leaving and cleaving

So, I'm still wondering about the whole white African thing, and a couple of things have caught my eye lately.

We were watching an episode of "Who do you think you are" recently. It's a TV show that really taps into people's obsession with their roots. The episode traced the history of Alistair McGowan, a comedian, who really thought he was Scottish. Well, he would, wouldn't he! Turns out he was Anglo-Indian, and he traced his Indian links back through about seven generations when the original (Irish) ancestor came to India.

I was fascinated to discover that the British had a presence in India from 1600 until the country regained its independence in 1947, 347 years years later. Surely there were whites who lived there who regarded themselves as Indian? And what happened to them? Are they contributing members of society, or did they all find their way back to the mother ship?

And, talking about people clinging to the past, or holding onto things way past their sell by date, how's this phenomenon? Women who buy baby-like dolls because they can't bear the fact that their children or grandchildren have grown up.

Seriously creepy.

I can honestly say that, while I miss my little boys, I wouldn't swap them for the men they've grown into.

But I do wonder, am I doomed one day to to wander in some other land, clinging to the remnants of my African past?

Will my gravestone, shaped like a braai grid perhaps, be sticking forlornly out of the Canadian snow?

Or is this really the rainbow nation, that belongs to all who live in it?


Skoorby said…
This is a really complicated issue!

It seems clear to me that we tend to get too caught up in genetic lineages as keys to our own identities. Who we are has far more to do, I think, with our cultural lineages, and those cultural lineages can often have surprisingly little to do with our actual ancestry.

The British in India seem to have always held themselves strenuously apart from the Indians, so that when Mountbatten had finished his handover ceremony in 1947 and returned home, most of the British returned with him or shortly thereafter. Their islands of Britishness that had dotted the Indian landscape evaporated as they left.

As someone who left South Africa to live in the United States, I've been somewhat occupied by the question of identity from time to time. The interesting thing is that my sons, who grew up in the US, have no ambivalence at all about their cultural identities. Their cultural forebears were Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Thoreau, etc. - not CJ Rhodes, Chaka, Jan Smuts, Hendrik Verwoerd or Andries Pretorius (to whom they are actually related).

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