The Good Immigrant/Motherland
Motherland used to be an idea that scared me. It was something I fought against throughout my childhood. As a South Asian in a Muslim home growing up amongst media and social islamophobia, I ran as far as I could from all aspects that made me identifiable as a Paki. I believed this was a choice, I chose to wear dresses and jeans over traditional clothes as they ‘weren’t my style’. It's only when I realised that this internalised racism and islamophobia had taken control of everything in my life, that I yearned to go back to my Motherland.
I tried so hard to be white. Eurocentric beauty standards had me trying to scrub the melanin from my skin, had me celebrating a severe iron deficiency, and had me starving myself to remove the hips and breasts that I inherited from my grandmother. The harm I caused my body to try and belong to someone else’s motherland fills me with remorse. I cry for the children that have come after me, who long to look like the pale and gaunt models that cover magazines. The children that reject the beauty that their Motherland has gifted to them. The mothers who worry and watch their daughters strive to become women who are as far from them as possible. I have endless regret and sorrow for these women.
All the while, I fooled nobody. My skin was still brown, and my hair thick. No amount of epilating, shaving, or pulling at these strands could stop them resurfacing with vengeance. It took me twenty years to accept I am brown, and a continuing effort to celebrate it.
Now I let these hairs grow without a thought. My body fills with contentment each time I lay embellished silks across my skin. I run to each chance to be in my mother’s home and smile when the pungent aroma of spices chases me down the street. I long to become a fraction of the women that raised me. My children will understand the feelings I felt when I was their age, and they will know why society has taught them that they should be ashamed of their heritage. They will learn of the history and systems that have been normalised to hold them back, and when they glow, it will be the glow of the Motherland behind them, pushing them to make space in this world for all the children who are scared to embrace their culture. They will know that the Motherland will always be there, and that it is never truly lost.