Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Last night I was listening to an episode of Lemn Sissay's Homecoming on Radio 4. Sissay is a Mancunian of Ethiopian origin, a poet and broadcaster. In yesterday's and the previous episode, he has been looking at the nature of home. You will find them on the BBC Radio iPlayer.
The programmes are extremely funny but also touching. Very heartfelt. He was the only black person for miles around for much of his childhood in Lancashire. This was what he was discussing last night - the first episode was recorded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he is descended from.
The idea which struck me in relation to this blog was his assertion that Ethiopians can recognise each other physically, by face shape and cheekbones and so on. He wondered if this was true for other ethnicities. And I got to thinking about my own roots (as usual! - it is obviously all about me!).
Sissay mentioned never seeing another Ethiopian in Manchester then getting to London and instantly recognising 'his people'.
So how did this work for Anglo-Indian people during British rule? I have a strong memory of my father being very uncomfortable around Pakistani and Indian origin people in England when I was a child. He was brought up to consider himself unlike them. But in truth, he looked very similar of course.
For the early Anglo-Indians - Eurasians as they were called then - it must have been quite easy to recognise each other. 'Blacky White' (to quote Indian Summers) in colour. Dressed in European style clothing. Worshipping as Christians.
I just wonder if full blooded Indians would be able to tell if there was an Anglo Indian in their midst should those people be dressed as Indians. Is there a face shape unique to the blend of Indian and European?
Looking at the photos I have amassed so far, I think that probably the European blood was already so diluted - by Normans, Vikings, Celts, Slavs, etc - it is not possible to identify an Anglo Indian "look" other than in colour.
Bet there were a few eventually who were blacky white with red hair or blue eyes or whatever. What a give away, as the Monty Python boys would say.