Travelling with a Brown Complexion and a British Accent

23 August 2020 – Cinnamon Bay 

It’s the heart of summer. The air is warm and it seeps into your bones – the season of heat has reached its peak. In dawn’s early light, you board a plane, taking you to your dream destination, where the air seems hotter, more dense and you leave behind the beginning of winter’s delight. Stepping off the plane, you’re immediately greeted with a thousand kisses from the sun. Each planted kiss making your complexion deeper and a hue of brown slowly emerges, and for the first time in a very long time, your skin complexion is not the reason you stand out.

As a South Asian woman, travelling can be the equivalent of a thriller film. Now that we are allowed to travel again and recommence life after the pandemic of 2020, we can cautiously press play on our own personal thriller films.

There is no jump-out horror scene, no gore circulating you like a vulture. But instead, there are moments of tension, causing the hair on the back of your arms to stand up. To check, and to double-check that there is nothing untoward in your bag. No liquid, no pocket knife, no laptops.

You’re immediately ready for the words ‘you’ve been randomly selected for a search’ and even though this was inevitable, a deep shade of red engulfs your face in embarrassment. Out of all your friends you’re the only one ‘randomly selected.’ Then again, you are the only one who’s brown. But when you leave the airport, that reoccurring incident is an event from another lifetime. No one mentions it, and you don’t care for it.

Yet, even bypassing that, there is one thing making you stand out. Your accent.

A British accent is not what it used to be. There are so many shades, so many flavours have been released, each one with a tone more striking as you navigate around the map. Southerners are posh. The Midlands are associated with Brummies, the land of the Peaky Blinders. Liverpool is, well, scouse. Geordie is something else and the Yorkshire accent is associated with the muck of fresh air.

But your accent is the only thing you truly own. No influence from someone else, no imitating, no swapping. Not when you’re alone, anyway. Your accent fades into the background, covered with the cacophony of people who sound like you, with the occasional change in octave, but the melody is always the same. When someone’s voice is different, it stands out like a sore thumb.

But in a country, where the air is heavier, the sun is less forgiving, the signposts are in a language everyone but you consider home, your accent is now the reason you stand out.

But what delight it is met with! A British accent is still the height of Hollywood sophistication. The suit and tie, shaken, not stirred. Supervillains with an accent like yours are now evil geniuses, tortured souls, belonging from a little island where the main season is rain.

But isn’t it strange you can never fit in?

Being British Asian and travelling has its own little perks. The accent is one of them. The lack of surprise when the food is spicy. Being more daring to try food not deemed ‘typically British’ and understanding that sometimes being late is a personality trait. You aren’t the one being hustled, the one glanced at. You look like a local, or a sun-kissed version of one. Someone who can never get lost, because the sun is on your side.

The downfalls are apparent though. Is there a place to call home? One where you fit in, accent, skin colour and all?

Still, this doesn’t stop us. Exploring a land with a thousand kisses from the sun, with a group of people you do call home is the best feeling of all. Everyone is a stranger to someone, but us? We know how to own it.

Published with Cinnamon Bay:

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