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.