British | Indian
I am half Indian & half British, I do not follow a religion and I am straight. My Mum originates from North India in the Punjab region and my Dad is a born and raised Jewish North Londoner. My Mum worked as a fashion designer in Central London where she met my Dad, who supplied trimmings for the company. I grew up in north London.
I don’t think I fully recognised myself as mixed-race until quite recently. Since the age of about 4 or 5 I have known I was different to my predominantly White peers. I have a vague memory of when I was about 5 or 6, looking at family photos and wondering why my skin wasn’t White like the rest of my friends. But I have also spent my life being told I’m not mixed-race (the stereotype that mixed-race people can only be half Black and half White). To this day my Dad will disagree with me if I say I’m mixed-race and I tend to get a bit of an odd look from my friends if I refer to myself as mixed-race.
My parents didn’t combine their cultures. My Mum was the first of her 5 other siblings to marry outside of the Indian community, which resulted in her entire family cutting ties with her. As a consequence, our two families were kept very separate. Every Friday until the age of about 12/13 we were Jewish and had a typical ‘Friday Night Dinner’ until my Grandfather (Dad’s side) died. On Thursday’s my Mum, my sister and I were Indian as my Dad went to play football in the evenings. On these evenings my mum would cook ‘proper’ Indian food where we would sit on the floor and eat with our hands. We never really did this when our Dad was here because he didn’t like Indian food that much and used to just mix it all together.
In social situations when I’m surrounded by non-mixed-race people, I tend to feel like I don’t fit in or I can’t relate to a lot of their conversations. A prime example of this is when I started university at the University of Reading. All 7 of my other flat mates were White, middle class and came from very small towns (in comparison to London) where everyone looked the same as them. To them, I was the most cultured person they knew/were friends with. I think this is where I felt the least ‘White’. There was a lot of typical British stuff I couldn’t relate to, such as the excitement over Sunday roasts, cooking without seasonings etc.
My Mum is fluent in Punjabi but never taught me or my sister as she didn’t want my Dad to feel left out. I feel the only time this has had an effect on me is on the rare occasion we are with my Mum’s side of the family and everyone is communicating in Punjabi. I connect the most with my Indian culture naturally as I am closer to my Mum. I also think food plays a major role, it is the easiest way for me to feel a strong connection to my culture; something I can include in my daily life without fear of any judgement.
Being asked where I’m from is a difficult question, especially as I’m living in the Netherlands at the moment. So my answer changes depending on where I am. Although, my initial response to the question is usually just London and then I wait to be asked ‘but where are you actually from?’. Then I explain that my Mum is Indian, and my Dad is Jewish.
A positive of being mixed-race is that you can dip in and out of different cultures. I can relate to parts of English culture as well as Indian culture. For example, my White friends may struggle to connect to my fully Indian friends (and vice versa), whereas I don’t feel that massive contrast between the two cultures because I have both. A negative is that you never really fit fully into one culture, so you can end up feeling isolated, especially in social situations where one culture (Indian or British) dominates. Growing up in London I’ve never felt excluded because of my skin colour or my culture. In fact, I’ve found quite the opposite, particularly at my sixth form college where culture and identity were to be expressed and celebrated and White people were almost a minority. Within my London bubble I’m content.