‘Home is the place you can never return’, writes john Steinbeck. “Home is both evocative and intimate, and for me, it also came to define the boundary line between childhood and alienation, security and cataclysms, longing and perdition.
I was brought up in a small village at the northern territory of Hong Kong, at a street that literally meant Anglo-China street. On the one side was mainland China, with the communist red star prominently marked on the cap, worn by every patrolling soldier. On the other was colonial Hong Kong. In the middle, dividing the two worlds, were large banyan trees, their ancient roots twisting like giant serpents, their silent hiss signalling the change of the 2 worlds.
This boundary and transition came to be a metaphor for my own journey when at the age of 13, I boarded a plane for Britain, leaving all my security behind, bounded for a world that was both alien and strange. There are many words in the English language for this. Immigration. Uprooting. None adequately described my emotions at the time that felt like surviving a wreckage.
Yet there was also rebirth. One that was broken was put back together again. I still longed for that home that was lost. But I have come to realise that longing and home are perhaps altogether inseparable. And this longing for home is universal, for us who have crossed oceans, and for us who have not.”