a bit of a ramble about being brown

I have brown skin and almond eyes. My hair is thick and black and grows in the wrong places. When it is sunny I get darker and when people ask me if I’m mixed race the answer is simply “no”. It has taken me twenty years to accept that I am Asian.

I am finding that as I am growing older, I am becoming more reflective. I cringe at my teenage years but also feel sad when I realise how far I have gone to reject my roots.

Growing up in a post 9/11 western society was never going to be easy, but as soon as Islamophobia became mainstream, and the news became biased, I conformed.

The first step was refusing to speak any Punjabi. This created long-lasting damage that I wish I could take back. I had a flimsy relationship with my grandparents on both sides because of this language barrier.

Refusing to wear a Shalwar kameez that had been lovingly bought back from Pakistan, unappreciated and unwanted, I would slump in my jeans and jumper and pick the polish from my fingers.

Then I became a vegetarian. It was an excuse to not eat halal meat, which was such an obvious identification of my family’s beliefs and faith. Videos on Facebook showing slaughter houses and rumours about how animals are killed according to the Qur’an made me want to disappear into darkness.I knew that behaviour like that isn’t condoned but I was too small and too ashamed to speak up.

I tried scrubbing my face with lemon juice and heaping on the sun cream to make me fairer. I longed for that gaunt pale grunge look to match my too-tight skinny jeans and studded belt. Being diagnosed with anaemia, I stopped taking supplements, because a symptom was pale skin.

I continued avoiding the ethnicity section on surveys or simply ticking “other” so I wouldn’t have to admit it. Telling people the long winded story of how “my dad is from Kenya but no, he’s not black” instead of honestly and proudly saying “I am Pakistani”.

But I also never understood why my ethnicity mattered if people couldn’t use the information to make a decision. Surely that would be discrimination? I still struggle seeing the point when applying for jobs or university, it makes me feel like a statistic.

Even though I do not identify as a Muslim now, I will always be connected to the faith because I was raised as one. Every time something terrible happens in the world and the word ‘terror’ is thrown about prematurely, I tense, hoping that it isn’t linked with a Muslim. This was not the Islam that I, and so many others, was raised with.

I am Pakistani. My name is Arabic, because yes, my family are Muslim. No, I’m not ashamed of that, and no, I am not going to repress that because that is my history and that is my culture. Now, what I am ashamed of is that the society that I grew up in made an eight year old make the conscious decision to reject who she is.

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marks

I can pinpoint all the scars on my body to an exact time or place or implement. I know which lies I told and the looks on the faces that accompanied them. I remember the feeling and the cycle. The trigger or the build up of nothing that just needed to be released out of me. I remember all of them.

mother 

Squashed down. Protected. No curfews no freedom. Limited. Naturally beautiful but not beautiful enough. A failed woman with no paint on her skin no rouge on the lips.

Married. Too old but young enough. Yes and no and three bags four and five.

The cement. Every fiber and every foundation. Growing and healing and learning and gaining.

She is power.

Running through me, thick and deep she is mother.

self conscious teen in a woman’s body. 

I’ve been feeling rather unsure about how I feel… 

My stomach has grown handles. Will anyone ever hold them? Is this growth a bad thing? 

As I sit (as I do most nights) very self aware,  noticing every part of myself, I can’t help be disappointed about my general negativity.

My mind contains every part of my personality,  my thoughts, my whole being.  Every action stems from this one part of me. 

My body is merely a way for my mind to survive, to thrive. It is not what makes me,  but it is home. 

Home is sacred. I should learn to respect and love my home. 

intro

When I began, it was paint. When I was young, a pencil and pen. Lines and shades would fill each corner of each page of each sketchbook. It would create and observe and imagine.

Then it was words.

Quotes that would cloud my mind that were spat in disgust that I had carved into my flesh. It was poetry yet I hadn’t realised it. Then I began to heal physically and repressed the words that were said, and the things that were spat.

Full circle.

I addressed my self loath. I emptied myself in the hope that I would gain a letter. ABC it didn’t matter. I needed the healing. I was called brave but I was just selfish. Making art about the things I had tried to forget but could not.

Then I had the choice.

I became strong. A fire fuelled me to create. The news and the media and the hate that was not to myself had empowered me more than the things I had experienced first hand.I addressed the things that my family experienced. That my skin defined me as. Spices and scents and layers upon layers of

hair.

Now I am talking. I am not making but I am writing. Still creating but differently.

This is now