Foreigner and not to belong

‘Always a foreigner’ was the words uttered to me by Nargis and her sister Nazlee yesterday. Both of them are now residents in London UK and may be British citizens for all intent & purposes. Yet, much like nomads they seem to belong to no land. Both sisters were born in Lamu near Mombassa Kenya of parents who themselves children of migrants from Kutch, Gujarat, India. Their family names were “Panju” which indicated their origin. Their forefathers were probably moved to Kenya under economic and social compulsion earlier in the last century. Even from Kutch where they were supposed to have come from they cannot find any trace of origin nor of identity. No parents, relatives and ties were to be found in Kutch. For the memories of the family, they only knew that they originated from there, which is confirmed by the language they spoke. Are they condemned to be without family identity source and to be foreigner where ever they go?

In India, even now they feel themselves to be a foreigner. Having lived in the United Kingdom for over 30 years they are definitely not in their homeland: the habits, accents and language are so much different.

Even in London were they live they are foreigners. Pakis or Indians they would be called.

Forced migration got them to move from their country of birth and where they grew up. Foreigners again they were in East Africa.

They just do not belong!

Funnily enough, “Always a foreigner” could answer some aspects to the discussions of Eddy Young’s blog set aflame with much passion since the start of the year under the title: What does it mean to be a Mauritian. “Where do we belong?” would be a more appropriate question. I believe that it is not the document or citizenship document that makes you a Mauritian: at heart where do you belong?

Would a Chinese, African, French or Indian at heart living in Mauritius be a Mauritian? No, they will always be a foreigner! Only those who “belong”, those who accept, cherish and espouse our beloved country and continue to work for its future are worthy to be called Mauritians.

Mind you, I am not in favor of the melting pot analogy to describe the Mauritian society. I prefer the Fruit Salad analogy where each fruit whilst being still distinct enhances the flavors the salad which by the way, may well contain in its self some of the jam made up of the combination of the different fruits.

I like to think that in Mauritius I am no foreigner! Because I belong.


#1 Eddy Young on 01.12.07 at 1:04 pm

The “where do we belong at heart?” argument is very reasonable. I wonder what others think of it.

#2 waz on 01.12.07 at 5:59 pm

hi Joseph,

With reference to the melting pot, salad bowl or even the cultural mosaic, perhaps, it’s best not to argue over the specifics of those semantics given the associated critics n controversy of the said terms.

Imho, within Mauritius, we will never be foreigner for that’s where our original roots are and that’s where most of our relatives will be. Don’t you think? Of course, there will always be a few exceptions but I prefer to think: “once Mauritian always Mauritian”.

“Would a Chinese, African, French or Indian at heart living in Mauritius be a Mauritian?” – now here is something interesting: About all the comments or related blog entries have alluded to one’s race or ethnicity to answer Eddy’s question. I think that’s the why we are finding it hard to coin a proper Mauritian definition. We are too engrossed in our communal ties. I think that you have laid it out loud and clear: without a proper national identity, we cannot be Mauritian at heart, i.e. “Only those who “belong”, those who accept, cherish and espouse our beloved country […]”

But does “[…]continue to work for its future are worthy to be called Mauritians.” exclude those who have migrated to other countries?

Finally, just out of curiosity, are you against intermarriages?

Thanks for the post! Really nice…


#3 joseph on 01.13.07 at 3:38 pm

For or Against intermarriages?
For having been married for over 34 years,I can tell you that marriage could well be a source of great wealth and enrichment as well the cause of much frustrations. May be “term of old fashion”, my conception of love is that love is a decision which have been brought by “feelings or emotions”. More so Marriage is the conclusion of a collective decision of 2 thoughtful beings to jointly vow to look after each other’s welfare for good and forever…
Once my definitions set whether I am for or against interracial marriages or not does not arise?I decided to marry my wife for her full stop. Already it is a great task to sometimes abdicate you own will or ego for the common good of your family to add additional burden brought by the environment of dissenting ‘in laws’ could be a greater challenge. I have seen and witnessed great interracial,inter cultural marriages working marvelously whilst seeing flops from same culture marriages. One might be inclined to view understanding between spouses be easier when they are of the same culture, religion or race. Sometimes opposite poles attract whilst similar poles repulse. As long as the spouses’ decisions to stick to their vows and commit all their might to the common cause the marriage will succeed.It is through continuous love, communications, humility, forgiveness that marriages work. In short my reply to the ? would be it depends on the marrying spouses ,the climate environment of the folks around!

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