Hello everyone!... Just like a metronome, I like to keep myself in sync with all things that are around me. Most of the time I get so caught up with all the new things that I forget all of the work that I am actually suppose to do. I know this is a very strange way to describe myself. I feel that God has made me this way to always give me a chance to be super expressive and excited about the little things in life. This is me Mohit Francis Pradhan and written below in my own words is a part of my story of growing up with a cross-cultural identity...
I hail from Kolkata which also happens to be my ‘गाँव’ (village/hometown), though my grandparents were from Darjeeling. They moved down to the plains of Kolkata to work. As you know, Calcuttans have this very famous way of asking people - Where do you come from? This question is often followed by tracing GPS coordinates through the query – Where is your hometown located?
I was first asked the former question by the local grocer when I was in class four. He said to me one day, ‘आपका गाँव कहा है छोटा साहब?? (Where is your village, little master?). I did not know what to answer him in reply. I looked at him blankly for a few seconds as I tried to configure my own geographical bearings. Seeing the confused look on my face, he then began to explain to me the concept of ‘गाँव’. Later on, I released that he had asked me this question because, like my grandparents, he too had come to Kolkata to find work and did so by setting up his small shop. He told me his ‘गाँव’ was in Bihar.
On understanding his question, I began explaining to him the location of my ‘गाँव’, which as I mentioned earlier is Kolkata. Unfortunately, it led to another dilemma - me being a dark-skinned Nepali. Hence, in order to convince him of my ‘permanent affiliation’ with the city, I felt compelled to explain my entire family tree to him. I recall telling him that my paternal grandmother is Anglo-Chinese and my paternal grandfather is a Nepali from Darjeeling. My maternal grandmother is a South Indian (Tamilian and Goan) and my maternal grandfather is a Nepali from Darjeeling too. After verbally mapping the extent of my location for him, he said to me, “छोटा साहब आपके घर में पूरा इंडिया है!” (Little master, the whole of India is in your home). I remember he then went on to ask me about the kind of food I ate at home and the language spoken within its four walls. He was shocked again to hear that we spoke English at home. He then started to call me International छोटा साहब (Little Master). He still refers to me this way till date. As for the food, some days it was idlis and on others it was parathas. In fact, the food cooked at home was best because it embodied the cross-cultural flavours of my parentage, the essence of which my grocer and many others found unsettling to understand. Yet it still appeals to my friends who often come over to enjoy the buffet at my home.
Presently being a professional musician and living on the blue planet for twenty three years I have been blessed to witness many cross-cultural stories. Some of these have been in places such as the waterside café at Hyatt Regency and the lobby of the Grand Hotel, where I am invited to play their eighty eight key grand piano. Here, I have witnessed many families embrace cross-culture marriages, similar to the case of my parents. Something tells me that their lives will be as colourful as these picturesque scenes.
To sum up my experience of being a Nepali, South Indian, Chinese and also an Anglo-Indian… all of which appears to most as, ‘being as they say, all ‘mixed up’, I say -
Like the many veggies that we place in a pot
With the many flavors and spices that come to a boil
My life is better than any Michelin five-star chef’s broth
As I have different cultural roots all deep in Indian soil
My mother’s side hails from the south,
My father’s side hails from the north,
All the delicious food and goodies from both ends,
Always make a way towards my mouth.
Both of these cultures and values,
Makes me the man I am today
Wouldn’t every give up on this way
A proud dark-skinned Nepali all the way.
Mohit is a presently working as a music teacher in Elias Meyer School. He is a member of the band 'Groovebox', the link to their facebook page is (www.facebook.com/GrooveBox.Kolkata). He runs a music learning centre AMUSE.INC in the heart of the city of joy, Kolkata. Recently he started his own YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMcJ7x6AHLTh2EHbDOyABGg to share videos of his music, played by him on the piano. Mohit can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org