Thursday, February 16

Family Tree

Last night I caught a programme following our favourite Asian director Gurinder Chanda finding out about her family history. Apparently she felt that she had an embarrassingly low knowledge about India and her ancestors' place there and so wanted to fix it. The programme followed her travels to Kenya, and from there her ping ponging between Pakistan and India trying to trace her roots.

It kinda got me thinking of my own family history and more generally that of all South Asian immigrants to the UK. I think my first reflection on this issue was during primary school when we were asked to draw out our own family trees. Apart from tying myself up in knots (and some of you will know why), I couldn't really break past two generations or so up.

There was also the time when one of my mum's grandparents died (I can't remember which). The thing that strikes me now was how I had no idea who they were - I don't think we had ever met. And every trip to Pakistan I manage to meet yet another sibling or cousin or random family member whom, on paper, are close but in reality aren't. It's all very weird and in some ways unfortunate.

Of course it's much a result of exponential growth of families as a continent being in between us all. I mean I'm sure people who haven't moved around the world have the same issues tracing their heritage. I guess what makes it slightly more romantic and poignant for us is not being in the same physical place or relative vicinity as our roots. For example, I've never been to my pind (innit) Ghodra back in Gujarat, and I don't see the opportunity coming any time soon (and as an aside, the coverage the programme last night gave to partition and the moving of communities was pretty touching).

I mean, for me, my family tree starts with my grandparents coming into existence at the age of fifty or so. I can't imagine them before that time and I can't imagine them living in another country either. Generations before them get treated even worse - they don't even exist in my mind at all! And then there are questions like: When did we arrive in Godhra? Or whether our family was ever Hindu, and if so what that was like and the causes/time of conversion. And did we have some kind of family trade or business? Where have the other lines of my tree ended up? Were any of them involved in the recent events of the area?

Of course you can go mad thinking endlessly about this stuff, and to some extent it doesn't really matter. Still, with the arrival of technology perhaps when our descendants get the urge to look up their roots it will be a whole lot easier for them. Of course they'll only be able to go back as far as we did, but hey, as long as they read my blog I'll be happy.

Hello my children! Remember - don't do drugs.

2 comments:

  1. >>Or whether our family was ever Hindu, and if so what that was like and the causes/time of conversion

    yeh, i think about this too. the only way i get any info is to ask the oldest member of the community and town/village my parents are from. its so blimin chaotic that its hard to keep track. there are stories, but nothing written or evidential.

    >>Hello my children! Remember - don't do drugs.

    lolll

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  2. Aah, Ghodra's near Ahmedabad right? I love it there!

    Yeah I get what you mean about asian families - this Uganda group of gujus travelled from there to India and all flocked to Cardiff eventually, so everyone grew up together in Africa AND India. Its mental. And everyone is somehow related either to my mum or dad. But hey, its good to be asian and have a big family, I feel it makes me feel like part of something etc?

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