Home

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.

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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.”

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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.

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7 thoughts on “Home

  1. Aww… that’s so disheartening. Y’know, I really love your posts. I do. But the more I read into them, the less I romanticize your part of the world. After all, if one wants to know what a place is really like, they should ask someone native of that area who is “low” or “middle” class. They will tell the truth because they have no reason to play face.
    But to comment about the reactions you receive, I think “Home” is where the heart is. Maybe along the lines of your quote. I know for me, my “home” is not really in one place. It’s apart of many people that I am hopelessly bonded with. I find “home” in people, and not so much places. Because at least with people (my friends and family), I can always find home whenever/wherever I need it. Granted, my location of living has not really changed since I was born and I call that place “home” but only out of nostalgia.
    I really would hope that those you encounter in the UK would be a bit more open-minded. Or at least not as rude with their question. Rather than say “where are you really from?” They should ask of your cultural or family background or something. Only out of genuine interest of course. People can be so stuck in narrow fields of vision that they forget that the world changes all the time. Sorry, I rambled. Thanks for sharing. You’re doing great work! Keep going! 🙂

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  2. One thing I learned to do after I became an immigrant (from a western country to another western country) was to stop ever asking anyone EVER EVER where they came from. My own experience of being asked that made me realise what an impertinent, intrusive, overly-personal question it is. Honestly, if we’re close enough for it to be an appropriate question, chances are we’re close enough that I’ve already volunteered the information at some point during our time together. It’s not your business where I came from, and it’s not my job to satisfy your idle curiosity. Grrr. On the other hand, I had the immense privilege of being white and therefore not subject to racist attacks when I told the where-do-you-come-from people to piss off. So yeah, context.

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  3. A lot of immigrant families complain about this but I think what is most disheartening to me is how quickly 2nd generation kids are deported to their parent’s home countries even though they have no link there. I understand that they have erred but why send them to a country that’s strange to them?

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