Minority Deep in Multicultural Hong Kong
By: Anju Gattani, Fiction Author, online @anju_gattani
For most people Hong Kong is the Asian tourist hot-spot where sky-scrapers fill the ocean crested horizon and concrete, steel and neon lights lay the foundation to a shopper’s paradise. For me – Hong Kong is home.
I was born in India, and yes, I am Indian. But as soon as I could fly (3 months to be precise) I boarded my first flight and landed in the city that never sleeps. At the time Hong Kong was still a British colony and Cantonese was the first language, followed by English.
Like many Indian kids, I had the perfect family—2 parents and siblings—I attended a private British school and English was my first language. My parents and our family friends spoke to each other in Hindi and soon I began to pick up this language, in bits and pieces. I learned I was not only bilingual but bi-accentual! – I could switch my accent at the speed of lightning from the fluid, crystal-clear British to the thick, deep Indian.
With over 36 nationalities under our school roof, and a strong Asian population, we were as diverse as the colors of the rainbow, united by the blue and white checks of our uniform, the morning assemblies we had to attend and Christian hymns we would sing. But that didn’t change the fact that I was different.
Think of ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ minus the soccer, romance and drama, and what you have is a teenager stuck between 2 worlds. The transition between the western and Indian world in the movie happens the moment Jess enters through the front door of her home.
The transition for me was adapting to an ‘outside’ world that recognized Christmas and Easter on equal foot with Chinese New Year and the Dragon Boat Festival. But when it came to Diwali (Hindu Festival of Lights) or Holi (Hindu Festival of Colors), I realized this was huge in our Indian community but unknown or unheard of in school. I was a minority within a minority.
The British, Australian, Canadian, Norwegian, American, Japanese, Koreans… you get the idea… were recognized and accepted. If you had white skin you were automatically popular. But Indian? I was a breed apart. From meals and summer vacations, to Bollywood music and Indian dance lessons, everything was different. I excelled in hiding my Indian side, as if it didn’t exist, and learned to play along. But when it came to vocabulary like ‘Surrey’, ‘Plymouth’, ‘fish’n chips’ or ‘kilt’ I’d be thrown into silence and back through the front door of my Indian home.
I was not alone. I realized the majority of other Indian kids faced the same plight. We were in this together and our strong Indian community helped knit us tight.
One afternoon I went over to a Korean friend’s home to play and was surprised to see a completely different side of her. Not only did she talk in Korean with her mom, but her home was full of beautiful Korean things. The same happened when I went to a Burmese friend’s place and then a Japanese home. I had great expectations when it was time to play at a British friend’s place. After all, I was going to hang out with one of the popular kids! But then I learned she was from a broken family and had somehow excelled in hiding this. But when I realized she envied my comfortable home, my tight-knit family, strong Indian community and the Indian festivals I celebrated but never talked about at school, I was shocked. I was thrown into silence and back through the front door of my Indian home.
At that moment I learned a few things: Never to judge anyone by the color of their skin. Never to hide behind the color of your skin. I learned culture helps to shape experiences, thinking patterns and put a logical perspective in order. But you determine who you are.
Anju Gattani, fiction author, international freelance journalist and former news reporter, has been published world-wide for over 2 decades in leading Asian and US publications.
Born in India, Anju grew up in Hong Kong and has also lived in Australia, Singapore, India and USA. Her fiction explores how cultures and traditions affect people values, beliefs and behavior patterns in today’s shrinking smart-world. She hopes to bridge cultures and break barriers one book at a time. ‘Duty and Desire’, the debut in Anju’s ‘Winds of Fire’ series, is available worldwide in hardcopy and on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Apple.
Visit Anju at: http://www.anjugattani.com , Facebook: Anju Gattani Author, Twitter: @Anju_Gattani and Goodreads.