25 January 2009 ~ 0 Comments

"If war breaks out between India and Pakistan, who would you support?"

It wasn’t a serious question. It wasn’t something that he had considered. It was a hypothetical statement, maybe made in jest to get some conversation going with an otherwise quiet companion.

I considered it for a second and answered:

“First, that won’t happen. Second, I would be really devastated.”

We dropped the subject and moved on to other things. I obviously did not pick a side. But my mind kept coming back to the question.

How do I really answer that question? My great-great grandparents came to Fiji in 1879 as part of the indentured servitude system. We didn’t even have a strong, established “Indian” or “Pakistani” identity at that point in time — those countries did not exist as nation-states. We were divided by caste and creed, religion and geography, and subjects of the British. Five generations later, I have no idea what part of India-Pakistan-Bangladesh my ancestors came from and where my family may be scattered. This is true for many in the Indian Disapora, whose families were taken to remote islands and countries for agricultural and indentured servitude purposes.

My mother can probably trace part of her roots to South India, with her father’s family from someplace near Goa. My Dad can trace his roots from Uttar Pradesh (North), maybe some in the Kolkatta region. Our surname is more Western-Indian than anything else.

What part of ‘India’ am I from? I simply refuse to answer that after 130 years. We aren’t from any part of ‘India’ and I refuse to support any sort of belligerance or war.

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