“Go home if you don’t like it! Ungrateful bastards”
I’m not the only one to have pondered these words with feelings of bitterness and mild amusement.
My home is in the middle of my street off the middle of another street in a rundown part of Birmingham in the UK.
When I was a child I didn’t want to go home because I didn’t feel I belonged there. I preferred the ways of my sandy haired classmates.
I wanted to wear little shorts. And angel wings.
Have my dark hair cut into a sleek little bob.
I didn’t like it anywhere.
I decided one day, aged 6 that my name would only have one syllable from this point on.
My name is Sam, I asserted in a tone that left no room for debate.
“Sammy Circuit!” My siblings would tease, likening me to the robot Johnny 5 who thought he was alive.
But I didn’t care. I liked playing with my best friend Tammy’s blonde hair (and our names almost rhymed)
Together we’d swoon over karate kid Jamil in year 6.
It was our little secret but for different reasons, personal to each of us in our own way.
Tammy didn’t want to be teased for her blossoming youth, as loud as she was, she was also shy.
I didn’t want my parents to find out or anyone at home if we’re stating the facts.
Who knew the consequences of entertaining any thoughts of the opposite sex? It wasn’t a boundary I was willing to cross.
I had the marks from the last time I hadn’t successfully predicted the mood of one of my caregivers (and they were many). Consistently inconsistent is how I proudly recall that stage of my life.
As long as I spoke perfect English and ate ham when no one was looking, my life outside my home was definitely preferable and I jumped those hoops willingly for as much approval as I could muster.
I noticed that some people had it worse than others but not me, no, I’ve never experienced it directly, is what I told potential new white friends. I’m not like the others, I meant.
They nodded. Mm, you’re not like the others, you make the effort to fit in. They could at least wear very little, like you. And what’s the beef with a little pig?
I dunno. I got out as fast as I can. I was looking for a proper home. I haven’t found it yet but I will definitely let you know when I’m in it.
The 10 day visit to Pakistan to bury my gran was enough proof that I didn’t have a home there either (although there were many houses to live in).
The locals, they could tell we were different even though we fluently spoke the native tongue. They called us the English princesses.
The textile man was charging 500 rupees instead of 50.
The hoops, they got smaller and higher, the will to carry on was laden with heavyweights dragging me down.
“Where are you from? No, where are you really from? Ok, well, where are your parents from? What about your grandparents then?”
(What? All four of them? You really need to know that about me huh? Why don’t you just take a swab and have it analysed?)
“Once you go brown, you don’t go back”
“You’re my first Asian!”
“Now you’re on the white side, you’re alright”
“This is my fucking country (more than yours even though you’ve lived here your whole life)”
“There’s a brown girl in the room blah blah blah”
“Is it true brown men have tiny cocks?”
I realised that I would lose out whether I stuck up for myself or did not but one of those ways would teach me self-respect and my worth.
What do you mean I’m not like all the others? Am I not the daughter of immigrants? Is my skin not what you have deemed brown?
Oh I have a Western attitude. What is that exactly? Oh I drink beer and wear dresses. Am I Manic Pixie Indian Princess enough for you? Would it help if I plait my hair and slapped on a bindhi?
What, now I have an attitude attitude? But you started it.
The margins, they’re like [this wide] and my heart, it’s MUCH BIGGER than that. Huge, in fact.
It can love people whatever colour they are, whether they have a religion or do not believe.
It even loves some white people. Just not the ones who don’t listen and maintain the kyriarchy.
As a footnote, I wish I’d known all of this before I was born. I would have picked different coordinates.