Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Where is one from?

Where are you from? - I often get asked this question, and its not an unreasonable one if you are confronted by someone who looks like me. I suppose people expect me to say that I am from either a muslim country or possibly India. In Spain there are few people who wear a turban so usually people here have no clue of my origins. However they are more than surprised or possibly annoyed when I reply 'That is an interesting question'.

Occasionally I am pleasantly surprised when a particularly knowledgable person asks me if I am a Sikh and hence imply that I am from India. As many of my friends would confirm, this is nearer to the truth. However the problem is that I am not sure if I can honestly say that I am from India. I may have Indian origins, but that 'from' thing is more complicated. I have not lived in India for 45 years, and although parents and brother live in India, I have few other friends whose whereabouts make me feel particularly Indian.

I have lived in England for the last 20 plus years, but do I feel English? I would have to confess that this is not the case either. I lived in Africa and South America for significant periods, but I dont feel particularly from those places either. It begins to emerge that its not too clear where I am from, and so its difficult to offer a simple reply to the original inquiry.

Just the other day we (Marisol and I) walked into a Tourist Information office in Santander to ask for a map or some brochure. After attending to our request the agent behind the counter asked where we were from. She expected a 'tourist' answer and when we said we were from Laredo which is a few miles down the A8 highway, she looked disappointed. Marisol sensed this and immediately said that we had come from England and this brightened the look on the agent's face.

Similarly I was often asked the same 'from' question when I used to travel to places like China, US, Italy or a host of countries during my working life and I always assumed that they wanted to know where I worked, which would be England. HoweverI usually felt that if I said 'India' then I would get a better response.

So where is one from..where they have lived all their life..where they were born, or where they currently live. Variously I could say that I am from England, India or Spain. None of these answers are satisfactory so I end up saying that 'I am from everywhere and nowhere'. This does have an exotic ring to it, as it sounds a bit like a Zen master giving clues to one of his monks about a Koan. 'How interesting' is often the response from the interested party, and this has the advantage of engaging in further conversation which may or may not be desirable depending on their 'personality'.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I used to say that I came from Africa, as we all came from Africa (according to recent science)