I wasn’t going to say it (too late – IT’S HAPPENING) but …
Asians are strange
I’m talking wearing-pants-as-head-gear, drinking-wine-at-7am, meet-my-imaginary-friend, plain S-T-R-A-N-G-E.
I should know – I am one (don’t let the born-in-the-UK-now-in-Paris facade fool you).
And there’s nothing stranger than the childhood an Asian kid experiences in the West.
Forget the constant battle with where do I call home? or when’s the right time to critique mother’s cooking? (answer: there isn’t one. See also: her cooking has mystical qualities), Asian children have a lot to handle.
Like your parents phoning Pakistan to talk to their family and demanding you say hello. You can just speak to your grandmother, nobody else, your dad lies. Twenty minutes later and quivering in a puddle of your own sweat, you’ve spoken to no less than 11 different people and told them how you are, asked them how they are, asked about their children (or about someone else’s because: there’s always children), inquired after ailing relatives, all while your mum stands uncomfortably close to you, mouthing the answers so you say the right thing and don’t embarrass her, but too late because your Punjabi isn’t up to it and your uncle’s sniggering at all the English words you’re saying in a Punjabi accent.
Speaking of language (<– see what I did there?), you’re a translator from the day you start to string sentences together. Your mum takes you to her medical appointments because she wants you to explain how her meds are giving her panic attacks and how she has ‘gas’ (which the rest of the world refers to as heart burn). Your dad insists you explain what’s up with the gutter to the plumber. And by the time you’re 10, it finally dawns on you that your parents survived in this country pretty well before you were born and they can speak English fluently enough to hold down jobs and buy food, which means they’re. Just. Plain. Lazy.
And let’s not talk about Eid.
No – LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.
It’s absolutely nothing like Christmas (if you leave out mountains of food, falling into a coma following consumption of said food, and awkward conversations with relatives where you say something without revealing anything about your life).
What’s up with all the dressing up? Before the cooking starts? And then sitting at home to eat a ton before doing absolutely nothing else? And then begrudgingly visiting relatives you haven’t seen for eight months only to be forced to eat their food (that doesn’t compare to your mums)?
The term relative isn’t exclusively reserved for those related to you by blood. Apart from any Asian adult being referred to as Aunty or Uncle, your relatives also seem to be anyone who your parents grew up with. And so they decide to take an entire Saturday every quarter to visit them. And the task that you unwillingly accept is to accompany them and sit in silence while being repeatedly offered more chocolate than your taste buds can handle.
Childhood as an Asian: So. Much. Fun.
Like hearing the term It’s like all my Christmases came at once and not understanding what it means because: see above reference to Eid.
Or braving unexplored terrain by trying to have an objective, intellectual conversation about religion. He was alone and without food and water for 40 days? Really? you innocently ask. And within seconds your brother’s damning you to hell for having an opinion that isn’t based on blind faith and your mother’s demanding God tell her what she did to deserve such an ignorant child.
And to add fuel to the fire, two characters on the show you’re watching start kissing. Your face turns read as you scramble for the TV remote and switch channels to something more pc, like horse racing. You then wait for the appropriate amount of time before switching back to the original show because you don’t want to go back to them kissing and further the awkwardness but you equally don’t want to miss out on the end of the show because you waited too long. So you decide to take the plunge, only to realise you didn’t wait long enough and now the characters are half naked and your dad walks out the room, muttering something about the obscenity of this damn TV show under his breath.
Childhood … how I don’t miss thee … let me count the ways …