Home is where the Heart is


A few weeks back, I was idly listening to a conversation on my train home. The conversation was between two young British born Asian ladies discussing whether or not to date men from “back home.” Upon hearing this phrase, I bristled and had to mentally say every single prayer that my grandmother taught me, in order to bite my tongue.

So: why did I bristle? It really really annoys me when I hear British born Asians casually say things like: “Oh you know back home…” or anything to do with India being referred to as “home.” For me it doesn’t sit well – sure maybe your parents and grandparents refer to India as “home” – which in that case makes perfect sense. I don’t understand why you would refer to a nation that has not supported your education or your rights “home.” And as if the whole outsider thing wasn’t enough, for those of us born and brought up outside of the motherland, we are referred to as “Non-Resident Indians” aka NRIs. Talk about drawing the lines.

“Home is where the heart is. And where you live becomes home.”

The nature of being British born and being of ethnic descent is one hell of a fusion with regards to identity. It also is very confusing with many British born Asians finding themselves in a never ending tug of war with regards to where they fit in and belong. In addition, it’s also given rise to many second, third and fourth generation British born Asians opting for a “pic-n-mix” attitude to form a completely new hybrid identity. This approach affirms one thing: that the nature of ethnic identity is subjective. This is why it is notoriously difficult to have a one-size-fits-all approach to what being British and being Asian means.

The British Asian experience in the West and diaspora has been far from idyllic; we are still light years away from where we want/can be – collectively and individually. There are so many outdated attitudes that only we, as a community in Britain, can really address in order to see and feel changes. Yes: it is terrible what happens to women in India and there’s nothing wrong with being concerned about the general state of humanity. But I ask you this: what about the atrocities that happen to British born Asian men, women and children in this country? Forced marriages, honour-based violence, honour killings, acid attacks, FGM etc. Do we turn a blind eye to these problems in our back garden, because it’s “easier” to feel compassion and empathy for those suffering in distant lands?

It’s all very well and good to feel immense concern for the motherland (for those of us from East Africa; the auntyland) and the plight of its citizens. I think it’s great that many British born Asians still have that connection and memory of the sub-continent. But you have to remember that it is not your “home.” You are not living there, you do not have an active say in their political, educational and economic systems nor do your decisions influence whatever goes on there. Call me radical, harsh, a killjoy etc but it’s a fact. Do not ever forget where you come from: the second you deny your roots and heritage you are lost. But do not forget where you live and that the way you currently live your life is within that sphere.

 

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7 thoughts on “Home is where the Heart is

    • Haha “auntyland” was a term a good work colleague of mine came up with. It’s stuck ever since!
      And absolutely, we MUST take responsibility otherwise we – and future generations – don’t stand a chance of maintaining a strong identity.

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  1. I agree with you Chayya. It’s quite sad that this is even a thing. You’ll not be surprised with people I meet through teaching Pungra (Bhangra) how many people make comments to me such as “I can’t make it to class on [date] because I am going (back) home”. I don’t always know if they mean another city in the UK or South Asia. My ‘home town’ is Coventry, and I don’t feel ashamed to refer to it as a second home. I’ve even lived in Delhi for 5 months, and happy to call that home. But I don’t feel comfortable in Amritsar (where my ancestry is), how can I possibly refer to that as home?

    It strikes me as strange, and problematic to think of a place of ancestry as home. Surely this has implications for how much one value one’s place of residence and the immediate community. Good write up.

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    • Wow!! I’d have never guessed that so many people openly say that without really thinking about it.
      Then again, it doesn’t surprise me, because I feel like South Asians don’t really regard themselves as individuals with an individual identity. We seem to identify more as a collective communal identity – still trying to work that one out.

      And you’re spot on! This loose referencing of “home” has big problems for what we value, how we value ourselves against the background of contemporary Western society and those around us.
      Without realising it, we deny responsibility for where we currently live (and belong arguably) because we become so hung up on a nostalgic pill of a “home” that doesn’t exist anymore and doesn’t belong to us. To be honest: it never did.

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  2. Unfortunately, South Asians have a tendency to sit on the fence and can never decide which side they want to belong to. This actually ends up in their belonging no where. Their plight in East Africa is a good example of that. Good work, dear. Keep it up!

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    • 🙂 thank you and I will keep up the work! And you’re very right about that.
      Sitting on the fence and/or jumping on the band wagon has serious implications for how we regard ourselves as individuals, as a community AND how we view others.
      We end up denying responsibility for where we live and what we, as citizens, do.
      And spot on: what’s happening to the diaspora in EA is exactly this.

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