White Christmas Brown

We spent December in Goa – and I promise to tell you all about that. But here’s something first:

I’ve just had my non-fiction ‘White Christmas Brown’ published in the rather fine Irish journal The Bohemyth. It’s a personal piece that travels from my school in Kolkata to life in England. It’s about identity (and what the hell that even means). And, it’s about being brown in a British Christmas.

I’d love for you to read it:

As always, I look forward to your comments and thoughts. Have a wonderful year, my friends! Here’s to more days of sharing this crazy, old space with you.


15 thoughts on “White Christmas Brown

  1. Want to hear all about your holiday in Kolkata & Goa. Though I am born & brought up in Mumbai, my roots are in Goa, not the Goa that tourist know of but Goa that's still untouched & beautifully preserved. I hope you got to see that side of my land!

    Will read your story & definitely leave my comment. London or Cambridge, I am sure brown skin is brown everywhere 🙂

  2. I loved reading your story, Pia. My heart breaks reading the part about the carollers. I’ve given up on having an identity. I call myself a mosaic. Born and raised in the province of Quebec in Canada, some people did not identify me as a Quebecer because I don’t have French roots. My parents were born in Italy, yet I’m not identified as Italian as I never lived there. In Italy, my heritage is acknowledged but I’m considered to be from America. When I moved to the province of Ontario, some people did not identify me as a Canadian because I was from Quebec and of Italian heritage. Things got more complicated when I moved to the UK, being Canadian/Quebecer/Italian and even though I am now a British citizen, I still get raised eyebrows from some people when they learn I acquired British citizenship, as if I had no business to do so. Some people can’t comprehend the multiculturism involved as they can’t fit me neatly into their little identity box. I studied languages to open the world to me and learned Spanish and Portuguese in addition to the English, French and Italian I spoke growing up. My husband is born and raised in London but because he has a Portuguese name, almost everyone feels compelled to ask where he is from. At the end of the day, we are all human beings and I wish some people didn’t try so hard to label people into a particular group. Having said that, there are wonderful people in my life who accept me just the way I am!

  3. Just read your story, and loved it. As a Kiwi (NZ European), I also grew up with tales of winter Xmas, carols about snowy nights and holly – while eating large English style Xmas lunches on hot summer Xmas days. Very different identity and experience from you, but there were lots of echoes in your story that sparked reflection on my own identity and how it's been shaped by my Great-Grandparents' decisions to migrate from UK to NZ back in the 19th century. (I actually came to your story by searching for rhubarb – found your recipe for rhubarb achar, which I've just made using rhubarb and chillies from my NZ vege garden. Tastes great now, but looking forward to it mellowing over the next few days). I'll track down some of your other writing, and look forward to seeing your novel when it comes out!

  4. “I've given up on having an identity. I call myself a mosaic”. I love that, Pina! So perfectly said. Life has become far too seamless, the world has shrunk far too much, for us to be anything else. And isn't this odd mix what makes us interesting anyway? The future generation will have even more unpeggable identities, and we'll be better for it!
    'Where are you from?' is often a question I'm asked of course, but somehow it's not a question I find offensive – simply because I didn't grow up in the UK. But I can imagine my daughter, having been born here, feeling frustrated at having to answer this question all her life.
    Your lovely note reminded me of one of my favourite TEDtalks…it's by Pico Iyer, and I have a feeling it'll really resonate with you too. Here's the link:
    Thanks for sharing your story, Pina. It meant a lot to me.

  5. I woke up to you message this morning, Jeff, and it was so wonderful to read – thank you for sharing your story. Migration is such a powerful thing, isn't it? It's ripples felt and passed down so many generations. I find it a fascinating subject, more so with time, and bringing up my daughter in the UK.
    Your hot Xmas lunches made me smile – I've often wondered about friends in Australia and NZ, and how strange it must be for them to see their social media filled with pictures of people wearing woollies or sharing recipes for winter vegetables. And also how it must be alienating in a way.
    I'm glad rhubarb led you here. (What better way to meet than over food? 🙂 And that my achar is sitting in your kitchen, and a bit of my summer is now over at yours.
    I hope you enjoy the other pieces of writing when you come to them, and I look forward to having you here again.

  6. Goa charms us every time, Himali. I'll have the post up in some time, and I hope you enjoy it. What a lovely place to have roots in 🙂

  7. Oh you, lovely you. As with all other posts of yours, this warmed my heart a little more. I loved your description of the English Smile.

    I somewhere think, Christmas has become a global festival, what with all the secret Santas, Christmas goodies and the timing right around New Years..

    Waiting to hear about Goa and all the stories..

  8. 'morning Fiona 🙂 Your words warmed my heart too, especially on this rainy, gray winter day. Thank you, always, for reading and supporting my work.
    A very happy new year to you and yours!

  9. Hello Pia. I have been following your blog for quite a while now. I love your posts, and the way you describe your life experiences/adventures. It makes me feel that somebody is speaking my mind and my thoughts. I read your story that you mentioned above. I have had so many similar experiences. As i was reading your post, i felt like i have had the same emotions go through my mind that you did. You have a flawless way of putting your stories on paper. Good luck for your novel!

  10. P,

    I'm just now reading this and it's so lovely. Echoes many of my own feelings…though I didn't grow up in India, my parents did and they brought that religious amalgam into my American childhood. Now it's part of Shiv's life, too.


  11. Hello Shina! Thank you so much for such kind words – I'm so very touched. It means much to me that you took the time to write in, and respond to the piece. And that you connected to it as you did.

    I look forward to hearing from you again. Hugs!

  12. You know, it's only when you move out of India that you realise that the great religious and cultural mash you grow up in is a real privilege; it arms and informs you in many ways. I can imagine how your parents would've passed that on to you, and certainly the crazy-beautiful mix you must've made Shiv's world already. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today, N. Love.

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