Roshay musing on identity and how far he has come

On being Indian from South Africa

Perhaps my first memory of identity and place in South Africa came at the turn of the century. Sitting on ma’s couch was our caretaker who turned family over the years, with the TV tuned into SABC. I was 6-years-old.

“It’s a new millennium,” the commercial chimed in with what seemed like the 100th time. I thought I might grow sick of it, however, much to my delight that moment never came. It was a commercial that made me feel hopeful for the future in an exciting time in our country. Mandela was a hero, his praises sung in every corner of the globe, the apartheid government had fallen some years prior, but it felt like it was just yesterday. Couple that with the energy the country exuded along with the exuberance of youth, and you can’t help but wonder what the next step for us would be. In short that commercial made me feel like I had a place in the country and in the community that surrounded me.

The Glitters That Aren’t Gold: Disillusionment Sets In

“All that glitters isn’t gold,” is something else I learned from that time of my life. It should have served to blunt my hopefulness into something more realistic. It would be years before I was old enough to realise that our country had failed its people in that promise the commercial made. The first nail in the coffin was a general disconnect I felt to the community and people around me.

Struggles with Religion: Finding Faith

Yet even with that in mind, people usually fall back on other forms of identity to keep them afloat. Usually being Indian came with strong religious teaching and for the most part of my youth my parents did their utmost best to teach me the ways of our religion, Hinduism. Rituals and prayers in a timely manner like any god-fearing family from any faith that you may think. Yet even that seemed to fail me. I never became staunch in my beliefs, arguing that for the most part I did not understand half of what we did and why. The older I got the easier I found it to poke holes in what we did. No one had the right answers for a young curious mind that was seeking answers and guidance.

Challenges of Racial Identity: Finding Solidarity

So, that’s how I came to lack faith in my country and my religion. What about the more visible aspect of my identity? The colour of my skin? Aha well that served quite well even when it did not. I found it easy to make friends and blend in with others of my own skin colour; we spoke the same lingo, dressed the same and went through similar life experiences that bonded us to one another. It seemed that for the most part it should have been easy to find a strong network; a network I somewhat enjoy till this day to some extent.

Yet that very same network compounded my own problems, in the form of substances and vices that are not discussed in civil circles. So once again I found myself having to abandon those roots I gained. All in terms of personal growth, to find myself and find my identity in the grand scheme in life.

Acceptance and Growth: Crafting a Personal Identity

When it’s all said and done it seems that I am left with very little to go with in terms of identity, yet to lack identity completely is to cease to exist entirely. It was those very same experiences that have led me to where I am today.

“Life before death, Strength before Weakness, Journey before destination” – Brandon Sanderson, The way of kings

Leaving South Africa: A Departure

I no longer live in South Africa, yet I find myself amongst my fellow countrymen even though I am thousands of kilometres away from home. While I do not plan to live in South Africa, it will take a great country to forsake my citizenship. I found it a safe haven when the pandemic hit, potholes and all.

Reevaluating Religious Beliefs: A Nuanced Understanding

I do not follow my religion as staunchly as I should, but I do understand it better. It’s given me some comfort to know that there are many successful individuals who follow my religion. My rejection of my religion led me to a greater understanding of all religions and a more nuanced understanding of faith, which in turn has given me a wider understanding on the workings of life.

Navigating Social Circles: Choosing Wisely

While I did have to abandon some of my brothers stuck in the abyss that is addiction, I now am able to pick with whom I spend my time far more wisely than I did then. I am able to make better life decisions because of it.

My identity then is made up by both my mistakes and acceptances of what I went through, shearing off the parts of me that didn’t serve me well and building something better on top. Something that every generation struggles with is the eternal uphill battle to get to a place that is better than the generations who preceded us.

Roshay is a South African English teacher living and working in China. He enjoys story writing, chess, boxing and exploring the countryside on his bike.

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