Sunday, 12 October 2008

Battling Demons: Not Indian, Malay, Coloured, White or Black

I've seen my fair share of demons in this lifetime. I can remember an incident when we were on the Middle East tour…we were in one of the Yemeni villages, having lunch on the floor of an old dilapidated building when one ignorant aunty asked my mother, “So were you born Muslim?”…to which my mother replied, “Yes”. The question was prompted by the mere fact that Mother’s surname is of English origin. I was deeply offended….”what kind of F#cked up question is that?” I wanted to ask her…but I said nothing….Breathe.

Did aunty honestly believe that because she has a surname from the Hindustani capital that she would automatically be classified as Muslim? I never met a single MUSLIM “Patel” out of the thousands I dealt with in all the time I worked for the Camden District Housing Office in London, because Islam’s origins were not in India…meaning that the ancestors from India had to eventually revert to Islam so that their progeny could be Muslim. So to judge a person and their religion by their surname is F#cking ludicrous. This is what happens when you don’t educate your women…they grow up to be ignorant old aunties.

I was raised in a predominantly Muslim Indian society…went to School and Madressa (Islamic classes) with them and even had a few friends. I remember the day one of the girls asked me which Ghaam I belonged to. I must have been about 7 years old at the time…and my response was something like “What’s that? Can I eat it?”
What a can of worms…I still don’t know the difference between the Memons and Kholvads and Alipors etc. etc. And I don’t care.

From my point of view, I’m a Muslim first and foremost and that’s all that matters. I bleed the same colour as everyone else and I feel joy and pain with the same degree of passion, fervor and anguish as everyone else. Theoretically, I’m considered and classified as Indian. But the truth is that I am a thorough-bred mixed breed. If you look at my heritage, you’ll know why:

My Paternal ancestry: My late grandfather was an Imam from the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was an orphan that grew up in the mosque, so no one knows where his parents were from and he spoke 13 languages. He came to SA and married an Indian woman, born in SA with roots in India…only the Lord knows where. And they had my Dad.

Maternal ancestors are much more complicated.
On my late Grandmothers side: My great great grandfather was a white Scottish man living in Ireland. He came to SA and married a Malay/Coloured with some other fruity mixes going on there. They had my great grandmother, who married a Muslim Indian and reverted to Islam. They had my grandma who married a handsome, eccentric Portugese looking player named Cisel Patrick Charles aka “Popeye” as they use to call him. He reverted to Islam too and some years later, my mother was born.
On my late Grandfather’s side there isn’t as much detail…other than his Grandmother was Edith Brown, a French woman and that her daughter also married inter-racially. The rest as they say is history.

So it’s safe to say that I’m not your average girl. I have two very different families. The “Indian” family on my father’s side and the “mixed breeds” on my mother’s side.

When we were much younger (and defenseless) my sisters and I were marginalized and ostracized by everyone because of this. At the time, I was the only one in school with “divorced parents” and I was a nerd so that didn’t help. Regretfully, I spent too much time trying to fit in. It had never occurred to me that I wasn’t Indian enough for these f#ckers because I wasn’t brought up to believe that there was something “wrong” with me. My parents never over-indulged us so we never had the chance to adopt that sense of entitlement that most Indians have. My mother was never the type to wait on us (maybe that’s why we’re not alcoholics, drug addicts or whores – not that every Indian is…but you know what I mean). We were encouraged to think for ourselves, get an education and to live our lives as best we could. We always had to work for what we wanted, I’ve been looking after myself since I was 5 years old.

Back in the day, we also had to endure the family’s shit, but in a more subtle way…with undertones and currents speaking volumes. In my Dad’s family we were outcasts, looked down upon, degraded and not considered to be good enough for the family…we were not Indian enough…unfit and unworthy of anything.
On the flip side, we were too Indian for Mother’s family who were more intimidated by us because they always thought that WE thought, that we were better then them. But this was not the case….the truth was that THEY thought that WE were better then them, so they assumed we thought so too.

These issues use to plague me tremendously in my mis-spent youth. But thankfully, not anymore. If anything, Adulthood has brought clarity, freedom and emancipation from the prejudices, judgments and oppression that society has wreaked upon us for the majority of our lives. I no longer feel constrained and inadequate or compelled to be one or the other, mainly because I don’t give a F#$% what people think or say about me. Those years, reflection and time has allowed me to come into my own, to develop a self-assured persona and a personality that would make Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy envious. It’s liberating. Variety is the spice of life and I have the priviledge of being part of both worlds. I don’t have time for the Indians with the elitist mentality, the Malays and Coloureds with the defeatist approach, the White colonialist supreme-ist ideology or the Black “victimized” mindset. This is Me…I hate everyone equally…and that’s how I roll :D


  1. I loved this post. Let me give you a break down of my familys "roots system"

    Paternal Side, Great grandfather Afghani, from mountain village, pure pashto

    He married a dutch (netherlands woman)

    Half the siblings took on Khan and the other half took gran's surname "fredericks"

    My grandfather then married a Malay woman.

    Maternal side:

    Great gran Rasdien from Imaam rasdien married a " off the boat imported Indian"

    Fakier-moola bey - Half took fakier, others took Moola some stayed on Rasdien

    then gran married a Miller (my real grandfather malay) gran then divorced married a Tamil (Narayan- my aunts grandfather) then Married a Valoria ( my uncles father)

    Can I get an Amen ( or oh my God would suffice too)

    My dad's ( Allahraham)is split in 2 the Fredericks side is very coloured1

    Other half very indian ( our family moved from isipingo KZN to JHB)

    My moms family,well, we just found a rythm and went with it!

    so who am I? of course I have no IDEA!!!

    but its fun all the same

    *links you*

  2. You know, we don't chose who we are born to...and alot of people need to classify, label or "box" people so that their feeble minds can make sense of it all.

    Amazingly, when I was living overseas, No one could "box" me. Everyone would always try to guess where I'm from but no one could quite put their finger on it, mainly because I of my ambiguous "looks" and the fact that I Dont speak with a particular accent.

    I often get mistaken for being (believe it or not) Mexican or Arabian. Other people have asked me if I'm Spanish, Brazilian, Egyptian...and once even Italian.

    I like the fact that people can't box or label me....that I'm so ambiguous...that I'm nothing and everything at the same time :D

  3. This post resonates. And i was going to leave a long comment about how idiotic ppl are. But who cares what people think. I say all those inbred sickle mother f*%#@ can breed themselves out of existence. I dont explain, justify or even concede. I dont care what people think.  But then again i always think i'm right too.

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  5. Damn, you guys have such a rich lineage, here's to the celebration of that!

  6. Salz.. reading aasia's and azra's lineage.. We like sooo boring..

    Azra - i like mailed u.. AGAIN.. I need to stop making it a habit..

    Theory of the Gaams..

    Well let me be frank.. If/When i do marry.. And for the happiness of my family.. And Saaleha will concur with me (by totally judging my family values).. I will marry a girl of FULL INDIAN lineage (dont be hating now) and yes... The GAAMS do matter...

    As i say.. Dont believe everything u read on the blog.. U might get lost in translation


  7. OH - The inbreeders dont realise that they're totally f@#$ing up their genetic composition...its like Darwin's theory in reverse...soon we'll be stuck with a whole lot of Apes :)

    Saaleha - Thanx I guess

    Killa - The whole system is antiquated and has absolutely no basis in Islam. It perpetuates ignorance...but you're entitled.

    The Italians...I actually pity those poor people who actually believe those lies...come on, everyone knows that they invaded the place, raped and impregnated all their women, then left. Its a pity AIDS wasn't around back then.

    My source of comfort: I look forward to the day that my Creator, The Almighty SWT promised me redemption...the day that is 50 000 years long...the same day when everyone will be shitting themselves and Azra will get whats due to her :)

  8. Thats how I roll - Thats a waseem line :P

    Screw people out of the monkeysphere.

  9. Salaam Azra,

    Hope you had a great weekend. I only caught up with your posts today...
    I can definately relate to both your posts...
    Firstly, the one about marriage. Being 28 and still not married, I too have been asked 'whats wrong with you?' And to make matters even worse, my YOUNGER sister (4.5years younger) just got married :-)
    I don't know why society has tried to make us believe that if you're over 25 and not married, then there is something wrong with you...after all, there is more to life than just being a wife and mother.
    When I was 19, there was a very nice, decent Muslim guy that wanted to 'come home to propose' for that time, I obviously was not ready to settle down; so I had to tell him no. He is married with like 3 kids already..
    Then a few years ago, there was another prospective proposal. This time, I was considering it so I decided to read Isthikaara, but this guy was too impatient and subsequently told me not to worry, his parents will choose a wife for him.
    Only now, at 28 do I feel ready to settle down and be a married woman.

    The second post, I can definately relate too...
    In madressa one day, I too remember my friends talking about Gaams...and when they asked me, I had no idea what they were talking about. I asked my parents and they just told me that when I was asked that question again, I just tell them, I am Muslim...thats it!
    I know to most Indian families, gaams are important, but in my opinion, it's a load of crap---I'm a Muslim...and thats it :-)

    P.S. Guess what we had for supper on Saturday...WORS ROLLS :-)

  10. Azra,

    I think religion and race have both been very divisive forces. If only we learn to accept others as human beings, instead of indian, muslim, black or white, Jew, Christian or whatever, our lives would be much simpler and smoother.

  11. (maybe that’s why we’re not alcoholics, drug addicts or whores – not that every Indian is…but you know what I mean).


    Stole the words outta my mouth:D

  12. That is ssoo cool! :-D I mean you being of such diverse background! Its great.

    Azra- you might be interested in the one and only semi-intelligent post i wrote quite a while back on my blog! :-P

    Here you go.

    Other than that- agree with your entire post.

  13. Waseem - Thats how We Roll :)

    TCQ - LOL...Hope you enjoyed those Wors Rolls :)

    Tazeen - I agree with you. I think people have this need to relate to others based on labels...instead of sharing experiences...because in erality, we all go through the same drudgery of life. But instead, in this society, people are constantly competing with one another...everyone wants to be better than the next person.

    MOC - Thanx lol

    Zahera - I loved your blog. I dont have a problem with people and their preferences, its their business...but I dont agree with the intrinsic racism that exists in the core mentality of most people. I think those ideals are carried down from generation to generation..and even if ones ancestors were ignorant at one doesnt mean that we (knowing what we know in these times) should perpetuate those ideals.

  14. Glad you liked it hun (are you gona kick me for calling you that)? :-P looll
    Yeh, its probably about the only intelligent thought out purposeful rant on my blog EVER :-D looll im so proud of it!
    I agree with you entirely and now im off to impart more wisdom on the marriage blog post of yours :-P

  15. Zaheera - LOL LOL LOL
    Dont worry, you can call me whatever you want to :)

  16. Wow-that's so fascinating. Now you know why I don't want to marry an Indian. I want my kids (and me) to be exposed to different cultures -but in harmony Inshallah.

    But you also raise the dark side of it...

    We do sound very boring. I'm 100% Kholvad, & it doesn't make a difference to me. I don't get along better with fellow Kholvadians. I disagree with the Italian link too, and am not afraid to tell other Kholvads that. None of them can verify it.

    I am however somewhat taken aback at the 'Italians...raped..Aids' (Masterofchi, I'm surprised you didn't comment on that) This too is based on hearsay. I've read up on this & nowhere does it suggest this occurred. And as for Kholvads believing Italian men married Kholvad women, this too an't be true as some would then have Italian surnames.

    The fair skin & blue/green/grey eyes come from Persian influence. My family has Persian roots as do many other Indians.

    It is ridiculous to still focus on the ghaam, & while I admit to 'making hagga hagga' with fellow Kholvads that's as far as it goes. My parents knew from the time we were children of our aversion to only marrying a Kholvad.

  17. bb-aisha : Please dont take my comments about the Kholvads seriously...they are said purely in jest...I really dont have any formal knowledge on any the Gaams...and everything that I do know is heresay...

  18. "my response was something like “What’s that? Can I eat it?”"
    LOL. I had a friend who wasnt indian either(and obviously so) and sadly got asked this question(by a MOULANA *shock*) and she said :"i am an englishman" LOL, that was funny.

    Bt u rite this gaam thing is an antiquated form of thinking and personally I think it may have been caused by the HIndu caste system and perpetuated by Apartheid.(not trying to pull the 'blame apartheid' card)bt simply becos we lived in such segregated areas, and i think its the indian way of saying hey i may be non-white but ateast i am not coloured/black. A sad way of feeling superior. I mean from what I hear, things are not like that any where else in the world where there are indians (or am I just more ignorant than usual??)nways its not only gaam thats important to indians :Just ask any child born in an indian family thats a bit darker skinned.Again the colonialist thinking...Its vey sad actually.

    Finally (sjoe) I dont think that race is not important, because of the aayah in the quraan that says something to the effect that Allah has made us into nations and tribes so that we can recognise each other and not so that we can despise each other.. so recognising race is an intergral part of us bt never discrimination. For what its worth, (nm i know) I apologise for the Indian race. plz dont think we're all like that :(

  19. Awa - Sadly thats the sate of some of the so-called leaders int his society...I mean if someone the community looks up to has that kind of mentality, what does it say about the community? And who do they look to as a role model? It really is sad.

    My sister did her whole Honours thesis on the perception of light and dark skinned individuals in our society and the negative effects associated with that...its really terrible.

    And dont worry...I know that not all Indians are like that. I've met some pretty awesom people in my life. And I tend to generalise. So I am aware of the status guo - dont worry, no apologies needed :D

  20. her honours project? Wow, that must have been really interesting. I have always been fascinated with this perception of darker-skinned individuals being less beautiful not only amongst Indians but Black people as well and as a friend told me the other day Chinese and many other asian nations also.

  21. this is a fascinating post. my own research centres on self reflexive work around identity construction and the issue of caste etc that we so carelessly take pride in is one of great amusement for the most part. expect that it will filter into ur life at some point, but instead of allowing it to affect you in a negative way, choose to feel proud if u are cast aside from those who carry these barrier lables and openly disown any that society might unwittingly plaster over your forehead.

    i supervised a student for a short while, researching notions of attractiveness in indians.. and u can imagine the stuff that came out of there regarding 'whiteness' or fairness, etc. now when these four walls of predjudice come crashing down, some will be in awe of what they missed out on, and others (forever used to the dark) will be blinded by the sunsshine :P