Indian | Anglo-Indian

Photo credit: provided by subject

Photo credit: provided by subject

I am a proud third generation mixed-race product of a perceivably controversial ancestry, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What’s possibly more exciting than being a living vessel of the best of all the worlds that made me? Brought up on Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, I consider myself lucky to have the freedom to take my favourite components of my various cultures and paint the best image of how I want to be identified.

My Mum is a pure breed Brahmin (highest class of Hindus if I may add). Raised in an army family, she is quite an exemplification of a commonly seen balance of modern thinking, conservative upbringing. My Dad on the other hand, comes from the other end of what we call the ‘elite, anglicised’ circles of post- independence India, showing symptoms of the ‘colonial hangover’ from time to time (thanks to his partially Pathaan and partially Indian lineage with sprinklings of The British). The alliance was an absolute mismatch on paper, but such a beautiful one now that I come to think of it. The script of secularity was written into my subconscious, not just by means of education and media but fortunately also my parents and grandparents.

Most children who have parents with different backgrounds grow up in a household with two cultures. My household was multicultural based on ethnicity and also religion. These cultural markers defined my sense of self to a great extent and how I saw myself vis‐à‐vis the other, and to be honest I always saw myself more informed, and evolved than my counterparts. I never understood hostility, which is where my folks did a fabulous job. They inculcated a sense of belonging to a more humanitarian school of thought, whilst performing beautifully all of the rituals, fulfilling the religious duties that one is expected to in society. I will credit my Mom here more than my Father. My Dad’s frequent displays of apathy reinforced my understanding of the differences that existed, whilst my Mother’s dedicated involvement in spreading good vibes by the means of performing prayers and rituals helped me and my sister not only acknowledge this disparity but also celebrate the ‘differences’. As far as my memory goes, even if there was a talk of this between my parents, it was done in good humour where it was clearly evident that both respected each other as individuals and did not dilute their personalities or compromised their belief systems in a marriage which saw more raised eyebrows than hands raising toasts.

Most of the multiracial babies in my immediate circle of friends have turned out beautiful, and how! Not just physically, but intrinsically they seem to have the most sensitive of souls, with a gift for winning hearts wherever they go. The fact that my grandparents, (close to) eloped and remained an example/ representation of a racial concoction that is still mocked at many a family gatherings, has always served as a source of strength and pride. Unlike many kids who had religion and cultural norms forced down their throats, I have been fortunate to be raised in a very progressive environment where we were allowed to agree to disagree, with or without a rationale.

Even if my culture had an effect in choosing my partner, I wouldn’t let it become an impediment. It’s my life after all and that’s how I have been trained to live – on free will, and with sound judgements of the mind and heart that are solely mine, and mine alone. If things were to ever go wrong, at least I will have just me to blame. I am a non-conformist when put in environments that tend to influence, or disallow the freedom of choice.

Most of my experiences have been positive. As superficial as I may sound saying this, the real revelation of my desirability quotient was the first step in understanding that I was special. It came about when I was voted as the ‘sexiest woman’ in an online pageant on an international platform (when growing up I always thought of myself as an average looking person attractive only in parts) a couple of years ago. As quirk of fate would have it, the idea of being ‘exotic’ and living up to it became imperative in making a mark as an actor/ model in the last decade.

I also feel that coming from a mixed family has somewhere influenced my personal and professional choices in life, wherein I do multiple things based on multiple interests. The fact that my family has always backed me up with my life choices has made me respect my blend a wee bit more.

Growing up In India, I made peace with the fact that people give a lot of importance to appearance and skin colour, and easily discriminate (positively or negatively) based on this. People always wonder where I’m from. Stares are encountered on a daily basis. Auto rickshaw drivers often demand twice the local price, and when I bargain back in colloquial Hindi, they are usually very surprised, and wonder whether I am a Punjabi, or a some sort of a ‘foreigner’ living in India (most commonly an ‘Afghan’) to the point where drivers have often mistook my sun- protection layering of scarves for a stylish hijab or a safa, speaking in an abnormally slowed down version of a local language. I have been at the receiving end of a lot of attention so I can’t complain really.

The one thing I am extremely proud of as a mixed-race kid is the fact that I was allowed to engage with as many aspects of my cultures as I wanted. Differences also mean diversity. There were more options for dinner, multiple languages to learn, more stories about adventurous ancestors to keep me entertained, and most of all, different art forms to celebrate. I took great interest in fine arts growing up, moved on to modelling and theatre at university got involved in music and tip toed my way to the world of performing arts thereafter. I worked as a communications trainer, a designer, and a copy writer. I continue to work as an actor, an artist, a digital marketer and run a business to top it off. I was encouraged to take risks. The world, it still feels is my stage and I can play as many roles as I want to in the script of my life.

I studied in England. And that was a 7 year love affair with the country that had the most influence on my interpersonal and social skills growing up. My Grand Mom had something very ‘British’ about the way she cracked jokes, her sense of humour a little drier than one would expect, delivered in an ‘almost’ rude but also a sensible way. Her perfect articulation of words infused with wit made her a role model of sorts. Of course her ability to enjoy her smoke a certain way had to pass on to the generations after. My Grand Mom spoke impeccably in English and Urdu, to an extent also Pashto. Her charm was enigmatic which is why my Granddad couldn’t bear staying away from her too long. The romance was kept alive and the love was forever palpable!

I haven’t really experienced any real ‘discrimination’ based on the colours/ cultures that have made me. On the contrary, I have only seen it work to my advantage; personally, to engage an audience and win fans with my outlandish stories and quirks, professionally to earn a repute of a creative, diligent and a desirable worker. Nothing is going to change now as I take great pride in who I am and it shows. I guess it also helps me win friends and fans wherever I go!

If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would want to return as me! I wouldn’t know better any other way.