In the novel Exist West, Mohsin Hamid comments on the concept of the “others”. He demonstrates that anyone can be seen as an other depending on factors such as time and space. As Nadia and Saeed travel from place to place throughout the novel, Hamid depicts their journeys as empty and unfulfilling because they are seen as the outsiders. Who makes them feel this way? And why?
We have all experienced this feeling (although possibly less drastic than this case) at some point in our lives. Vacationing in another country, moving to a new school or town, even walking in to school on the first day as a freshman. As I think more about this, I have realized that in some of these cases, we decide we are the “other” and therefore act as one in an effort to avoid intrusion. However in the case of Exist West, Nadia and Saeed are not at fault and are unable to control what someone else perceives. They come from a different country, a different background, a different culture, marking them as different, even when relation is not exclusive to where we were brought up.
Hamid touches on this subject again towards the end of the novel through the maid.
“…and she felt she was a small plant in a small patch of soil held between the rocks of a dry and windy place, and she was not wanted by the world, and here she was at least known, and she was tolerated, and that was a blessing” (Camus, 224).
The maid is describing her experience towards being an “other”. Feeling unimportant and unwanted in the large world, she finds security in her occupation as she feels needed and appreciated.
We all may feel like the “other” at some point, and that is almost unavoidable. We cannot control how we are seen, but what we can control is how we act in those situations. We can either accept our fate or turn the tables in discovering a new part of ourselves in appreciation for human connection despite the differing odds.