Monish Shome – “Ethnically Ambiguous” but Indian, Chinese, Malaysian if you ask :)

After being born in East London, I spent the majority of my years in the much leafier (and less culturally diverse) counties of Kent and Surrey.

My mum is Malaysian of Chinese descent and my father is Bengali (East India), so I grew up eating a lot of incredible food (we had a restaurant or 2 over the years) and spending time with a lot of cousins.

When they arrived in the mid 70s, and before they met, Mum, had qualified as a nurse and Dad was a chemist (lab, not pharmacy) and both wanted to further their education here in the UK.

I, for one, am glad that they did! 🙂

They also ran a local pub in Bermondsey, but decided to move to Kent, where my sister and I were provided a very different childhood experience than we might otherwise have had.

We lived in a predominantly white area and went to a decent school, where there were kids from other Asian and mixed (white) families, but ours was unique.

My sister and I grew up being kind of Indian and kind of Chinese, but culturally completely English (unlike our parents, we can’t speak Bengali, Hindi, Mandarin, Cantonese or Hokkian).

I played Rugby and my sister Netball, to a good representative level, where there didn’t tend to be that many Asian kids participating.

Whilst my mixed heritage experience has been positive overall – comments about skin tone and being ‘non-white’ did happen, but were few and far between and often took me by surprise due to the infrequency of occurrence.

Usually, those comments were a bit vague and didn’t make much sense, most likely because my specific mix isn’t obvious and I’ve even passed for a local in the following countries – India, Malaysia (but not China), Nepal, Mexico, New Zealand, Thailand, Japan and even Spain (I don’t quite see that one tbf).

As mentioned, I’m a keen rugby player (and built like one), so some of the Pacific Island assumptions are understandable (and flattering).

Where I used to feel a bit lonely and possibly a bit of a misfit, without any real focused cultural identity, I now relish the fact that I have an uncommon experience of different values and ways of being.

There is a massive plus side to being ‘ethnically ambiguous’ – a term used occasionally by close friends to describe me – In most instances, it’s the best icebreaker, and while sometimes questions can be asked in a weird way, it’s best to give the benefit of the doubt if you can, as people are simply just curious. 🙂

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