Since childhood my close group of mates have had an abundance of nicknames for me, each one relating to the way I look. Here is a list of the ones that I can think of off the top of my head:
*Kris Theodopolopodus (The Greek character in 90s sitcom Birds of a Feather)
*Bubble (as in Bubble and Squeak, or Greek)
*Chilli Sos (Chilli Sauce but in a Turkish accent….)
These names have always been used with affection. If I’m honest, I can see where my mates are coming from. I mean, just have a look at me. I look about as stereotypically English as an embroidered prayer mat.
If you’re not sure why I’m talking about this stuff, may I recommend you first read part 1 by clicking here.
One thing noticeable about that list of nicknames is the lack of reference to India or anything even remotely Indian. Greece, Turkey, Afghanistan, and wherever a Medallion Man comes from, all feature. This is probably because growing up I never told anyone I had Indian ancestors. Ever. People often asked ‘Yea but come on, where are you really from?’ with a fucking annoying little wink wink nudge nudge on the word ‘really.’ If I could be bothered to respond, I would just make shit up. ‘I’m half Italian.’ ‘My family are Persian.’ ‘Oh, my mum came here from Cyprus when she was little.’ Etc etc etc…
I still get asked the question all the time, particularly when travelling. It’s the change in tone that annoys me, like there’s some sort of in-joke that I’m apparently party to. It’s generally asked by other dark-featured people. And border police. Crossing borders is not a quick process if you are me.
I’m not entirely sure why I never wanted to say I was part Indian when growing up, and would even deny it if it did ever get mentioned. I think it’s because I thought it came with negative connotations. The Indian kids at school never really got an easy ride, did they? Not in the 90s. Nor did the local corner shop owner. All those little remarks about how they stunk of curry. And the ‘bud bud, ding ding, 2.99, come again,’ shit. It wasn’t nice hearing these things said to other people and I didn’t want to run the risk of them being said to me.
I shouldn’t have been ashamed of my roots but I was. What can you do?
*I’m about to travel to India for the first time in my life, to the place where my great grandfather (who I never knew) emigrated from about 100 years ago. I go next month. Before then I’ll be writing about the things I’ve discovered about his life and posting it on here. Then I’ll be picking up the story in India, writing about what I find. If you’re interested in reading this, just sign up to the blog to receive an email notification when an update is posted.