Home is not where you were born. Home is where all your attempts to escape cease – Naguib Mahfouz
I was born in London – in fact not very far from where I live now. I am a ‘proper’ London-er by all lists and calculations. Everything outside the M25 is “up north”, I ignore all acts of friendliness in the streets and can’t stand people who don’t know how to use an escalator. London is my home.
But I have so many conflated thoughts about it. This is my home. I have no other home. But when people ask where are you from? I instinctively know they mean why aren’t you white? But I play their game. London. No, where are you really from? Yes I was right. I have a pre-prepared answer now, “well I was born in London and lived here all my life but my parents were born in Bangladesh.”
It is this other-ing, not just by that comments but in so many ways, like filling in forms – I will always be British something else* – my kids will always be British something else and their kids after them will be British something else, that makes me realise even though this is my home, I will never feel quite at home. I will always feel like I’m squatting.
Maybe I will be able to go a whole week without feeling it. But then something will pop up on the news, someone will say an off-the-cuff comment and I will be reminded.
*something else because what they call us changes over time.
I wonder if I will ever be allowed to feel at home. Probably not in my lifetime. But I wonder how many generations of children immigrant families have before this goes away.