My Dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,
I can say I am a Ugandan by birth, British by naturalisation and soon to be Swiss, by choice! Notice no mention of my Indian heritage!
First sight of me anywhere in the world and I get asked, “Are you Indian?”…though lately I have even been asked if I were Spanish! My everyday life is very much Indian, and I seem to find the strongest connections with other Indians, as is evident in the friend circle. Parts of my attire, my diet and a large part of my thinking is influenced by my non-Indian environment. The question now is, Where do YOU find home in this scenario? I would term you as true Global citizens of this world. At one time, this was a rarity, but the influence of colonisation, slavery, migrations for different reasons,and the fast-moving electronic technology has given us an increasing number of global citizens. The next step is to influence people to become more tolerant and welcoming of the “different” individual.
British colonisation has been the greatest influence for our family, but the British were not the only nation colonising other parts of the world. There are lots of reasons for this. What in your opinion is the most compelling reason? People tend to forget the reasons of colonisation. Many Gujaratis were able to claim the right to British nationality, either by the fact of being in India or living in the colonies, such as Uganda and Kenya. In the beginning it was easy but later on as the British realised that all these new citizens might immigrate to the United kingdom, different types of citizenship were introduced. This fact reminds me of our troubled journey from Mumbai to Houston, USA(Shardaba and myself). This was 2009 and we were on our way to attend Priyanka’s wedding. The airline made a mistake in letting us board in Mumbai, without checking the visa requirements. As Ba had a British Protectorate passport, she apparently needed visas to enter USA. At the changeover in Heathrow, Ba in her wheelchair was refused from boarding and I was told, ‘You have no issues and can continue your journey’…. ‘And who is going to look after Ba then?’, was my question. In the end we had to stay a couple of days in London and solve the problem. Many other nationals will have similar stories to tell…all I can say is: it is not unique, but definitely traumatic at that particular moment. I was able to find a solution, but many are not.
Unfortunately the world is heavily influenced by the loud words of a very few individuals. Think of the handful of explorers who concocted the term and the image of Africa as the “dark continent”. My life in Jinja was anything but DARK. The more modern example I can quote is the influence of the ‘Trojan horse letter’ that has clouded the thinking of many people, myself included. I am very grateful to you, Komal, for being involved in the play ‘Trojan Horse‘ at the Edinburgh fringe festival this year. This has made me read more on this subject and see the whole situation from a different angle. All due to ‘loud words of a few individuals’.
Being inspired regularly by the FutureLearn online course, I hope to read the book, ‘American War’ by Omar El Akkad. The book was discussed in the ‘How to Read a Novel’ course on FutureLearn. The title and the subject itself did not inspire me but the author’s interview with the course professor was extremely compelling. It is a futuristic story based on present day events like climate change, radicalisation, and the subject of this letter: tolerance and identity. The amazing fact is that it was written before Donald Trump became president! How about all of us reading the book and discussing it at our next gathering? (Your mission…… should you wish to accept it……. blah, blah blah!).
Influenced by stories of our parents and grandparents, we are always in the pursuit of ensuring living rights and therefore citizenship of different countries. The next hurdle for us Global citizens is the ‘Norman Tebbit Test‘. The requirements of this test would bring out many debates in our household and these debates should be extended world-wide. Dual or multiple citizenship in my view in not only common but also necessary for many citizens of the world!
Anjli it was wonderful to have you with us these past few weeks, albeit intermittently. It was also great to have you with me in the kitchen. The recipe in this letter is inspired by your, ‘Oh, that is very easy!’ comment. And yes it is easy to make kadhi. I am hoping your return to being a student will get you cooking more.
As always, I live in hope.
Lots of love, hugs and kisses