Duality of man

Deepa Alam muses on her biracial identity

My existence doesn’t make sense to many. This isn’t a piece flaunting my angst or the existentialism surrounding how I came to be. Spotting my biracialness is somewhat of a feat. At a glance, I look some sort of South-Asian. Look closer and it’s harder to guess. Those who don’t understand the history of the land of my parents don’t mark it as valid, and quickly I’m brushed under the category of Just Brown™. And admittedly, because I am brown and both my parents are also, there isn’t confusion surrounding them being related to me, unlike my biracial friend who when his white mother would pick him up during school, his teacher thought he was being kidnapped.

The countries my parents are from underwent a war of independence in 1971, however in response to my mentions of my ethnicity, I have heard the line “but Bangladesh and Pakistan are basically the same thing though” far too often. The term ‘mother tongue’ is one that is obscure to me because my father’s language is what I grew up with, and so my father’s tongue is my mother tongue. Because of that, I missed out on my actual mother’s tongue, so family holidays became a time for getting together and getting teased for not being completely fluent in both languages.

Identifying with one side of the family more because of a lingual connection made for a great guilt trip. The Australian-ness of our accents came through in any attempts at speaking our languages. We were fluent in our understanding of both languages, and somewhat articulate in Bangla, but we just ended up sounding like 3 year olds in our Urdu speaking endeavours. Mum would endearingly laugh, but I started to stew in the thought of how strong my connections would be to her heritage once she was gone. I still happily claim being fluent in it, although the fluency comes in only understanding it. Fluid in three languages, albeit a stretch, is a badge I’ll gladly wear.

This article appeared in the autonomous ACAR edition, ACAR Honi 2018.