A Creative Non-Fiction Short Story by Ana Govindasamy
The words had flown well before she came. The 50s had so much post-war immigration, so many rumours.
This was the 60s.
She was searching for something to hold on to.
Aindrita Palanisamy, had everything and nothing at home. Mauritius was simply a small island, part of the British Commonwealth.
It gained independence only last year, 1968, not without consequences.
But she was a British citizen by birth, and she was about to become one once again.
Now she, no older than 19, stands alone in a airport. She tucks her navy passport into her pocket, tightens her grip on her suitcase and walks out into the streets of London.
A shock of cold air hits her, and goosebumps spring up immediately. She’d just have to get used to this. Just like she’d have to get used to the food. Though, she’d never forget how to make the best food if the occasion called for it.
Even worse, words are flying, signs, speech, and she can barely understand a thing. Thank God for France being close by, and thank God for Creole.
Though, this language, that was something she’d have to learn. And she would. But even years later, there’d be an occasional slip, days where she’d rant completely, while her granddaughter tried to keep up her translation, with her B- in her Summer French exams.
While she tries to work out pounds and shillings to hand to her taxi driver, trundles off to Chester, her future husband, only wards away on the hospital she’ll work at, sits down for his smoke break.
Everyone who’d tried to pronounce his name had failed. He simply goes by Pete now. It’s miles off from his real name, like how Diana is miles off from hers, but he almost enjoys the elusive quality it gives him.
Meanwhile, some 70-odd years into the future, their granddaughter counts herself lucky for her three letter name. Not so much her last, but she could settle for her first.
He sits, as he blows a plume of smoke right in front of him.
She often wonders how they would react, seeing her now.
She often finds herself thinking of their past.
He was a hard worker. In Mauritius, selling fresh cakes before school, helping his family sell fruit after, just to scrape money together.
She wonders how he would react, seeing her, confused and scared on the path to her life, flustered at every small fork, tripping over every pebble. It'd gotten her far, but now, it was getting her nowhere but down. Farther and farther.
Aindrita was barely fluent in English, she was 19 when she moved on her own. She was brave. Immigrant may be wrongly synonymous with illegal, leeches living off of benefits and not giving anything. Female synonymous with placid, with incapable and small.
She was far from.
So was her daughter, Sweta Duraisamy.
She was born in Nottingham, British by birth. Though, that wasn’t what people thought. That never is what people think.
She might’ve been born in an age of massive change, grown up in the 80s, witnessed the ending of apartheid, she’d learnt one thing. One lie that she believed.
Her, on her own, couldn’t change what people thought.
She’d never been friends with anyone like her. Anyone Indian. Anyone Mauritian. Anyone just as bookish, anyone who she could empathise with.
Not until university, anyways.
She was never new to Nottingham, never new to England.
But they all thought she was.
As she expertly navigates the streets, dragging her friends to a great night out, her future husband, only blocks away from the club they’ll end up in, downs another drink.
He was, in fact, Tamil. Just like she was. Taken his place at Nottingham University after leaving the Singapore army, reaching the rank of Lieutenant.
Her daughter finds herself wondering; what if she had met a different man that night?
Would she not be born?
And that brings us to her.
She was born in America. A small town in Wisconsin. She never grew old enough there to realise the things people said, looks she received.
She moved to England, so young that she might as well be English.
Her life was unremarkable. Her life was groundbreaking. Childhood friends with a Singh. Almost asked out by a certain, Kiruban.
But her life wasn’t free of what previous generations knew all too well. Though, it was better.
Her first was an arranged marriage joke. She was six at the time. Didn’t understand it.
She grew up.
Come age 10, she was supposed to be looking after a child, no older than 4, Sophia Brayce. She had held her hand out for Sophia, to cross the road. Sophia refused, over and over, calling it a 'naughty hand.' It wasn't until days after that she learnt why. Sophia, thought she looked like mud. Like dirt.
She knew it was better, so much better that what others had gone through. But she also knew, that it was wrong.
She never said anything, though.
She was too scared of getting the little girl into trouble. She didn't know any better.
That was the very problem.
That was what made her never say a word.
Until the pandemic. Until the hate. Until they days of sitting inside, protests raging on outside, a reminder of age old legacies that still stood stronger than they should.
Then I just had to speak up.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
So, as you could probably tell, this story is based on my maternal grandmother, grandfather my mother, father and me (All under fake names). I know, maybe this isn’t the most riveting or impactful story on racism or discrimination out there...but it’s personal and I hope you enjoyed it. The ending feels half baked, though. I’ll see if I can edit it, I just wanted to get this out there. I love my family so much, they're all so brave, and I've not really known much/been very interested in their lives until recently. ALSO HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! ...
This is a wonderful, touching story. Knowing that the characters are based on your family members, it was an intense read. It's really brave of you to put a personal story out there. I liked this story very much. Well done, Ana!!
Thank you so much, Kanika! It really means a lot. :)
This is great! I think it’s awesome how you wrote creative non-fiction on you/your family. *that Singh :P*
Ahah, thanks so much! *Yes, what about that Singh? ;D*
Wow, such intelligent story! It's like living in it's world.