My Take

Hello! I am…

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Well, my name is Maalika Kazia. Not Malaika – angel in Swahili. Maalika. My uncle decided to add the extra “a” when I was born, to make it more unique. It means Queen.

I have a pimple protruding from my forehead. I guess I am a teenager. Wasn’t that all supposed to magically disappear when I turned the coveted age of 21 this year? *sighs*

I line my lids with kohl. It makes me feel beautiful. That makes me a classic human (Men can wear make up too – get over it).

My skin is brown. Fair. No I do not use fairness cream. Even if I was a darker shade of brown I would not trade it in, to look like the Indian girl on the advertisement board looking jubilant about the fact that chemically moderated lighter skin is going to get her the life she has always dreamed about.

I am a part of the Muslim community. My head is not covered in a hijab. Because I am not a Sunni Muslim – I am a Shiah Imami Ismaili Nizari Muslim and it is not compulsory for us to do so. Some may call me a “Khoji” or an “Ismaili” for short. Makes things simpler to remember I guess.

I was born in Kisumu, Kenya and have lived in this country my whole life. No, I am not a Luo or a Kikuyu. Does my skin mean I am not a Kenyan?

During my first class for a course in Broadcasting this semester, my lecturer asked me – So you are an Indian Kenyan? I nodded.

What does it mean to be an Indian Kenyan?

I was dumbfounded in all honesty. I answered – Well, I am born here and have lived here all my life so I am Kenyan. But my heritage and ancestry is Indian.

So?

He went on to ask me to elaborate but I had no words. No words.

What does it mean to be an Indian Kenyan?

Does it mean to be called a “muindi” on the streets. Does it mean that if I go to buy a pair of track pants from Ngara, the merchant will quote me a price of 2000 Kenya shillings while my darker skinned sister who does not live in Parklands will be charged 600?

Perhaps it means that people think I eat a lot of spices and have a lot of money.

Sometimes it could be assumed that I have never even stepped in an area like Kibera or heard of Ndombolo.

It could be thought too, that I do not eat sima or omena and I know how to bob my head in rhythm when listening to Bollywood songs.

It can also mean that people around me may speak about me in Swahili not realizing that I may speak it too and understand their words. Words, which are hurtful at times. (Sasa, uta-serve kwasababu ako Muindi? Ata ngoja tu)

Oh how we love #Stereotypes.

I have been to India once in my life. I have no family there. My extended family lives here and in Tanzania. Some of us have scattered to other places like Canada and the USA after being born and raised in Kenya.

When I travel away from home I miss the weather. The greenery. The ugali and sukuma wiki which I can eat with chicken curry. I miss eating the roasted maize slathered in chilli mix. Okay, I am a foodie.

Definitions are molds which we try to pour ourselves into in order to fit a construct that can be easily understood and categorized by society. To be a 21 year old Indian Kenyan, studying Journalism at a local university and working part time at a radio station every weekday morning is a basic definition.

There is so much more.

I like icing cakes for my house help to take for his son on his birthday because his 10 year old travelled all the way from Kisii alone to see his father. Some of my friends who look more classically Kenyan have large houses in Runda and drive around in cars too big to fit through most gates. Most of them would never dream of sitting in a matatu. I have brown friends who travel to tao every day by matatu and work 9-5 jobs.

I listen to Sauti Sol and wear kikoi pants. I wear saris when I attend Indian weddings. “The Man Died” by Wole Soyinka is a book I have reserved at the school library and I have 50 shades of Grey on my shelf.

My brother is a part of Team Kenya representing this country at the All Africa Championships in Brazzaville this year. I cannot begin to measure the pride I feel.

I cannot speak Swahili sanifu nor can I hack shudh hindi.

What does it mean to be an Indian Kenyan?

It means to be Kenyan by heart. It means to feel like you belong here. It means to feel pride when you look at the flag raised high up, while you sing Eh Mungu Nguvu Yetu…

I am me.

Not a definition or a label based on what you see.

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6 thoughts on “Hello! I am…

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