I haven’t been very honest with myself lately and I’ve been on the outs with myself for some time because of the lack of communication between myself and my self.
Myself being the image that I portray on social media and even the one that I’ve cultivated over years of amassed social exposure/awareness.
My self being the person that I am deep within. The person I’m still learning about and trying to get to know better. The one that all too easily alternates between modes of feeling and quite frankly feels like a mess most of the time.
It’s easy to feel misplaced when you don’t really have any ties to a city or a place you can call home. I grew up in Kenya and although my childhood was calm and pretty fucking good for the most part, it never felt like home. My nationality, the option I choose from the drop down menu is plainly British. My mother grew up in Portugal and it’s where my grandparents and the rest of my maternal side of the family still reside. It’s the country where the fondest of my memories are held and the closest I feel to being home… but that doesn’t matter.
A few years ago I let go of this concept of home being ascribed to a certain place or location, home to me is defined by the people that hold me close. I’m a grandchild of diaspora, Indian in ethnic origin – although the majority of people will claim that I look otherwise – something that low key annoys the fucking shit out of me. Like it’s a compliment not to look like where I’m from? Cool.
I spent a lot of my time growing up wishing I was anything but. Ashamed of my culture because of the stereotypes people would perpetuate. And it took time, a long lengthily time for me to see past the bullshit and actually realise that being Indian was great. I’m from the land of silk and spice, my skin is golden and my culture is so vast and wonderful, so multifaceted that it will take me years to uncover an understanding of just a bit of it. But I didn’t always think like this and it makes me sad because I see so many of us having been through/going through the same shit.
And what makes me angrier is that despite having this tumultuous relationship with myself and my self when it comes to my identity, and attempting to combine these two halves in synergy with each other. Which is an entirely personal process. People will still unsettle me with their value judgements on one over the other. They will feign shock when I tell them where I’m from and then claim that I am too different to be what I am.
I mean apart from the generalised statement of how odd it is that I studied a humanity at university and not a science or business/law related subject. I won’t lie I really had to talk my parents around to accept my choice and I’m not certain they think I made the right one *they definitely don’t think I did. One of the worst things I’m constantly told is, ‘you don’t look Indian’ and to me, that’s like a slap in the face.
For someone that never felt like she belonged anywhere, I’ve had to grow into myself, to fill out the spaces that felt hollow because I felt like I was lacking. Being Indian, being part of an Indian community is something I very much value and treasure as part of my identity. Again, it took me a long ass time to feel that way but once I did, I regained a part of my self. I reclaimed it.
So being told ‘you look South American or Spanish’ – despite knowing that the people that say that shit mean it as a compliment, is a double edged insult to me. First and foremost, Indian women come in many shades, forms and features; they are as multifaceted as their culture. So to state that I am anything other, makes me feel othered, as if women from my culture all have a specific genome that ensures they all look the same.
And I have said this to people before, wherein they’ve started to backtrack and claim to ‘mean it as a compliment’ Biiiiiiih how do I take you saying I look like I’m from another ethnic background as a compliment? You trynna say Indian women aren’t caramel skinned honey’s?? (Not that I’m claiming to be but you know what I mean). Like don’t pass off your internalised passive prejudice against Indians as a compliment, you’re probably unaware that you hold such a sentiment within you and that’s cool. Ignorance is bliss and all that but I will set you straight on it.
But then, there’s also the issue of not being welcomed within the brown skinned community, specifically because I don’t always look like I belong and I’ve particularly felt that through certain social media platforms. There’s such great pages on Instagram in particular that uphold Indian women and celebrate their sisters but despite the array of shades that are out there, there’s certain one’s that are kind of left out of the social narrative. Being too ‘dark skinned’ won’t get you a place on certain social feeds and neither will not looking ‘Indian enough’ and for a community that claims to be all about the brown skinned diaspora/sisterhood – that’s pretty hypocritical.
This has been something that’s circled my mind for a long, long time and it feels heavy for me to put it out on my blog, because, well, it’s personal. But I also want to know people’s thoughts and feelings on the matter.
So please comment and let me pick your brain.