A Poem By Sumitpal Singh Rehal
I’ve called the same place my home for the same 27 years that I’ve been called by my name.
Just as my dad called it his home since back in 66 when he came.
Even though I’ve been calling this place home and treat it with love.
For three decades many never called me their neighbour because they think they’re above.
We were the only Asians in this small village in Surrey since 1990.
Around the same time that the Power Rangers were mighty.
I remember the teacher was talking about the Taj Mahal and I was the only brown.
When she singled me out and pointed at me for the whole school to turn around.
Then in 96 Stephen and his mates invited me over to play Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country.
3 years later they told me I’m not one of them and to go back to my own country.
Went to Camber Sands with my family in 2001, I know it sounds tacky.
But it’s all we could afford at the time even though some guy called my dad a Paki.
I tried to calm my dad down as I thought the guy was just part of an ignorant minority.
But now I’m older I realise that this outcasting mindset is actually the majority.
There are more people of colour around me now that I’ve moved towards the city.
The decade has changed but it’s still the same mentality.
I actually miss the days where the racist stereotypes were about owning corner shops or eating curry.
Now their weariness has turned into hatred as they fear that we are terrorists and have to worry.
I genuinely felt that love would conquer fear and the cure for hatred is to teach and show grace.
But yesterday a girl I’ve known for 3 years joked about my beard and said I’ll “blow up this place”.
She had a few drinks so she finally felt brave enough to say what was always on her mind.
So even though she gave me love and knows that my ancestors fought against extremism for mankind.
At the end of the day she doesn’t care as all she sees is one incorrect stereotype and assumes.
Now this is an example of her saying what a whole section of society says in their living rooms.
They make out that they have respect and understanding but really they see an alien from another galaxy.
It got me thinking about the same comments I’ve always received about going back to my own country.
Little do they realise that my country doesn’t exist thanks to their grandparents’ decisions all along.
Despite serving for the British Empire in two world wars and helping them take over Hong Kong.
We were rewarded with massacres, famine and my motherland of Punjab sliced in two.
My grandparents’ homeland literally doesn’t exist anymore because of you.
They moved out before what is now called Pakistan or India even exists as a nation.
My mum’s dad never actually set foot in what is now in India’s domination.
He was born in Lahore, which is now part of an Islamic republic thanks to what the British then insisted.
At one time it was the capital of the Sikh kingdom where Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs finally coexisted.
But the British Raj invaded, divided and raped the land to force us to build a new community.
Despite this, I don’t believe racism is exclusively given from one ethnicity.
My dad was born in Kenya as his parents were recruited by the empire to work on the railway in East Africa.
But once the empire collapsed the new regime was only giving jobs to natives and not the Punjabi diaspora.
My dad suddenly was no longer a citizen of the country he was born in as he held a British empire passport.
He couldn’t get a job in India either as he had no paperwork for this new state on the other side of the port.
So the only country he could legally work with no further paperwork was the UK despite never setting foot there.
So how are you telling me to go back to my own country when it’s this country that gave me every right to be here?
I recently told someone how I feel conflicted that my ancestors died fighting in wars for Britain.
I said that they were just pawns to be the frontline for the elite’s destructive mission.
That guy replied that I if I disagree with the empire then I have no right to call myself British and should leave Britain.
My first response was that’s like saying if a German disagrees with the Third Reich then they have no right to be German.
Both were forceful European empires that killed millions with a superior objective.
The difference is that one was defeated before the expansion got projective.
But that guy proved my point that he doesn’t view my race as his neighbour.
Just like his ancestors who watched my ancestors fight for the benefit of others.
I also saw a top comment on BBC’s Facebook that aggravated me.
Someone commented about the first turbaned politician Tan Dhesi.
They said he shouldn’t be an MP in UK but should be an MP in India instead.
That’s like saying that Donald Trump should be PM of Germany because of his thread.
So where shall I go if I don’t belong in this land that I was born in and taught me what I know.
Tell that to Jagtar Singh Johal who did what you wished and went back to India occupied Punjab just a few weeks ago.
The Scotsman was arrested on the street and chucked into a van for raising awareness about justice for Sikhs on his Facebook while in UK.
Now he’s been tortured and tormented by Indian officials every single day.
Just like me, ‘Jaggi’ feels he doesn’t have a homeland – the place where you tell him to go doesn’t want this Singh.
I just find it highly ironic that the man you tell to go back home is arrested for doing that very thing.
The home he wanted to go to doesn’t exist anymore and he has nowhere to go.
Because the government of the country that he was born in took that land away 70 years ago.
So where’s home?
Header image is a painting depicting Sikh soldiers in World War One by Jagmohan Singh (The Royal Jesters).