by Kamna Muddagouni

Part One: Mumbai

I was born in a metropolis of nearly twenty million bodies, to a small family with medium pockets and very large hearts. A city with a spirit of tolerance and a soon-to-be history of riots; my tiny brown body moved with a beating heart in the arms of my mother: a Malayali matriarch, and my father: a Hyderabadi, who had made his name in Maharashtra, where he was both an insider and outsider. My older sister: a face different to mine, a childhood different to mine. Eight years apart and still she holds me close. I was born in a city that is romanticised and exoticised by white stories of brown bodies and their struggles, of poverty, triumph, colours and spices. Yet, here I was raised until the age of six and my life did not reflect the stories on big screens. It was a story of big communities, borrowed histories, comforting meals and youthful innocence.

Part Two: Narrm

We travelled from a country born out of a struggle against colonisation — forged as new when it has existed perhaps forever — to a country with older histories, dispossessed and erased by the white man. I arrived with my family in a ghost town. They said it was quiet because there was a horse race on and our puzzled faces slowly filled with regret. As I grew, I felt the constant feeling of being othered by those who said they were my friends, by those who gave people a ‘fair go’ and by those who continued to exist on what was and always will be Aboriginal land. I spread roots, I learnt, I made new family and I became me. I found relationships and love, but I still felt that my brown body posed a problem to this society. But my food they loved, my cricket they loved. Or was it the white stories of finding themselves in my land of birth that they loved more?

Part Three: I belong neither here nor there

Visits to my country of birth are frequent, to remember lost connections and to form new connections with family and who I am. I am welcomed, fed, hugged and teased. While I am theirs, I am not. I am from elsewhere. Belonging but not really.

And when I come back ‘home’, I am reminded at the airport quickly by a search and some questions, that this also is not where I belong. I watch panels on news shows debating whether Australia is racist, with a token brown body being asked to speak for thousands of bodies, souls and identities. I find my home in my love; I find my home in my friendships, in my work, in my writing. Belonging but not really.

Fears of never finding my place, questions about who I am and what that means, fill me. I am forever questioned by others. Questioned about where I came from. Because to them, I am not from here, no matter where here may be.

Part Four: Finding belonging

It takes a while. Twenty-seven years and counting! But I realise that I will never truly be of my country of birth, nor of my country of residence. I am different here and I am different there. But I am my own. I am sure of my places. They surround me wherever I go. I am sure of who I am. I am unafraid of existing despite the questions. I am enough for both here and there.



first published in Keep Brave Zine #2

Read our interview with Kamna here.