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Essay: The meaning of home (Borders by Thomas King and ‘Squatter’ by Rohinton Mistry)

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  • Published: March 12, 2021*
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  • The meaning of home (Borders by Thomas King and 'Squatter' by Rohinton Mistry)
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The meaning of home is much more complex than its traditional definition. The literal meaning; a physical place. It can also be defined as a feeling. This is because of the psychological attachment humans have associated with the concept. (Home) The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. (Maya Angelou).

Thomas King’s story ‘Borders’ sheds light on the importance of holding on to your original birth identity and refusing to conform. Rohinton Mistry’s story ‘Squatter’ portrays an immigrant’s struggle to find “home” in the sense of belongingness, as well as the internal battle to fully become westernized. It is evident that home holds a different value in both stories. King’s story, home is associated with pride while home in Mistry’s story is associated with where one is from.

Thomas King’s short story “Borders” takes place at the American-Canadian border in Coutt. Narrated by a young boy, the story is about a proud Native Mother from Blackfoot who is traveling with him to visit his sister in Salt Lake City, USA. At the US border the mother refuses to identify her citizenship as either American or Canadian. Eventually the US border agents decline their entry and send them back to Canada. When they get to the Canadian borders, the exact scenario occurs and are denied entry. This leads them to sleep the night in their car at the duty free located between the borders. They try once more the next day, only to get denied again. The cashier at the duty free shop tips off the media about this situation and caused a scene the following day. Reporters interviewed the mother. Proceeding the interview they were able to cross the borders declaring Blackfoot as their citizenship.

The narrator’s mother insists on her national identity is Blackfoot. Her point reveals that national identity is complex and that the Blackfoot are a nation with the same status as Canada and the United States. For this reason she will not state that she is either American or Canadian. The mother teaches her son the importance of knowing where on comes from by displaying determination and her pride in being Blackfoot.

Mistry’s story exposes the cultural difficulties that immigrants face in Canada. Obstacles are extend into their personal and private lives, making the simplest of tasks trivial. Mistry uses humour to display Sarosh’s battle with his integration, by blaming his inability to defecate in the ‘Canadian’ way. Sarosh is pressured to change himself and feels excluded from Canadian society because of his method when using the toilet. Canada’s adaption to multiculturalism is questioned when Bombay’s hotels are compared by having both options of toilets and when the CNI procedure was suggested. Ironically, the CNI implantation procedure “was developed with financial assistance from the Multicultural Department” (Mistry 311). The Multicultural Department exists “to ensure that ethnic cultures are able to flourish” (Mistry 311) To conform to Canadian practices an immigrants body must be intrusively manipulated which once again questions Canadian inclusivity.

Home is a significant theme in both stories as it is where one associates themselves from. In “Borders” the mother’s pride in being Blackfoot determines the meaning of home to her. While in “Squatter” home to Sarosh is where he originally came from. Even though he tried to make Toronto his home alongside India, he could not leave his cultural norm to conform to the western way. Characters return to their original home in both stories. However, after she saw her mom’s story at the border on TV, she feels so proud of her mom that she wants to hear the story over and over; even better, she tells her mother that she is thinking about moving back to Blackfoot (King 263) Sarosh fastened his seat-belt and attempted to turn his thoughts towards the long journey home: to the questions he would be expected to answer, the sympathy and criticism that would be thrust upon him. (Mistry 314)

Situational irony is used by both arthurs. Accomplishments are achieved in “no man’s land.” Laetitias mother is deny entry at both borders and is stuck in no man’s land. Their political situation matches their physical one. They cannot escape the imposed concepts of identity; American and Canadian, and they physically cannot move between the international borders.

She is later granted passage and identifies as Blackfoot while passing through the border but ironically this is achieved on no mans land which questions the authenticity. Sarosh faces a similar situation. He is returning home after not being able to defecate the western way but as he’s on the plane home he accomplished his goal and finally passed movement while sitting down but it was in the air. He isn’t on land, he wasn’t in Canada nor India he finds himself in a liminal space. He cannot celebrate this victory anchored to a place. He isn’t able to say he fully adapted to the western way but at the same time he can.

Both titles have double meanings in there names. The obvious meaning for Squatter is the bathroom technique but also is defined as a person who lives in an area of land without permission. (Squatter) Sarosh is a displaced individual, who attempts to make a home on someone else’s land. Home to Sarosh is where he is from, but even though he tried to create a new home in Canada he could not adapt. Moreover when he felt defeated after 10 years of trying, he went back to India where he also felt like he was out of place because things were not the same, things have changed. The title “Borders” indicates two borders: one is the obvious physical border between Canada and USA; the other is the hidden metaphorical border between someone’s identity and citizenship,

King and Mistry’s stories portray the bigger picture of what home can mean to a person. Without a sense of identity or belongingness it is difficult to call a place is your home. It is evident that home holds a different value to each character. In King’s story the concept of home is associated with identity and pride, while home in Mistry’s story is associated with where he is from and adaptation to the culture.

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