I was the only brown child born in a suburban Philadelphia hospital in the 70’s. When my mother went to visit me in the maternity ward, a visiting grandfather quizzically looked at me, then her, and said, “I was wondering who that baby’s mother was.” His reaction isn’t surprising because my family was in the local newspaper for being the first family of Indian descent in the area.
From my first days on this planet and for many years after, I stood out in Pennsylvania, whether I wanted to or not. I did actually like being the only Sameena I knew for years. I didn’t like it so much when people would try to call me Samantha just because it was easier for them. I was bemused when I went I went to Penn State in State College when people would stare at me because they couldn’t figure out what I was. I imagine thoughts like these: She’s got brown skin with a pointy nose and straight hair. That just doesn’t add up! Even someone who was black assumed I was black mixed with something. My world at that time was pretty much black and white, with little shades of gray, or in my case mocha.
It was during that time, at the age of 20 that I decided that I didn’t want to live in Pennsylvania for the rest of my life. Don’t get me wrong. I love Philadelphia and my last PA town, West Chester. I just decided it was too cold and monocultural for me. Despite that, 20 years later, I was still there. I think of the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime” when I reflect on my life sometimes. “Well, how did I get here?” You said it, David Byrne. It wasn’t just how did I get to where I was, but when I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be why was I still there? The simple answer was just fear. Fear of the unknown.
Prior to this realization, I had already quit a stable teaching job to pursue a full-time writing career. At that moment, my belief in my own capabilities became stronger than my fear of the unknown. It was my belief in myself that inspired me to move. To the Bible Belt in Georgia.
“Well, how did I get here?” First of all, I’m in a city right next to Atlanta. Secondly, it’s diverse. It’s a southern town with more diversity than Philadelphia. Now, I am a proud Yankee, and I will admit that I used to possess the northern preconceived notions of the South. I am in a southern city, and I am surrounded by more cultural diversity than I have ever been around in my entire life. Yet again, I have learned the lesson that you can’t judge.
At this moment, I am beyond complete with my decision to end my Pennsylvania chapter and begin my Georgia one. Albeit, I am a blazing liberal in a blazing conservative state. That’s okay. Politics is a joke in this country right now anyway. I am just enjoying the glow of making a decision and running with it.
I have only been here two months, so I can’t say how long this chapter will last. I am just loving a winter without snow.
Until next time...look behind and beyond the veil…
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer