In one of the shows I watch, a British series set in the ‘50s, there was a throwaway mention of one of the women moving with her diplomat husband to Bombay, India. At the time I just shrugged it off and only after thinking on it for a while felt some unease and resentment at associating a favored character with the Brits in India, even if it was a few years after Partition.
But what’s more, I’m beginning to realize how much American and European history from that period I’ve absorbed, how much I’m able to empathize and relate to the average everyday people and romanticize the spy and intrigue of WWII and then the Cold War while at the same time, I’m so ignorant of my own history and people.
Like, at the time this character moves to Bombay (even the name! Mumbai), a few hundred miles away, my Dad is born, his family having moved a thousand miles from India to be in what was then West Pakistan. In three years, my mother will be born in East Pakistan, where her family moved to from a completely different part of India. Before she is a teenager, her family will again relocate, to escape the increasing violence erupting across the nation. This is my parents’ history, and yet I’m so emotionally removed from it while being completely invested in fictional movies and books.
There’s no reason to think of the European heroes as sophisticated and inspiring while putting down desis as crude and savage, but I’m still trying to unlearn that.