Friday, April 21, 2006

Being Sri Lankan (with thanks to the Dr)

Intelligent people have written Phds on the subject of identity. In recent years it is something I have ruminated on at length. The only conclusion I have come to is that a person's identity is an individual feeling, based on a variety of criteria.

I was born and brought up in the UK to Sri Lankan parents. They now have British passports as do I and my brothers. Yet I think of myself as being British but Sri Lankan too. I don't call myself English as, in my opinion, that is more to do with heritage and history and my heritage is very definitely Sri Lankan.

I have a close friend with an almost identical background to me, SL parents and brought up in the UK, yet he thinks of himself as English. I used to think he was wrong and I was right, yet as I have got older I now feel that we are both right. I can't help feeling that he is missing out on something though.

It is a strange thing, this diasporic world. I have seen certain types of people who have been compelled to leave their homeland and some of them almost cling to their identity beyond my definition of reasonable (which is very questionable anyway). I have seen others who take on the nationality of their new home very quickly and seemingly easily. I have always thought that these people are / were very angry with their homeland and felt as if they could gain internal peace by "washing their hands" of home.

Tomorrow I am going to a Sri Lankan function here in London. It is an annual event for an organisation my family have been involved with all my life. It is interesting to see the variety of British and Sri Lankan people there. Virtually all of them are Sri Lankans settled in the UK and they have so many different viewpoints on their own identity, yet we all come together and have a laugh under one common banner.

What am I? I am British and Sri Lankan and proud of it. I am convinced that I have gained many positive things from having two cultures to learn from and experience.

It's my identity and my feelings and it's ok if I think differently to you.

I should do some work now.


childof25 said...

Interesting view point, I’ve met people here who grew up in Sri Lanka, moved out for college and consider themselves American, while other people like yourself consider themselves at least partly Sri Lankan. I personally tend to dislike the latter class of people especially because a lot of them speak disparagingly about the country and that pisses the hell out of me. I grew up in Sri Lanka, apart from the age of 7-9 when I was in LA. I’ve then had the opportunity to spend four years in London and now (unfortunately) live in LA. I’ll always consider myself Sri Lankan and plan to move back in about 10 years.

For me personally the relationship I have with my country is one of love and despair. To me Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and I’ll be forever grateful for being born there and the state its in now is just bloody depressing. But I feel that I’ve also got a duty to go back and try and contribute to Sri Lanka’s development, not right now but once I’ve developed business skills and capital, interestingly a lot of my friends have the same view as well. With the rise of India and China I think Sri Lanka will be a very exciting place to do business in about a decade or so. Umm…apologies for the long rambling post, I think I’m gonna blog about this sometime;-)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

No apologies needed, thanks for the long, rambling post.

I think we are all privileged to have Sri Lanka as part of our heritage. Despite its problems I would argue with anyone who said that it's not a beautiful country.

I think people should have the right to speak disparagingly about any country but it's a sign of maturity to be able to take a balanced view. I would love to invest or do something in Sri Lanka but the SL Government doesn't make it too easy for "foreigners" like me.

Thanks for reading.

S said...

I saw an interesting add on Savi3's mate's net profile...

'British by passport, Sri Lankan by nature'.

Sums us up quite nicely :)