Armed men converged on the city at the same time as rumours reached us that there was a lull in the war in our country. ‘It’s time to return home, Halay,’ my father said. He was the most elated of us all, for exile had broken him and he wanted to escape it. But I was reluctant to leave. I had begun to appreciate this new land, the nature and the people I had loved and drawn on the pages of my sketchbooks. But exile was a metamorphic realm where we would perhaps never be at ease, despite everything. Home was certain to offer us a sense of stability and continuity. I couldn’t help but question that stability, for I was leaving Nafisat behind, the one who fed my passion and made me want to be better and to perfect my art. Would leaving her not mean the end of that passion? And what would home offer us after such a long absence?
My mother distributed what was left of her things among the market women who had fought her, and my father gave his fishing gear to a neighbour. The old lady returned to her house. ‘I am not leaving,’ she said. ‘I’ve seen enough of this world. I will be right here when they come. If they decide to kill me, so be it.’
Moments before our departure, we paused in front of the house that had been our sanctuary for a long time, and my mother heaved a sigh and without looking at me said, ‘Never forget what your ancestor did to prevent this war, Halay. We bear more responsibility than others. We feel more pain and suffering than others. Remember that.’
Land of My Fathers – An Excerpt