June 8, 2017

what I’m thinking about what I’m reading…

The Good Immigrant; edited by Nikesh Shukla.

I have met this book many times. My first encounter was with Riz Ahmed on the Guardian website where they published his story. I then bought a kindle version of this book in India, but never got around to reading it…my romance with a digital reader had never existed. Finally, months later, I spotted this book again in my library and made it mine very quickly, even if it’s loaned.

My name is my name, by Chimene Suleyman
“We are simply the martyrs who are too afraid to die.”

Chimene Suleyman’s was the first story that appeared when I flipped the book open, and I began to read. This is a personal story, of course, like the other 20 that are waiting to be read. My first impressions are that it is a beautiful story. Sad, angry, resigned towards the adopted home (England) and yet, defiantly native (Turkish), all at once. And it is written so beautifully, I had a lump in my throat towards the end when the author speaks about her grandmother’s burial.

I loved the history behind her name, Chimene. And I can relate to her amusement when the yoga teacher says ‘aum’ without understanding its complete significance. I recalled one ‘taster’ session that I attended once where candles were lit in a spacious, curtains-drawn yoga hall (I probably spent ten minutes before I came out into the daylight utterly angry. How can you do yoga when you can’t even see the teacher!? Anything Indian, oriental, exotic, must have candles, and of course, incense sticks in all the possible vertices!) Indeed, Chimene also mentions this… the existence of words and phrases from other cultures used by the English, and cleverly brings the thread back to her name. There is some information – history – about Cyprus under the British empire…upon reading further into this I learn that in the late 1970s, the ‘divide and rule‘ policy was used by them between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well. Can’t help thinking how their own country is so deeply divided, especially since the last 12 months or so. And yet, talk of karma is considered cliche…

Himesh Patel (Window of opportunity); and Nish Kumar (Is Nish Kumar a confused Muslim?)
These are two completely different and individual, light-hearted write-ups, along the same themes that I could identify with, with regards to my own experiences in the UK as a first-generation migrant. Besides, I feel too lazy now to write them out separately. Got distracted, went on to google Nish Kumar’s comedy, and laughed a lot. I think it was just what I needed at the time.

Reading these stories made me realise some of my own ‘dilemmas’ I always face when I have to be ‘social’ in the UK (read, everyday school runs, attending a parent-teacher meeting, going to the shops, and so on). My pet question is silly but it has grown big because I face it every day. Do I dress in my Indian clothes (simply because I have many of them in my wardrobe and I watch them waiting in their bright colours, desperate to get out and feel the air), or do I throw on a casual old t-shirt top and jeans so I can blend in with the rest of the crowd? Except that I am brown and can will never blend in.

What I’m thinking when I’m reading about the lives of these good immigrants: yes, why should we blend in?

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