English | Indian
I am a half Indian, half White English, born into a Muslim family. My Mother was born into a working-class family in Shepherds Bush, London and my Father in Zanzibar in Africa. Being a Deaf man, there were not many educational opportunities for Deaf people in Africa so he came to London to seek some better education. He attended CityLit in London to study Maths and met my Mother in that class. The rest is history.
I went on quite a journey with my mixed-race background. Being a hearing child born to Deaf parents, I was always hyper aware of being ‘different’ and having a foot in two worlds, Deaf and Hearing. But this also made me consider my race identities quite early on. I recall being in primary school and being gathered around with the other children in class. The teacher wanted to talk about difference and colour. She referred to one of the boys and said he was what we called ‘white’. He referred to one of the girls and said she was what we called ‘Black’ and then referred to me and called me ‘Yellow’. It was one of the first times I scratched my head and pondered who and what I was.
I grew up in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire and the area was predominately White. There was an element of racism at times and our house was targeted sometimes. People throwing eggs at our windows or playing knock down ginger/ Nicky nine doors – but this may have been because the house lit up when you rang the doorbell! My Dad was also quite often thrown verbal abuse at on the street, which I heard, but he never seemed to care. He couldn’t hear it!
When I attended drama school I London, I truly found a lot of my identity as a gay man however, I did leave quite left White washed. I thought I was going to play the next White leading man when I then found myself auditioning for a British Asian musical. I got the job and recall hearing the Dhol drum playing one day in a run through. It was then I felt my heart smile.
My Mother and Father, in my opinion, nailed combining their cultures. When courting, my Mother moved to Pakistan for a few years. She wanted to experience the culture and my Father’s family. It was there she would learn to truly cook like, as they used to say, ‘an Asian woman’. When growing up in the U.K, my Mother and Father would always take us to Canada to see our Indian side of the family, we attended weddings and it was at those weddings that I had my first experience in Bollywood dance. Little did we know, this would be the first step in becoming an actor. When in the U.K, we lived with my White grandmother who heavily exposed me to the golden age of music; I watched Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire and listened to the likes of Deanna Durbin. I was infatuated with both Golden age and Bollywood. That was a true representation of the combination of cultures.
I always found myself struggling with whether I was Deaf or Hearing, battling with my identity there but also felt I was never White enough or never Brown enough. I would attend Asian events and would be called the ‘Gora’ (White man) and would be within White company and would be called ‘Yellow’ or in some cases, the P word. As an actor, I find it’s hard to be a mixed-race actor. You’re never ‘White enough’ or ‘Brown enough’. Ironically, the mixed-race community is the fastest growing, yet is the least represented in the industry. That can be hard sometimes.
I have always struggled with friends and partners. No one has ever truly understood my identity issues and because it’s complex, I’ve sometimes found it quite difficult to articulate myself. I’ve had to do a lot of work to improve that but I am aware that I sometimes have different sides of me depending on the culture I am in at the time. There is something quite special about that though!
I have always enjoyed the spicier side of life. I grew up with curries and spicy food and so this is my often go-to choice of food. Most of my English inspired dishes, I cook at home are infused with some sort of Indian spice. My roast dinners are known for their turmeric and garam masala marinated chicken.
My music taste is eclectic. I enjoy the Golden age but also Bollywood which is probably why I connect with Musical Theatre so much.
I have always wanted to learn Gujarati, my native family’s language, but I never had access to this. My mother tongue was Sign Language and I am extremely proud of that but when I was with my Asian family, I very quickly always felt ostracised because I could never speak it. I recall my Father asking me to interpret what some of his family members were saying, so I had to very quickly self-teach myself. I would manage to piece together words to come up with some kind of interpretation, but I never managed to become fluent.
I love pattern and Asian embroidery so I assume this is an influence the culture has had on me.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I wouldn’t come back any different. I am proud of my mix and the older I get, the more I realise how exciting my story is and how much I really want to tell it. I read somewhere once that one-day, most people will be mixed- race. This sounds like the most exciting thing in the world!