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The Identity Crisis

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

To TCKs forming an identity can be an extremely complex process. In my case, I am a 3rd generation British Punjabi. Even then, my dad's family emigrated from India, to Kenya, to the UK, and my grandmother was forced to leave her home in Punjab at 13 which now (thanks to Partition), is Lahore, Pakistan.

I was born in east London, into a melting pot of cultures and as a child, was conditioned to support West Ham, one of the most racist football clubs in London - if you haven't seen Green Street Hooligans definitely do - a team that I continue to support to this day and so begins the duplicity of my Identity.

At 10 years old we relocated to Kuala Lumpur. It was only a year and felt more like an extended holiday rather than a permanent move so I considered it as much, even though the year saw me become prefect at the International school and perform in front of the Malaysian Prime Minister! It was a good time...

After that year my mum, my sister and I moved back to the UK (without my dad) and that's when I joined a local High School in East London. Crazy how being gone only a year already made me feel like I didn't belong there anymore.

The playground had changed since primary it was more racially segregated, I guess it's in human nature to congregate with your own tribe when you're faced with a big change like starting at a new school.

But it was clear to me then that the black kids hung out with other black kids, brown with brown and white with white. One of the lasting traits that would come to develop was that I was able to consciously dissociate from that group mentality pretty quick, I came to have many separate friend groups that I would drift in and out of in that year. But overall, it was tough, soon after my dad got the opportunity to move with us to another country.

So up until this point I wasn't truly faced with the question of my identity. The pivotal moment was when we moved to the Czech Republic at the awkward age of 12. And if you are not familiar with the place in the early 2000s.. it was white as f***.

From 12 to 16 Prague was home. That awkward teen phase where in retrospect, as a brown girl, you're coming to terms with weird shit no one else has to deal with. Like people staring at you on the street because they are confused by the fact your brown but speak English and wear western clothes. Learning about how far you can push your Indian parents.. low key.. I was a rebel though. At the time I didn't really give it much thought, I loved my friends, I reveled in my stature being one of the only brown families at the International school, and overall I loved the privilege of being a native English speaker.. and I'm not ashamed to admit that I was the class clown. It wasn't until years after we left Prague I realized I used to make a lot of racial jokes to address the constant elephant in the room. If someone would single me out I would make light and trivialize the fact I was the only brown person: got a bad grade? - The teacher must be racist! Someone planned something and forgot to include me? It must be because I'm brown'

Then everything started to center around the fact I wasn't white. Pretty soon, being the only brown person in the room became part of my identity.

After 4 years in Prague we moved to the Netherlands where I lived for another 2 years. Surrounded by.. you guessed it.. more white people! So what happened when I moved back? I'd been the only person of color for so long that didn't know who I was around black or brown people. When I finally moved back to the UK for university the white-British people didn't get my foreign upbringing, the fact I would mispronounce words and the Indians.. well, British Indians had become a whole identity unto themselves which I was never, nor did I want to be any part of. In summary it took me a long time to realize there was no group I truly belonged to. But from a kid who had always been a bit of a wanderer it wasn't a hard pill to swallow. What peaked my interest was when I finally connected with other kids who had gone through a similar experience. We realized we all shared a similar perspective:

As a TCK you are unbound by the perceptions and thought processes held by a single group.

And now I realize that being a third culture kid is in itself an identity. And if you're as mixed up as I am you'll also know that it makes us open to hearing new perspectives! Keeping this mindset is harder to do as you get older, you settle down, acclimate and eventually integrate into a culture - this is because it's hard to hold on to something that isn't local. I hope with this blog we can build a culture online. Somewhere to discuss all the weird shit we grew up with, all the privilege it brought us and continuing to not belong to a single nationality but to exist as simply human. Especially in this time of political and economic instability.

What better time to reflect than a global pandemic?

By the way, my name is Kavita, I'm 28 years old - and this is my Coronavirus baby.

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