A few days ago a fellow blogger kindly re-blogged one of my posts on his site. He also included a few lines in which he referred to me as a being an ‘Indian university graduate’ and that really got me thinking. Whilst I may have been raised by parents who both emigrated from India and have grown up in a tight-knit South Asian community, the reality is that I’ve never actually lived in India. I was born and bred just outside of London; so is it really possible to refer to myself as being Indian?
Maybe I can. My skin is brown, I have a typical Sikh name, and both sides of my extended family can be traced back many generations in the northern state of Punjab.
However, whilst I’d need two hands to count the number of times that I’ve been to India, I’ve never actually stayed there for longer than three weeks at a time and I don’t have an Indian passport, I have a British one. So if I’m not fully Indian, am I then fully British by default?
In many ways I suppose I am. I’ve lived my entire life so far in England, I’ve had a British education since the age of four and English is my native tongue.
But that still doesn’t feel right to say. My identity isn’t that clear-cut and I can’t just completely disregard my Indian heritage like that. It’s not an either/or situation, it’s complex because Western customs have just as much of an impact on me as South Asian traditions do. For example, when it comes to certain topics like having a social life and career goals, I’m very Western influenced. But in other ways I’m much more affected by my South Asian roots, particularly in terms of how family-orientated I am.
Furthermore, whilst I may love fish and chips, I’m equally obsessed with aloo proteh. I might have a lot of RnB and Hip Hop songs on my Ipod, but there are also a fair amount of Hindi and Bhangra tunes to rival them. I’m just as much a fan of Hollywood as I am of Bollywood. I love wearing pretty dresses but I adore wearing bejewelled Indian outfits just as much. And although I’m well-versed in the dry British sense of humour, I also dabble with Punjabi witticisms and wisecracks too!
And so ultimately I guess I wouldn’t refer to myself as being 100% Indian or 100% British because the truth is that I don’t entirely belong to either country, I’m essentially a foreigner in both! But rather than feeling displaced, I’d like to think that I’m a special hybrid of two rich cultures which have shaped me into the unique (and slightly insane) person that I am today 😀