ARSHED BHATTI’S STORY

I regularly cross ‘borders’ in my ‘physical present’, while on the parallel, in my mind, I keep crossing several borders as I interact with diverse and affable others in Canada.
I have crossed several international borders in the last 20 years; and I feel, many since my birth.

I live in Vaughan, which has internal borders of its sub-cities (Woodbridge, Maple, Concord); travel to work in Brampton and thus notice as I cross from York Region to Peel region, and vice versa. I go to do a TV show in Mississauga (once every week), and enter Toronto from ‘GTA’ twice every week.

Inside me, the border crossing keeps happening as I interact with different skin-colours and step in to another language. I feel at home with people who my mind tells are ‘friends’ – regardless of skin colour, gender or other sub-identities. Once the ‘at home’ feeling smiles inside, the barriers and borders of language and culture coalesce, harmonize or evaporate.

It seems, ‘border crossing’ is something continuing from my previous generations: my parents were ‘forced-migrated’ in 1947 from East to West Punjab, from ‘home’ to a ‘homeland’, from being ‘at home’ to being ‘on the edge’ for the rest of their lives. The ‘home’ they left never coalesced with the ‘homeland’ they found themselves in.

I, as a 12 yrs old, moved from a village to a small city; to a bigger city (Lahore) in teens; to the capital city (Islamabad) in 20s; to Tokyo & London in 30; to Toronto in 40; and to a realization of this phenomenon of ‘part-choice-part-imperative’ of this self-propelled ‘floating’ last year.

The walk continues, but the journey seems slower than the physical movement. The cross-orbiting in the mind doesn’t stop, not even in dreams.
This ‘crossing over’ seems to be the next most frequent thing to breathing in my case.

– Arshed Bhatti

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