As a child, I remember being one of two brown girls in my class. I was born and raised in the leafy suburbs of London by my parents – Indian immigrants from India and Kenya. Like most, they tried to retain the culture of their roots when raising their children. They did such a good job at it in fact, that sometimes I feel more Indian than British. Being brought up immersed in one country’s culture but living in another – life as a British Asian is a beautiful blend of the best (and sometimes worst) of both worlds:
It’s the butter chicken and the fish and chips. It’s not being able to handle spicy food (Nando’s lemon & herb everytime). It’s having so many cousins that I couldn’t count them on two hands – let alone one. It’s telling my spelling teacher in year 4 that I don’t know all the English words yet. It’s speaking Hindi and Punjabi at the same time and not knowing when I switch to the other. It’s family gatherings that are filled with (very) loud laughter, big hugs and endless hallway goodbyes. It’s cardamom-infused Indian tea, crispy samosas and sweet mango chutney. It’s my brown skin and British accent. It’s making finding an eyebrow lady a priority when I move away. It’s being called a ‘coconut’ by other immigrant kids. It’s addressing the cultural conflicts. It’s the three day, colourful, big, Indian weddings and the ivory and blush shades of smaller English weddings. It’s bringing the East into the West. It’s keeping traditions alive and challenging those that are archaic and patriarchal. It’s shouting down the phone to relatives in India and being overly polite to strangers. It’s opening a tub of ice cream in the fridge and being faced with frozen daal. It’s blindly respecting your elders as a child and growing up to realise that respect is a two-way street. It’s being racially profiled at airports, but having a British passport. It’s feeling like a foreigner in India and looking like one in the UK. It’s learning about colonial history at home and not at school. It’s cheering on whatever team is playing against England in the World Cup. It’s navigating between the cultural values of my family’s homeland and our adopted home. It’s the snap of a poppadom and the crunch of a bag of ready salted crisps. It’s being a corner shop kid. It’s listening to both the whimsical waves of Bollywood music and the rough rhymes of UK grime. It’s using my Hindi writing skills as a party trick. It’s having the freedom to choose what I do and who I marry, when my ancestors (and parents) didn’t. It’s planning a fusion wedding and adding a new culture to the colourful palette of my life. It’s celebrating Christmas and Diwali. It’s being rich in history, languages, literature and ways of life. It’s strength and resilience. Its open-mindedness and tolerance. It’s being a global citizen.
Just typing that title gave me déjà vu. Yes, I’ve moved again. This time though, I’ve stayed in the UK (despite the unfortunate Brexit timing) and have made the beautiful city of dreaming spires my new home. I’ve been in Oxford for the better part of half a year and so far, noticed a lot of similarities with the big smoke.
I’ll be real with you. Like London, it’s expensive. And, pretty polluted. But, I should add that as a Londoner these things, although real causes for concern, made me feel weirdly right at home. I’ve fallen in love with the majestic tall spires which dot the Oxford skyline – the university buildings are a dream. The stars even shine brighter here in the green pastures of Oxfordshire and the noise levels are low enough to make me notice the quiet. The cobbled streets and sheer small size of the city remind me of my Dutch home of Leiden.
Since moving, life has gotten in the way of blogging. However, in true new year, new me style – I am determined to write more musings, share more travels and communicate fascinating science and the people behind it.
This Easter, my folks paid me a visit in (sometimes) sunny Holland. It was a wonderful long weekend filled with cheese, chocolate, Indian food, boat trips and general tourist-like behavior.
The tulip and cheese museums were a big hit. Unlimited cheese sampling + tulips = a winning combination in my books.
Standing by the Amsterdam sign without being photobombed by several other tourists is pretty much near impossible on Easter weekend, but I’m glad I finally took a photo by the famous sign after having lived here for over 3 months already!
Easter and food go hand in hand (just like Christmas, calories don’t count during Easter remember)! After a spot of baking, I ticked off two other Dutch delicacies as I tried Dutch pancakes and Hagelslag .
Nutella and banana is one of my favourite food combinations so I had to get that on my pancakes. Next time, I’ll be sure to try some traditionally Dutch toppings.
Hagelslag is the wonderful rainbow-sprinkled bread shown above. These sugary sprinkles eaten on buttered bread are a common children’s breakfast in the Netherlands, something that I could definitely get used to 🙂
Hope you had a wonderful Easter wherever you are in the world!
There’s something strangely reassuring about the sound of rain. When you’re inside and have a cup of something warm to wrap your hands around – that to me is the best way to spend a rainy day. Recently, I ventured to Starbucks and did just that. Usually I’d prefer to find a cute, local café to support but this time we found the first place giving us shelter from the rain.
This particular Starbucks is in fact the coffee place I visited the most during my first trip to the Netherlands back in November, so it was nice to be back now that I live here 🙂 As the winter days seem to merge into one rainy day, occasional bursts of sunshine are starting to break through the clouds, putting a smile on everybody’s face. Spring, I’m ready for you!