As you might have noticed, I’ve not been updating substantially of late, been going through a slight downer that I didn’t see coming. Slate just filled up, no time to think, not enough exercise or sleep, too much casual caffeine and drink. Result was my crashing out of the world a little for a few days, including my Dad’s birthday yesterday which I don’t feel great about. Slight “Dark Night of the Soul” yesterday seems to have sorted it out though.
Moving on – You know when you have a nascent thought that’s been building up and it comes out at an inappropriate time? On Tuesday I had my Hightide interview, which I found quite intense though I also enjoyed the challenge. It lasted about an hour instead of the expected half and I got drilled on my submitted application. This opened up into a wider discussion about the place of British Indians and whilst talking about the future of their place in Britain, out of nowhere I told my interviewers that I wanted to completely separate myself from India and I think kids of Indian descent here should too and don’t try hard enough to do it. I was a bit surprised to hear myself say that. Some version of this idea has been tipping around the back of my mind for a while, ever since I talked to my maternal granddad about it, but I’ve never fully formed a thought worthy of public expression, and it came out sounding a little hardline. I suppose I do think something close to that but I think more that I put it out as a polemic position – not necessarily exactly what I want, but the strength of the view is a point from which to work from, such as you would do with a debate topic.
It’s a delicate line to tread this – I think that an attachment to a land you’re no longer part of (and, actually, never really were – India in particular has changed dramatically over the last two decades) is ultimately unhealthy. This idea of a “spiritual” or “ancestoral” home seems odd to me and somewhat denies the flexibility that has been a vital part of humanity’s success story. I understand that if you believe that you live in a land that still doesn’t fully accept you then the search for authenticity, driven by the idea that there is somewhere out there that you will always belong to, is comforting. For me, what we make of our own lives is far more fascinating and important than what our ancestors did with theirs, wherever they did it.
When I say “completely separate” it’s not about forcefully removing people from a living culture that works for them. After all, British Indians are apparently the happiest people in the UK and there’s a strong religious component to it (not to mention the stern stares of various grandparents). I guess I believe that finding something completely new, where we are, without leaning on elsewhere for legitimacy, is exciting and ultimately the way to go even if it’s harder and it requires the ‘native’ population to meet you half way.
Also, while I say all this, it is undermined slightly by the fact that I’ve started to look into the past myself. My cousin is getting married next year in India (why, I don’t know), so I will be going along and my last visit was half a life time ago. In preparation, I’ve started asking my grandparents a lot of questions about “the old country” and trying to pick up a bit of the language again to boot.
I suppose people will always be fascinated by where they came from, hence the appeal of ancestry sites and “where did you come from?” shows involving celebrities. I just feel that a curiosity is all that it should be, and when it comes to form a dominant part of the identity a few generations down then there is only trouble there. With Indian immigrants to Britain, it’s obviously a lot closer to the surface due to the first mass immigration waves still being part of living memory. Perhaps this will all happen anyway in the next generation as the resistance falls away. Having written this all down I actually feel that it would be a bit of a loss. Clearly I have no idea what I’m on about and feel a bit uncomfortable even suggesting how other people should live their lives…stick to the stories, Patel, not social policies.
Back to the interview: initially, the stress of that meeting made me want to throw in the pen and, furthering the funk I’m already in, made me question what the hell I’m doing with my life and that I should perhaps quite like to be a corporate solicitor with a big house and small pond full of smaller ducks. However, this morning I got up early (well, earlier), and resolved to sort this out. The questions that I was asked were tough, but were all part of making me clarify exactly the story I wanted to tell. I couldn’t do explain it eloquently at the time but after a lot of thinking last night I think I’m there. I’m certainly more clear about what I want to say and how to say it and, more over, I know in my heart that if I get it written properly, True Brits is going to be a great play. I’m on it.
On lighter notes:
1) I went to see the physio about my hand, and she gave me some therapy putty (which is my new favourite thing in the world) to build up my hand strength. She also showed me an exercise to teach my right hand to find its strength again. It looks a bit weird, and she says she used to do this herself all the time in public because she realised her pinching action was unstable. I love how entrenched into their professions people become.
2) I’m off to see Hot Chip at the Brixton Academy tonight, which will be my first gig in an age. Followed by Grizzly Bear next week, it’ll be just like 2010 all over again.
EDIT: There are a lot of loose terms and simplifications (e.g. A diaspora culture isn’t necessarily one that longs for return to a motherland or constructing an ethnic ghetto – a better way to analyse this is through the concept of an extended family) floating around this post, and so I’ll be coming back to tighten it up later. As I say, my thinking on this topic is pretty half-baked still. Argue with me about this, please – it’s how I come to understand my own mind.