I have been grappling with what identity means to me and the many hats that make me ME! Labels get the best of us and I am no exception. It's almost like in order for me to be seen and heard, I must identify myself first. Hi, my name is Joan Jothi Saldanha and I am a South Asian Canadian woman, wife, mother, artist, entrepreneur. BUT WAIT! I am soooo much more than that! Why do I feel this deep need to fit in?!
I think that it all started with my precarious beginnings. I was born in Bangalore India and moved to Toronto in 1973. We very swiftly assimilated into what 'Canadian' identity looked like back then. Although my parents meant well, my mother tongue Hindi was never uttered to me and I distinctly remember my mom mastering the art of casserole making and hockey playing! We moved to Alberta when I was 6 and being 'Canadian' took on a much deeper meaning when most of my friends were Indigenous because I was one of three South Asian families and I was walking knee deep in the frigid cold deep freeze for miles to get to school. My mom often recounts stories of my eyelashes falling off from frost bite when I was a wee little one. I also remember climbing trees, bike riding till the street lights came on, building forest forts for hours on end, and camping in May waking up to snow! No saris, no sweet sounds of the sitar and tabla, no Hindi or Sanskrit words, no Hindi movies or Bangara dancing. The 'omission' of 'Indian culture' put me in this weird foggy zone where I found myself isolated and lost almost to a point of confusion. Who was I and where did I belong?
Fast forward to present times and I am still asking this question. The South Asian community is very large as you can imagine. There are over 2 billion people in India, so our migration reaches far and wide. The christian South Asian community is a little smaller but still huge. When we moved back to the Tdot back in 1983, aside from family, I did not have any brown friends. I still do not have many brown friends. That lack of connection to my community kinda gets to me. I see the closeness within the Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, and Tamil communities and in how they support one another socially and through business. Why is it that I find myself in the margins with my own people?
There was a time a couple of years ago that I attempted to bring some bad ass brown girls together in a meet up called Brown Girl Badness and even then I felt that I did not quite fit in. Even then I felt invisible.
I am left wanting to figure this shit out more so now then ever before! Is it imperative that I give myself some titles and labels and if so, WHY? I do know this, it is important to me to self-identify! The power is mine to do so and change it up at any time. I am learning more and more each day that I identify with what my spirit shows me. I know that my ancestral roots are Hindu and that my ancestral voices are louder than ever. I hear and feel them guiding me to this self-discovery. I know that I am a cis-gendered woman of colour, artist, wife, mom and entrepreneur. I know that I am a survivor and community wellness advocate. I know that my lived experience with mental illness, abuse, addiction, migration, racism and trauma DO NOT define me because I am soooo much more than that!
I am enjoying this exploration. I want to talk about it some more with others. I want to know more from others what their thoughts are around their own identity.
Let's talk! Shoot me an email or add a comment below on what you think about this topic!