Children of the Diaspora, honour your legacy.

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, as I sat on the plane entering into my new life journey on American soil. It's taken me a while to post but it's a moment I'd like to remember and share here. I've included some photos from my leaving do in London as this post is for all of them. Diaspora's children, let me know if you feel me...

18th November 2015

I’m currently sitting on the plane to Los Angeles and it’s starting to sink in that this is really it. I am moving to America. It’s something I’ve wanted and thought about for so long that now it’s a reality, I’m slightly floored. So much so that the sheer momentousness of this occasion is somewhat lost on me.

By making this move, I’m changing the course of not only my future, but the future lives of the children I’ll have and even generations to come from my bloodline. Just as my grandmother did before me. I doubt when she boarded that plane from India to England she realised the impact that one move would have on the lives of so many people. My life would be incredibly different had she not had the foresight, gumption and ability to take herself and her family of four to the west. While it wouldn’t have been bad at all, as India can be a great place to live, the opportunities we have all has as a result of living in the UK are unparalleled. 

Children of the diaspora, especially those that are first or second generation immigrants, see emigrating in a different way to others I think. We’ve grown up in the knowledge that our immediate family left their relatives behind in a far away place to seek a better, or different, life. That ‘far away place’ is the extended family member that we’ve grown up with. The place we go back to and feel a sense of ‘otherness’ with, even though the blood of that place runs through our veins. The place our parents or grandparents were so well acquainted with, but to us it is a stranger. A stranger that we have a loyal affection for but are somewhat glad we don’t know them intimately.

I come from people that weren’t entirely unlike the refugees and immigrants we see struggling to find safety and a home right now. My grandfather was 10 at the time of the partition in India and Pakistan. His home in what was then India had just been claimed as Pakistani territory, so it wasn’t safe for his family to remain there and he had to walk hundreds of miles to safety across the new border to India. The scenes from partition look much like those we see on our TV screens today of Syrians fleeing their country.

My grandmother worked and studied day and night, as a teenage mother of two, to get an education and qualify as a teacher so that she could get an employment voucher to come to England. She left India alone in July 1968, with £5 in her pocket, and worked to save for my grandfather, my mother and my uncle to join her. They arrived in November 1968.

My father left India in the 70s and came to England to work as a lawyer. He met my mother, married and stayed - a story not that different from my own.

The fact that these stories are my history, to me, makes it even more poignant that I’m embarking on this new life journey. I am the child of immigrants that is now in a position to go wherever in the world I like and I’m walking a similar road to that of my grandmother and my father but with much more ease. With privilege. That is huge.

When I’ve told people I’m moving to America by myself, so often their response has been to commend me on how brave I am. However, I disagree. While getting to this point has been one of the toughest things I’ve done in my life, the decisions I’ve had to make, the frustration I’ve endured and the patience I’ve had to have pales in comparison to that of the journeys my forefathers had. It’s a testament to their legacy that I’m even able to do this with such relative ease, with money in the bank and with a nice home to go to at the other end.  I am not walking into the unknown as they did. 

Yes, it is hard to leave your family and it does take courage to do that, no matter who you are, but knowing that so many before me have done this and that I have the support and blessings of those I love makes it an easy decision.

Sometimes, in order to fulfil our hopes and dreams, we have to make tough decisions and have the courage to spread our wings outside of our comfort zone. It’s all too easy to say ‘no’ when an opportunity comes knocking because the effort it takes to see that opportunity through or to take advantage of it requires a lot of you. Sometimes, the most fruitful journeys require us to push ourselves to our limits.

I know that this is what life will look like for the children and grandchildren of those fleeing war torn countries today. The seeds that they are planting on new soil will blossom this way in years to come. 

So many of us have family histories similar to this - we are all privileged in ways we sometimes don’t see, all because one or more of our relatives were courageous enough to strive for better for themselves, and for us. We are the fruits of their struggle and we must honour their sacrifices by living to our fullest potential. This is what they wanted for us when they left their homes and stepped into the unknown, when they endured underestimation in a new country that didn’t believe in their skills, when they swallowed their pride to be able to provide for themselves and their family by any means, when they put their lives in the balance for the sake of our futures.

Yes, I’m bring brave by moving to a new country but more than anything, I’m taking heed from those that went before me and being unafraid to push for the things I want in life. It is, after all, what they wanted for themselves and for us. It’s our duty to honour their legacy by creating our own.

The magnitude of moving.

The big move is becoming scarily imminent and with the reality of it all setting in, I'm trying to cherish the moments I have with friends and family that little bit more. Last week I had a little party at my house to celebrate my birthday and to make some more great memories with my girl crew. We didn't take that many photos as we were preoccupied with the festivities (as it should be) but I've posted a few of them here. It was such a wonderful weekend and I hope I have a lot more days and nights like that one, both before the move and after. 

Moving to the states is something I've spoken about since i was a teenager (which a lot of people I know can testify to as they had to hear me talk about it all the time). It first started when I still had dreams of writing and directing my own tv show and saw it taking me to the sound stages of Burbank. That dream lasted quite a while but after experiencing 3 years of the harsh reality that actually working in tv production will bring, my goals changed. However, America was still something I saw for myself. It's so funny how we inadvertently speak things into our lives as I only ever thought I'd move if I lucked out and found a job that would sponsor me to work out there. The one thing I certainly didn't think would be the reason for moving is marriage. I guess that's just the way the universe works.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the move - I don't think I fully realised the magnitude of moving until recently. It hasn't seemed that real I guess, but now that my visa is finally just a couple of months away from being completed, I've had to face the fact that I'll be leaving England soon (and for real this time). I've been back and forth for long periods a lot in the last few years, which has genuinely helped me prepare for being away from everyone and has in fact allowed me to evaluate a lot of my friendships. Being relatively off the radar for a couple of months will definitely reveal who you think about and who thinks about you when you're far apart and it's a great way to predict who you'll still be close with, years after you move away. It basically weeds out the friendships that have the stamina for a long distance relationship and those that don't, so you kind of know what to expect. 

Obviously, all of my close friends are amazing and we always keep up with each other no matter where in the world we are, which makes it even harder to leave all of the beautiful souls that I know and love. I do worry that I might not meet people in the states that I'll be as close to as I am with my friends at home, but I also realise that building good friendships can take time. Although I feel like it was instant love with a lot of my besties, we did get to this point of closeness gradually, so that gives me some hope.

Another thing I've become much more aware of is just how different American girls are to London/UK girls. Obviously that's a very sweeping generalisation, but there's nothing quite like having something innate, like being from the same place, in common with someone else. You instantly 'get' each other and can usually find common ground to make conversation with. Clearly I like and get on with American folks (I mean, I married one, so that says something), but there's always a slight disconnect or a 'feeling out period' that's a little bit longer or harder than it is with someone I'd meet from London or elsewhere in the UK. There are so many interesting sociological observations to be made from the experience of being an expat. Definitely worthy of a few more blog posts down the line. 

I've been seeking tidbits of advice from anyone I know that's moved away from their home country to start a new life and the feedback I've got from them is priceless. One of my friends, Karmen, who moved to the UK from India to study and now lives here with her husband, Tomoi (also one of my friends and ex housemate), told me that a huge turning point for her was when the word 'home' became associated with her place in the UK with Tomoi rather than her house in India with her family. I'm looking forward to experiencing that moment myself and without a doubt I'll think of Karmen when it happens.

If anyone reading this has gone through this experience before or is about to, I'd really appreciate hearing any insight or learnings you'd like to share about it. Please leave a comment :)

Oh and I need visitors from home to come on a regular basis so I'm expecting everyone's next holiday destination to be Phoenix, or you'll all be in big trouble!