Naz, Muslim and Hindu heritage

My name is Naz and I am a university lecturer who lives in Stockwell.

I suppose my mixed heritage might not be what comes to mind for most people when they consider this notion. 

My father was a Muslim, originally from Bombay (as it was then) whose family moved to Karachi when he was little, at the time of partition. My mother was a Hindu who was born in Fiji to south Indian migrant workers who were given land to farm as part payment for working on the railways.

India is such a vast country, they actually could be regarded as being from different ethnicities. They both came to London in the early 1960’s and ended up working at the famous Indian restaurant, Veeraswamy.

The rest, as they say, is history. For as long as I can remember, we never talked about the fact that my mother had been a Hindu. It was just accepted that she had converted to Islam and that was that.

There was an element of shame that she had not started off life as a Muslim, but I must admit, I could never fathom why. Although my mother spoke of her childhood on the farm in Fiji, her time training as a nurse in Australia and her journey to England, she never mentioned her former religion. 

I must admit to feeling cheated as an adolescent. As with all adolescents, I had a need to explore my identity and I felt that a huge part of my heritage was being denied. Watching Bollywood movies did give me a stylised view of Hinduism, but I knew that this was an edited version of the faith and culture.

As an adult I always explain my dual heritage whenever anyone asks. I still know very little about the Hindu side of me, but I feel that acknowledging it keeps it alive. It becomes part of history, a conversation about the challenges and triumphs of migration.I am now in my late 50’s.

My dual heritage has combined with my experiences as a person of colour in London and has passed on to my daughter who has her own, unique experiences of being mixed heritage.

My mother, 38 years after my father passed away, now in her 80’s and frail, recently got in contact with her family in Fiji. It is a wonderful experience for her, but tinged with sadness that it took so long to overcome that false sense of shame.

Her children have definitely missed something, but I think we also gained in other ways. Her grandchildren are much more confident and secure in their mixed heritage and wear it with pride.

They are a living part of the United Kingdom and Colonial history.