A Land Not My Own.

I have been raised colour blind. Blind to caste, to religion, to women, to culture. An upper-middle class angrez with gulaal on Holi and phatake on Diwali. Kyun? Pata nahin. I was raised by atheist friends, an angry mother, “international” schools and snippets of a Prime Minister kicking and screaming on the television once every summer.

I learnt my first Indian myth aged 11, from the daughter of an orthodox family that spreads far and wide and chokes her from all sides. A “backwards” family, with their sacred kitchen spaces, their IIT and their beloved Sharma ji ka beta. And their myths. Their beautiful, beautiful myths.

The boon granted Hiranyakashipu five of his desires: that he would not die at the hands of any being created by Brahma, that he would not perish inside or outside, by day or night, by any weapon, on the Earth or in the Sky, by men or beasts, devas or asuras. We walk to the Holika Dahan, the burning pyre, surrounded by tables piled with gulaal. The story continues, weaving around the stars and the people, rising with the smoke into the night sky. The myths of Ravana, the sweets of my hometown, the same music played over a decade - nothing has enraptured me so. 

“Chia, leave the country, and take me with you.” “India toh, tch, you know? I wish I could come to Dublin also. It's great that you finally got to get out of this country.” “What? Why did you- okay but why did you move to India?”

It hurts now, thinking back to the hate I held for my skin. Who was to protect me from it? Centuries of colonisation and Sharma Ji’s head stuck up his ass have led to spaces that I, a queer artist, needed to run from. And so, I ran. But, India has shown God to me. Where Iniyaal’s parai and Julius Gabriel’s serpentine saxophone wrapped itself around my being and flooded my senses. Where 3 Idiots and Taare Zameen Par poured into me a honey warmth. Entire classrooms pouring out and synchronously dancing to Chikni Chameli is a cultish horror - and it is marvellous. Haye, the headrush of Holi as a kid, where hundreds of oily little children poured into common areas to ambush one another with the boldest, brashest, incredibly disgusting Permanent Colours.

It took me so, so long to stop despising my country.

And I’m Pissed.

I want to dig my claws into that blue-eyed face, and watch the scream
form in that red throat, the white teeth. Tear apart the ragged pieces of
shock on its face. Let him taste the weeping of my country - is it mine?
Let him taste the tears wept, the skin bitten, the daughters beaten.
The people - alive, alive - burnt. 

Starve my children,
Steal my food,
lie to me
as I watch you paint your slave - a boy - into the shadows of your exhibit
Surviving and Thriving.
(Kelvingrove Museum, 2023)
We worship you.
I worshipped you. My God.
I still do. the plague in the crevices of my
Deal Colonise, I am done with my apathy.
Stay out.

Things I Have Learnt

the beautiful

The theatre of Lahore.
Our Shared Cultural Heritage b̷ey̴̷o̷n̴d̵t̵h̸e̵̸f̵e̴a̶r̴,̷̸p̸a̵i̷n̵̸a̵n̸d̶̸r̷a̶g̸̷e̶ – in the joys
of flowers, poetry, and our Dadi’s stories.
The lines in the palms of my Maasi’s hands. Where I glimpsed God again.
Photography. In the fading queer on Bangalore’s benches.
(Gulati A. Queer Samsara)

In the kadhais set in the middle of the dining table.
My late father’s language in Scotland.
Hindi on a White tongue, in Scotland.
Traffic cones! :D

Our Shared Cultural Heritage
2022, Bangalore ignited in me a feral love for India
The bus ride from the airport. The two metro lines that go exactly nowhere. The gobhi manchurian at Swathi’s, Rajajinagar. The English department of St. Joseph’s University (Autonomous!), professors and students yapping through the wee hours. Home.
The Lalbagh Gardens? For tourists. Cubbon? For home. The stories of Bangalore sewers in the nighttime, the tears shed in the BMTC busses, the 40 ruppee bus rides across the city. The das, the shehs, the paapas of Bengaluru. Home-. Bangalore is a magical home, home, home. It took far, far too long - but this wildfire love for my country, this magic crackling in my skin, it bursts at the seams. India. Bharat. Bharata. Home.

My little found family at OSCH has taken this wildfire and turned it into a fanatic admiration for the arts and cultures of all of South Asia.
I want to learn. I want to learn about the overlap of Persian culture with that of Punjab’s. I want to know about Maati’r Moina, the worth of my land. I want to know Akbar bhaiya’s stories of Kashmir. I need to know, and learn, and inhale all that I can - I can live blind no longer. I am the creation of three violently different, deeply rich and incredibly convoluted histories. I share blood, taste and toil across the globe - I am nothing without my land.

The Our Shared Cultural Heritage programme has opened doors to cultures I had never encountered before, and to futures that I never imagined. Here’s to the beginning of the journey to reclaim my identity. Thank you, OSCH :)

do not italicise my language.

angrez - an englisher. posh and pretentious, someone who does not belong. Not Indian.
Sharma Ji ka beta - the ideal Indian son; he who can do no wrong. He who causes the “anxiety” and the “depression”.
parai, saxophone - instruments. They come together to make snakes dance and loosen the listener’s grip on reality.
Iniyaal, Julius - artists at RhythmXChange, IME Bangalore.
Our Shared Cultural Heritage - the beginning of a marvel.

Works Mentioned
Chakrabarty, M. Masala Tales [Installation]. Inheritance [Exhibit]. Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow. (Viewed: 6 October 2023)
Gulati A. Queer Samsara [Installation]. Inheritance [Exhibit]. Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow. (Viewed: 6 October 2023)
Jetnīl-Kijiner, K. (2011) Poem: Tell Them. Available at https://www.kathyjetnilkijiner.com/tell-them/·
Takhrissi, L. (2023) I wear my wounds on my tongue (II) [Exhibition]. Collective, Edinburgh. 24 June 2023 - 1 October 2023.