Home…a word which brings a warm fuzzy feeling as well as an element of confusion at the best of times, especially if you are an Asian, born in Kenya, living in London. Further confusion, when your background is a little more complex, to the point which at one time I was even (irritatingly) referred to as an “African Born Confused Desi.” I don’t take offence to this term though. I am both proud of my roots and proud of the country in which I was born, and which I consider my number one home – Kenya.
Home is where your story began. Whilst my individual story began in Kenya, it is probably worth explaining how my ancestral family with Indian descent came to find themselves in East Africa all those decades ago.
Most moved in the early 1900s, in search for opportunities, as traders, travelling by sea in dhows at ages as young as 12 or 13. Fast forward many years and generations and now the Asian community in Kenya is so vast that most consider themselves Kenyans first, and have a real sense of belonging in the beautiful East African country. We are no longer migrants but natives.
When they first arrived in Kenya they had absolutely no idea how life would pan out and it must have been difficult at the time, trying to settle in to a brand new continent, new country, with little or no family around for support. At the time Kenya was under the rule of the British Empire too, so a very complex,volatile and uncertain time.
As more and more people migrated over, their predecessors helped them settle in, many offering their homes as temporary residence till the newcomers had found a home of their own. What must have been really hard was that their home was miles away and at that time it wasn’t easy to get back to India and sea was the most viable option – a journey that took weeks or months.
The community my family belongs to is called the Oshwal community, and today they proudly retain their traditions, respect for their heritage and have a real sense of togetherness in the place they have now made their home. They are not the only Asian community in Kenya though, we have so many different representations from the Indian continent present.
Celebrations that would be celebrated in India are celebrated with the exact same love, excitement and traditions in Kenya, such as Diwali and Navratri, just to name a few. The great thing about growing up in a different country is you learn to respect so many religions, cultures and have friends from many walks of life, that I pretty much have grown up celebrating everything.
So let me tell you more about my home. I was born in the coastal city, Mombasa, a laid back island with swaying coconut trees, the balmy indian ocean and sandy beaches, where my ancestral story began. This is where the port of Kenya is and so where many would have first stepped foot in the country.
My family later moved to Nairobi, which is the capital city, when I was 16. It is here I got married, in a traditional Gujarati wedding, at the community centre, called The Oshwal Centre, and Nairobi is where my parents still reside.
Every single Indian wedding tradition was incorporated into my wedding day, although for my wedding week, I also embraced my Kenyan home, and had a themed African night, where my favourite food was served and everyone dressed up in African clothes and danced to African music.
I went on my mini moon to Lake Nakuru, in Kenya, and on every visit back home, I always try and explore new parts of the country, and love being a local tourist. Ever since I have started this blog, I have seen Kenya through a different lens to the one of my childhood.
One of my favourite things about Kenya, which you can probably guess, is getting to be up close and personal with wildlife, as well as respecting the importance of the conservation elements.
Growing up in a country like Kenya has been a magical experience, and one I only truly appreciated when I left to move to London. As they say, home is a place where your feet may leave but your heart will always belong.
As a child, and even now, we always try and go on safari every now and then. An experience which many consider a bucket list experience which we have been lucky to have on our doorstep. No matter how many times you go on a safari, it is always a memorable and novel experience, and I am so grateful for these experiences.
So what happens when you move away from your home? I have taken parts of Kenya with me to London to try and make it feel more like home. Sadly I couldn’t take a Giraffe, or the monkeys who harass my dogs in our garden, but I have furnished my home with hand made craft and furnishings from back home. It is the little things!
The influence of my two cultures can also be seen in my cooking style, and I am so thankful that there are also restaurants in London that cater for this fusion of flavours, so when I miss home I have the next best thing.
To me, home is definitely where my story began as Kenya is the place I think of when I am homesick or when I crave certain food and where some of my most precious memories are. Whilst I love living in London, it is so nice to have a home on another continent to escape to, every now and then. My blogger friend Harpreet has a different angle on her experiences of Kenya as her home so do check it out here.
Have you grown up with a similar background? I would love to know in the comments below.
Whether it is an adopted home, a birth home or somewhere that felt like it was a second skin – we can’t wait to share you passion.It could be a country, a city, a scent, a view. Or even the special moments that you like to share with visitors.
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Just pop your post up over the first week of the month, add it to the link up widget found on Follow Your Sunshine, SilverSpoon London, Adventures of a London Kiwi or on the blog of our lovely guest host Ngaire at Kiwi Footprints from the 1st.
Basically all we ask is that you check out some of the other cool bloggers that are involved in that months travel link up; tweet a few of the posts out to your followers that you think they will love and make a few comments here and there. It really is a great way to meet some new travel bloggers and share some blogging joy!