Article: My identity

So the very first article I ever wrote was a random submission to the BBC Asian Network who were running a series called Asian Nation, looking at various issues around identity.  I remember working at Barclays Wealth at the time and taking some time out at the end of my working day to write it.

That evening, I got a call from a friend of mine at BBC AN who asked if I’d be keen to talk about my article on radio the next morning.  Naturally, I said yes so wandered into the office for 6am the next day, called into the station and spoke about it on radio! So a successful first article I’d say.

Posted below for your reading pleasure.  I’ll try and tag it to see what comes up on Tag Cloud.

The issue of identity is a vicious circle and I’d be inclined to say that much of it comes down to situational choices. That is to say that amongst a group of Asians (young or old), Asians will find it much more accessible to behave…well…Asian. Regardless of whether the conversation is in English, jokes about mum packing chappatis for lunch and using carrier bags as bin liners will inherently make those around you more comfortable. Similarly, at drinks after work where colleagues are likely to be of mixed backgrounds, stories about how you tied yourself to a lamppost in Amsterdam while completely bladdered wearing nothing but suspenders and a thong for your mate’s stag do will get you a few giggles and guffaws.

I’ll go out on a whim here – the issue of identity boils down to one thing only – skin colour. My mother is Bangladeshi and my father Pakistani. I was born, raised, schooled and work in London. My colleagues in this “rawther stuffy old Private Bank” are predominantly Old Etonians who are talking about the great times they had fishing over the weekend before going to watch the polo. The latter probably has more to do with wealth (and I definitely saw a few Asian people at the polo when watching it on Sky yesterday during lunch at Headingly) but there are lot of things I simply cannot relate to and that is mainly down to a different culture. I’ll be honest with you, when I have kids, if they misbehave, I’ll smack them one because that’s what my parents did to me (I sound psychologically wounded here but it’s not about revenge.  It’s discipline). A great number of my white colleagues will be aghast and bring out the charter which explicitly states that redness on any part of the body constitutes grievous bodily harm and can lead to charges. I remember my mother’s response to the smacking ban, “good thing you’re brown then huh?”

I regard myself as a British Asian, celebrate St George’s Day, sing the National Anthem and support England in any sporting endeavour (except when they play Bangladesh because they’re the minnows and mum threatens not to give me dinner). But, I know that in any foreign country, if a person on a street asks me where I’m from and I say England they’ll probably say “no…where are you REALLY from?”. If someone British with Irish or Western European roots (i.e. of white skin colour) says the same, the conversation would probably move on to the best place in Wisconsin for a mean Full English with best bacon money can buy. Er…I’m Muslim.  Could we make them Turkey Rashers instead?

What do you think?