Belonging is a complex emotion one that I feel is more influenced by personality, life events and personal relationships with others, than by birthplace or physical residence. For Sudanese in the Diaspora this issue is no doubt currently topical. A whole generation of young Sudanese adults now exists who have neither lived in Sudan nor known a Sudan pre-1989. Moreover, the seismic shift in the country’s geography and unravelling of its social fabric in the past 24 years has brought to the foreground the deep rooted ambiguities in our sense of nationhood.
I suspect most Sudanese families, like mine, who have left in the 1990s did so reluctantly and with a sense that this is likely a temporary state of affairs. Until recently my UK-based existence was measured – similar to the school year – by academic progression and family holidays. It was not until I spent a few months in Sudan feeling somewhat lost socially and professionally that I mournfully accepted my British reality. My move back to the UK was a cold and calculated one. The associated emotional burden was immense and sense of loss acute. There was now no denying that my perspective on my own country and people had changed, that my physical connection to my homeland had waned, whilst loved ones were carried further away in the brutal daily struggle to etch a living that defines life in Sudan today. Moreover, my medical background has laid this burden more heavily on my shoulders as I struggled to reconcile my decision with the sense of betrayal of my medical oath and the real adverse repercussions of a rapidly vanishing medical workforce on the state of Sudan’s healthcare.
My sense of belonging may have shifted but that of duty towards my country folk remained the same and became more urgent.
Medical practice has been a source of solace. Whilst the art of medicine can sometimes be lost in translation, the universality of human suffering help us bridge those cultural differences and empathise with and endeavour to positively contribute to our patients’ sense of wellbeing.
In contrast to Sudan’s cultures that are deeply rooted, tribal specific and sharply defined, being British, it seems at times, is what one makes of it. A broad canvass in which one can assemble one’s own collage of experiences, places and people to make up one’s own version of their new culture and weave it into their life story. And so it is that one slowly gives legitimacy to those cherished aspects of British life – the fervent uphold of the rule of law; the fight to retain the essence of the NHS, free at the point of use; the guardianship of the freedom of the written and spoken word, and the respect of the equal rights of others.
The hope is that our individual experiences in the Diaspora enrich our interpersonal dialogue as Sudanese so that we would ultimately be able to reconcile our differences and rebuild our nation.
Dr. Rawya Kamal
Respiratory medicine registrar NEWCASTLE UK
vice academic secretary, SDU UK & I