For two years we have compared very different childhoods and discovered that some truths truly are universal:
1. Childhood emotions feel the same in any language… or culture.
2. There is always a spiteful kid or bully at school.
3. You will inherit physical features you rather wish you hadn’t.
4. You will pick up character traits and family mannerisms you rather wish you hadn’t … no matter how much you don’t want to!
5. There are always perfect childhood moments you never forget.
6. You cannot escape family (who you are) no matter how far you travel.
When I joined Kombai I wrote "Dog of the Wind" for my introduction:
Since Prema asked me to join here and write I thought maybe my first piece should be an introduction to who I am. The simplest would be to say "I am a mongrel". For a long time that worried me, but in recent years I've realised there's a lot of joy in being a mongrel.
I was born in Africa in a British colony. At first I thought I was British. Well... for three years I WAS British, but then Southern Rhodesia declared it's own independence and I became a member of a rebellious non-acceptable country instead. Then Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and they took away my nationality. Now I belong nowhere. I thought I was British, but then I did my family tree and found that I had as many ancestors walking Europe and the Middle East as I had in the British Isles. I thought I was Christian, but when I went to school my religious teacher told me my beliefs weren't "right" and researching our family tree led me to distant Muslim cousins in Turkey, one Buddhist, some Jewish family in America and way too many Christian variations to list.
So I have thought a lot of things only to find out they were illusions. The truth is I am a mongrel. I have no country I can hold as my ancestral home, not even a single continent I can claim as "mine". I have no single religion that runs through my family history alone. When I look in the mirror I see my grandmother's Irish face, my grandfather's Scottish nose, my father's English hair.. and in all this European-ness I have Persian eyes from some long lost ancestor.
There's a saying in Southern Africa - to be a "dog of the wind". Something homeless and restless, a person who has no roots. I am a dog of the wind and it can feel lonely. For a while it made me feel rather lost, but then I remember the blessings it brings me. If I belong to nothing I can also belong to everything. If I stand with my ancestry on different continents I can be a bridge between different cultures. I can enter many places of religion and find God... at times like that it feels good to be a mongrel. :-)
So I'm going to write from my own mongrel viewpoint. My British-Colonial mixed-up cultural muddled-religious self. I hope it will entertain more than it offends, but mostly I hope it helps to add another layer to prema's wonderful stories of her own culture and childhood memories.
This year both Prema and I became British Citizens. Perhaps no longer “dogs of the wind”, but our childhood memories and our ancestry will always play a part of who we are… and who we continually grow to become.
Thank you, Prema. It has been an honour to share blog space with you. To celebrate our anniversary I am finally posting a photo of me as a child for you to see. I have chosen this one of my dad holding two African "lion cubs”.
For those who won’t get the cub joke - I’m a Leo. ;-)