Suzanne Sangi: My Home in the Hills

On and on it goes, like the steady beating of a heart–nobody to coax it, to command it. Each time you’d expect it to falter, it picks right on–the same rhythm, the same rhyme. Until after some time, you cannot distinguish it from the sound of your breathing, from your neighbours moans, from the bird’s evening call–everything is one. Like it started. Like it should end.

That is how I felt when I stepped into a circle of drums and singing and dancing; there is nothing more beautiful than finding beauty.

It took me three rather long and desperate days on a train and another two hours of rickety flying to reach my destination. By the end of it, I had never been more weary–body and mind, yet my heart’s desire was being fulfilled with each step I took closer to the land of my ancestors– my far-flung home in the hills; merely ‘far’ for not having been situated in the land of those who ventured too far.

And here I was, breathless with anticipation for sight and smell of all that I had lived with only by tales; suddenly doubting my abilities of speaking a musical language which harboured single words meaning more than five different things, separated only by a slight shift of tune–like strings that slightly bend to produce different notes.

I saw the houses first–squatting by the slanted edges, they stood on air. Like homes built on rivers, they floated on the clouds that drifted across – close enough to touch, like they were softly kissing the mountains.

I stood enthralled by this sight for so long that the little children who had been driving a flattened tyre up and down the road, forgot their merriment and paused to gawk at me.

Then came the snaky roads–long, winding pathways that slowly unravelled before the eyes without giving away what was lurking beyond the next bend. Yet the one behind the wheels remained unfazed–navigating smoothly while chatting in a language that resembled the very paths on which they were found. This was a land where you could not hurry neither with your gait nor your words–how else would you see the beauty the surrounded you? How would you notice the humming of the clear brook that flowed even at the dead of winter if you stumbled past the pebbles without a glance? How would you catch the red streak of a slipping sun spread across the horizon where the mountains meet the sky, when your eyes are fixed on gutting out the soil?

I understood why bedtime stories were told right after whispering fervent prayers for protection. The stories explained everything–the spirits of the think, tall, tenacious trees, the rushing, ruining, rejuvenating rivers, the whipping, wailing wind–all were as alive as the tiger that prowled the edges of the village, the poisonous roots that creeped menacingly close to the little plot of agriculture. But now, the tiger had sucked out all the poison and retreated to the remaining trees and rivers and winds.

Hurray. We were free of threat.

Until we became the threat.

That is how I remember my Home in the Hills when I journey back to the plains that have claimed me–my home has become a spot for an adventure, a trip to the heart of wildness, a sport of travelling business, a survey of what could be.

Yet, I do not hurry back. For how else could she acknowledge me as I unravel before her?

Suzanne Sangi wrote her first novel Facebook Phantom when she was sixteen and it was published when she was seventeen.

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