Where are you from?
The habitual phrase every student encounters during there time at university. For some it was an ice-breaker, a conversation starter or perhaps a search for something in common. For me, at first, it was entertainment. Watching the puzzled look on their faces as they scramble to put together an accent that doesn’t match the stereotypical appearance. You would think a city like London that prides itself on diversity and multiculturalism would be used to accents not matching their appearances but apparently an Indian girl with an Irish accent was still fairly new to a few! Sometimes I would even get accused of putting my Northern Irish accent on…
But nevertheless beneath the humor, ignorance and amusement lay a question that slowly pulled me apart. Something I wasn’t aware of that haunted me. I began to dread explaining who I was or where I called home. People began asking me-
“If India and Ireland played against each other in sport who would you support?”
The habitual phrase hauntingly laughed in my face each time a person asked me where I was from. Having been born and raised in Ireland but lived much of my childhood in India from the ages of 6-11, I began to question where my loyalties lied. It lead me to many nights of ponder, reflection and contemplation when finally it hit me.
Why does one place have to define where you are from?
People of mixed ethnicity don’t seem to have a problem telling the world they are best of both and no doubt in colonial times there were many people who referred to themselves as having two nationalities or ethnicity. I began watching films to do with Africa and its colonial past with Europe, I read up on several books to do with India and its colonial past with Britain, I researched about the creole people of Louisiana, about the different races of the Caribbean and they all taught me one thing. Cultures that have mixed have resulted in wonderful creations in food, language, art and culture (Looking past the colonial oppression and unspeakable horrors). So why then must we stick to one? I always joke with my Caribbean friends that without cultural mixing of Africa and India there would essentially be no Jamaican Curry Goat and Trinidadian Roti! My point is the world would be a boring place if we all had an absolute unyielding mindset.
I come from two lands rich in heritage and culture who suffered the same monstrous wounds at the unfortunate hands of the British. They both are all too familiar with the ache of separation from their own people and land. They still have not yet forgotten the trauma of being ripped into two. Sectarianism and differences shattered India and Ireland and in order for some peace to remain – Pakistan and Northern Ireland were born.
Instead of uniting together in their similarities the lost brothers and sisters slashed themselves in two. Once I realized the unnecessary pain that came with your ego stubbornly declaring who it was, I began to see how similar both places I call home actually were. Both places have outstanding breathtaking scenery untouched by the hands of man; They share equal knowledge of farming and agriculture passed down by generations; Both places are known for their wide diaspora around the globe – anywhere you go in the world there will no doubt be an Irish pub and an Indian run corner shop; Both of my people are highly enthusiastic about whiskey and being merry!The same patriotic colours pulse through our veins with pride – Green, White and Orange.
So I came to the conclusion that although the two lands are at different corners of the world, they share a great deal of similarities that overrule the worries that the habitual phrase Where are you from? brought.
After all, we are all one and the same earthlings that originated from the same place – today we call it Africa.
Ps. Would support neither in sport – who actually cares!