I fully understand that 'I can be whoever I want to be'. I have been wrestling with this for a while but feel things have changed recently. In some ways I feel that the day I ran away from home (fortress) was also the day I lost my identity as a Punjabi. I mourned for it for a very long time. It was a few years back that instead of letting it slip away, I realised that despite what I may think of myself and humiliate myself by calling myself a 'coconut', others would always see that just because of my skin colour I am always going to be different. I also realised that my family did not have the keys to my identity, that I did. Throughout this time I struggled to find my place, and in some ways, thanks to my mother, I became the hermit within my relatives, who though I hardly ever saw, still asked after me. This in a way created a space for me in that universe. This also meant that I could be a Punjabi again, and I was able to decide what that meant for me. I was so lost for such a long time, surrounded by people who did not know who I was that even I forgot who I was. It was the most bland point in my life.
Now I look at my identity and think that to some extent, the foundations are already laid- my skin colour already gives me some sense of identity, though I don't carry a mirror around to see or notice that I am different to other people. But I can't help but think that some people have it easier that others- in regards to identity- than others. What is a typical British person? And what is a typical Indian person? What do they look like?
For years I thought that I had to assimilate myself into the British culture (whatever that is), that for other people if I pretended to be British, they will be at ease, but then I realised that I am also Punjabi and by trying to put others at ease, they have not bothered to learn about the beautiful culture I come from. When I was in Punjab over a year ago, though my punjabi was very well received and I was complimented for it, my outlook and perception of the world were accused of being too British. Some of those close to me haven't bothered to learn a single thing about my Punjabi culture. They may be doing this because they don't want to come across politically incorrect but by ignoring someone's identity is a huge problem too. The other day I was told that if I am British then I have to respect the Queen! I think that's when I decided to break away from the charade once again.
I am meant to be giving a speech on Celebrating Diversity in Cambridge on 21st January and realised that I really need to figure out quite a lot of stuff before I can do that.
So hopefully this can mean that I can now work out other things and before I know it- I can be that little bit more wise and clear on the message I need to give come the day I stand in front of people. I hope to give a message of hope and something constructive. Let's hope I do that!
Until next time,
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