Ah identity. It’s a funny old thing.
When I was growing up, particularly as a teen, my cultural identity was definitely something I struggled with. I doubt I realised it at the time of course, and probably just put it down to teenage woes, but looking back it really becomes apparent.
My family is Indian. Catholic Indians. This usually baffles people enough. Catholic Indians? Who knew??! Then add to the mix that we’re specifically Goan. Goa was a Portuguese colony, so I have a Portuguese surname. I have wondered when turning up to events who people expect to turn up when they see ‘Cassandra Faria’ on the guest list – probably not me.
At this point it’s worth mentioning that I speak neither Konkani (Goan language) or Portuguese and have actually only ever been to Goa once (and in total, India twice). However, Africa – now there’s a place I’ve visited many a time. My dad was born in Kenya and my mum Zimbabwe. They both moved to London as adults, met, got married and had me and my sister.
Fast forward to the 90s and you’ll find an awkward teenage Cassandra at a Catholic school in West London with lots of white people and a few Indians and Filipinos who also happen to be Catholic. Round the corner there are a handful of non-Catholic schools with all the other Indians and ethnic minorities in the area. Who, I might point out, definitely talk a different way to me.
Cue: Identity Crisis.
I’m not really sure exactly where I fitted in during my early teenage years, but I definitely know I didn’t quite feel I belonged any where in particular. I didn’t totally fit in with the kids at school because I had a different culture, stricter parents, ate different food etc. And I didn’t fit in with the Indian kids from other schools who were REALLY Indian and wore saris and went to Indian weddings and had super strict parents.
So when I went to Goa in 2000, I was really excited about FINALLY fitting in with other Goans who were just like me! Except when I got there, everyone stared at me in my western clothes with my western hair and my silly western Nike trainers.
And so I realised, I just don’t really fit in anywhere. And then I realised: that’s OK.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve met more and more people with a similar background. I definitely don’t view it as a negative, I love the fact that I’ve got an unusual cultural heritage intertwining the UK, Africa and Goa.
It just means that the simple question, ‘So where are you from’, will never be quite so simple for me.