(This article was originally published in the Huffington Post)
Like millions of others, I saw The DNA Journey video by Momondo and pondered the question it poses: ‘Would you dare to question who you really are?’
Now, if you’re British and white and someone asks you where you’re from, you’ll reply, ‘Britain’, and move on. For the rest of us, shaded olive all the way to black, it’s a struggle.
The question offends those who were born here, galled by the insinuation that dark cannot equate a true Brit, while immigrants who’ve done their level best to integrate feel it throws them back to square one. Even those of us without a chip on our shoulder about being judged by our roots find it peculiar that complete strangers say hello by asking where our parents lived when they were little.
I know where I’m from: Bangladesh. I was born there, brought up there. We moved here in the 80s, not to pursue the Bangladeshi dream of working in the restaurant industry, but to get a better education. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been happy to introduce myself as from Bangladesh, I live here now, no biggie.
So when travel company Momondo asked me to take part in its The DNA Journey campaign, in conjunction with AncestryDNA, I couldn’t give the answer I used to give, and that’s all thanks to a random lamb curry I had a few years ago.
While dining at a restaurant in Edgware Road on said lamb curry, I was struck by how similar it tasted to my mum’s cooking, which is legendary among our wider family for being unique and really not very Bangladeshi at all. When I put this to my mother, she casually explained that most of her recipes were passed on by my dad’s mum, who was ‘from Lebanon, or Iran, or somewhere like that’. When I asked my dad for clarification, he simply said, ‘yes, she was from Persia’.
I haven’t admitted this to anyone. I didn’t want to be that guy who makes out he’s somehow more interesting because he has Persian or Mediterranean blood in him, as if hailing from the Indian sub-continent wasn’t exotic enough. (A little test for those who don’t share this bugbear: go to a popular salsa club in any city in the UK and I guarantee you’ll meet someone calling himself Pablo, but turns out his name is actually Sanjay.)
So I’ve sent my DNA sample off to AncestryDNA to know for sure. I’m likely to be surprised, as everyone who’s taken on the Momondo challenge are finding out. As The DNA Journey video shows, it wasn’t just those with an ethnic background who were taken aback to discover they weren’t purely from where their parents came from. A big shock lay in store for all the white participants too. The conclusion being: none of us are really from one place. We’re all part of the same big world.
Is it only those with a foreign background living in the UK who care where they came from? Are white Brits fussed? Let us know where you stand when it comes to your roots.
Meanwhile, I’ve sent my saliva off to get tested. I’ll let you know where I come from when I get the results. Just please let it not turn out I’m any relation to Pablo from the salsa club.