio pria saetta.
Tu proverai si come sa di sale
lo pane altrui, e come e duro calle
lo scendere e 'l salir per l'altrui scale . . ."

". . . You will leave everything you love most:
this is the arrow that the bow of exile
shoots first. You will know how salty
another's bread tastes and how hard it
is to ascend and descend
another's stairs . . ."

Paradiso XVII: 55–60

Let me consider this feeling- leave everything you love most. I travel down memory lane. I remember the day when I asked my mother to give me permission to take part in a "Scouting Camp" in the neighboring city, Udaipur. I was hardly 11 years old, and those were the days when girls had to live within lots of limitations. My mother happily gave me permission, and while I was leaving home, she gave me a few coins along with salt and chilly powder and said-

"You will get very good guava in Udaipur, buy them and eat them along with salt and chilly powder, they will be very tasty."

I saw her eyes shining then. Though I could not understand her intention at that time, after so many years, when I reread this incident, I can feel the pain she experienced of losing the city, food, fruits and so many things of her own childhood. It can be strange for most of the people, but in the Indian tradition, girls have been the victims of exile, a social exile. There was a time when a girl married to a family located far away, was never allowed to return to her own family. In the course of time, society changed its ways, but at least 40% women in India still face the pain of social exile.

My mother's love for guava was connected with the memories of her childhood and the things she loved most. Giving salt and pepper to me, her daughter, was an attempt at recalling the taste which she had lost. Though it was the daughter who was going to taste the guava, enjoying the vivid memories of a most loved object must have been very satisfying to the mother.

My mother had to leave her parents’ home in Madhya Pradesh and come and live in Rajasthan with my father's family. The distance was considerable, and she could not regularly visit her own home. But she was always closer to her own home, her own childhood, and her own relations.

She was in social exile, but ironically she was closer to everything she had to leave.

I could understand mother's pain, when I had to come to Kerala after marriage, leaving Rajasthan for ever. The vast sea reminds me of the desert and dunes every time. I remember those things more often, which I had never bothered about while living with them.

This means that the situation of physical exile is just opposite to emotional exile. The more we go away from our roots, the closer we come to them.

Indian philosopher-poets like Kabir have discussed the feeling of separation as an emotional bond to the Supreme Power. Does it mean separation or exile has another face, and that is faith and bond? Or what we can call LOVE?

Separation makes us understand our own inner bonding to the emotions, relations and surroundings. Exile may be another way to go back to original love. I think that emotional separation is the most ancient and important feeling of exile.

Artist of this issue is a writer/ critic Dr. Sunita, who draws very beautifully

With best wishes

Rati Saxena


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