I am no longer hysterical like I was when the letter came through the post a few weeks ago. "But this can’t be right", I wailed dramatically to my friends, "I don’t look British. My dark skin belies the pale English sun." I was distraught when our application for taking up British nationality was approved. Suddenly, I felt like I had sided with the colonial oppressors as portrayed in Tamil movies and had earned the technicolour wrath of all our movie heroes who played freedom fighters.
Mine was not a reaction I had foreseen. After all, I was the one who had pushed for naturalisation in the first place. I wanted to travel around
Europe more and getting a visa each time we needed to leaves these shores was a nightmare. A British passport would open doors more readily for us and it seemed the obvious thing to do.
And yet, when the reality of becoming a British citizen and what we would have to do in order to be formally included sunk in, I became agitated. First, to become a British national, I would have to surrender my Indian passport. Indian citizenship is like a monogamous relationship that demands exclusivity from you. However, it’s a polyamourous relationship if I had a British passport at birth. I could be a citizen of any other country while still pledging my allegiance to the Queen. Next, becoming a naturalised Briton meant a tacit acceptance of something a little more uncomfortable to come to terms with. That
was now home. Britain
There are many things I love about living in this country. There is a refreshing lack of sacred cows. Nothing is beyond gentle ribbing. At the height of the royal wedding extravaganza, there was a comic on tv who remarked if a mere wedding could generate such a lot of global interest, imagine how popular a public hanging of the
would be. I cannot imagine that sort of a remark being made about Periyaar or that holier than holy cow Ambedkar. No one got offended or sent out a Public Interest Litigation. It barely caused a ripple. Windsors
I’m forever amused by British fascination and irreverence for an archaic and anachronistic institution such as the monarchy, its love for self-deprecation, its maddeningly polite demeanour (I once saw a lady thank a cash machine), its ridiculous obsession with its gardens. There are several things that would be a parody were it not so real. And yet, it is in this over-regulated country that I have been my most comfortable. I am not worried about what other people think and can simply get on with my life. I don’t feel vulnerable or threatened or feel the weight of oppressive tradition dictating my life. I could wear what I please and pretty much go where I wanted without a thousand questions being raised. This place simply lets me be. And what a blessed relief that has been.
So getting a red passport would seem like a natural step in the direction. Yet, somewhere deep within it feels like treason. And I sense a billion pair of eyes boring down on me.
(to be continued…)
p.s. I have used 'citizenship' and 'nationality' interchangably'. Please don't get technical on me.
p.p.s. These are personal observations and if there is to be any argument, I would appreciate if it is not allowed to degenrate. Thank you!