Love, Life Stories

I might look like I come from one country, but I don’t really belong anywhere

Ethnically I'm Indian, right? You look at me and see a brown woman.

I have spent a long time confused about my identity, confused about where I belonged.

My parents grew up in India, then moved to Brazil after they got married. Brazil is where my sister and I were born and I lived there for 5 years before we moved to the UK. I have lived in the UK for 20 years now.

When people ask me about my background, I never really know how to answer.

Ethnically I’m Indian, right? You look at me and see a brown woman. But I have never felt like I could relate to a country that I had only visited as a baby. I spent the first few years of my life without any Indian influence. It was only when we moved to the UK, that we were introduced to the culture.

We eat Indian food at home, occasionally watch Indian movies, and I absolutely adore dressing up in a saree, but I’ve never really felt Indian. I wasn’t brought up with certain mentalities that I see in the Indian community. Other than stories and pictures, I am as clueless as to what India really is like.

If you ask my parents, I’m sure that being Indian makes up much of their identity. Yet I always feel like a fake Indian. My friends call me a coconut – brown on the outside, white on the inside.

There is no denying that it is a part of me,  but I feel no connection to it.

I spent the first 5 years of my life in Brazil. I have faint memories of the scorching heat and a laid-back atmosphere. A few years ago I returned to visit and I honestly felt like I belonged there. The people, the culture, and the sunshine: it was like something I had been missing had been returned to me.

I adore a lot of the Brazilian delicacies, if you’ve not tried a Pau de Quejo or a beautifully chocolate Brigadero dessert then you are missing out. The Brazilian telenovelas are a secret addiction of mine. The football world cup is basically treated as a religious gathering in my house – we just won’t talk about the last one. I love so much about Brazil, but what really resonated with me is the lifestyle I encountered when I last visited. When I went there, things just felt lighter.

But can really I be Brazilian? I left the country at such a young age. Do a birth certificate and passport entitle me to a land where I had no previous connections? Where I have had no connections since? There is no Brazilian blood running through me. I sometimes feel as though I am trying to claim something that is not mine.

Then there is the UK, my home for the last 20 years. I love the UK, sometimes grudgingly. I grew up here and went to school and college here. I don’t really know anything else other than life in the UK. I love the people, the unreliable weather and the never-ending cups of tea.

But even after 20 years I still feel like an impostor. I don’t have a British passport, so I’m not technically British. I’m an immigrant in the UK. Something which is becoming more and more a controversial thing to be with all that is going on in politics.

Three countries make up my identity, three entirely different cultures, three unique customs.

Sometimes I relate to them all, sometimes I relate to none of them. There are days where I ache to just go back to Brazil and live my days out by the sea. Other days I sit and listen to my parents tell me stories from their childhood and yearn to go and explore my motherland.

Where you are from makes up a lot of your identity but I’m still trying to figure out where I am from and where I belong. But I am learning to appreciate the beautiful fusion of countries that make me who I am. I’m lucky that I have gotten to know various traditions, eat different delicious foods and that I can just about communicate in three languages.

So maybe I don’t need to belong to one place.