Sometimes I need to go away to a beautiful place and rediscover my own beauty. Just a bit of sun, food and family.
The country I was born in is a beautiful tiny place bordering the North of Brazil. One of the largest groups of people living there, including my family, have their roots in India. You could say that I’m a second generation, Indian Surinamese Dutch woman. How’s that for a description? Pretty global right?
I like that my history is a beautiful sum of mini stories unfolding in different parts of the world. I don’t know exactly why, but maybe it’s because of all the mystery and obscurity behind my family tree. All these hidden figures and far away relations trigger my imagination and make me wonder what my parents were like as children. What the journey from India to Suriname must have been like for my great grandparents. What their parents looked like.
I often imagine what my life would’ve been like if I’d been born and raised in India. I can only guess and it gives me more to be grateful for. When I think of all the choices my ancestors made to make a better life for themselves and my family, which led to me becoming the person that I am today, I’m just beyond thankful.
The fact that all these people, from all of the villages, cities and countries where those unknown stories have taken place, are part of me, leaves me with an overwhelming sense of humility. I am here because of them. For me to be able to sit here, in front of my computer screen and write about the things I love, in health, prosperity and freedom is a miracle on its own.
I was talking to my cousin the other day about how, as we get older, we start to realize, or more so, change our perception about what it means to be part of a family or a community such as ours. We came to the conclusion that Indian life is layered and complex. It is centuries of the stratified and interwoven affairs of men that has filtered down into our current societal package. One that oftentimes scares the crap out of me, yet contrariwise, is also wonderfully rich and giving. I see that now.
I used to steer clear from anything related to Indian culture. Especially in my teen and adolescent years I would circumvent ‘Bharat’ life in its entirety and immerse myself into the modern gospel of Western Europe, and call it freedom.
Freedom however is not something someone just hands over to you, or that you can buy off the rack. Freedom is first and foremost something you develop and nurture from the inside out. My association with all things restrictive and oppressive originated from my first experiences in life. They were practically giftwrapped in inequality, bigotry and closedmindedness.
I know, and glad it is so, that my experiences of course are mine and not necessarily someone else’s truth too. What I also know now is that there’s more to Indian life than patriarchy and a redundant caste system. There’s more to Indian society than child prostitution and Bollywood totalitarianism. There’s more to my story than maddening rites and rituals, the burning of widows and worshiping rats. Even as I’m typing this I can feel the weight of my words pull on my heart. This isn’t me.
This going back and forth between who I wanted to be and who I was supposed to be was turning into small anguish and a physical nuisance. My story was bothering me. It highlighted everything that was wrong. It represented something that was off, and if there was something off with my story, something was off with me. And that my friends, just didn’t gel with me. I had been in denial for the majority of my life and finally ready to look for beauty and recognize the value of my cultural heritage. My story needed a repletion of understanding and appreciation on my part and that is exactly what I set out to do. So I started adding chapters and paragraphs of excitement and happiness. A complete overhaul.
What I have noticed since then is that changing my perspective always was up to me. I decided to look for good. And when I started to look for good, all of a sudden, good was everywhere. I could see tradition instead of obligation. I could see chivalry instead of misogyny. I could see reverence instead of dogma. There was beauty all along and now I was able to see it for exactly that.
That didn’t mean that the outside world had changed. Not at all. What it did mean was that my thoughts about it had changed. And this mind over matter stuff, this thinking into results philosophy, and this commanding your way to bliss method, I happily realized, was Indian to its core. I now had something that I could relate to, and it coincided naturally with my new way of embracing life. Indian now, was good.
You won’t believe how many times I have had people ask me about my life in a way that used to completely piss me off. You have children? And you’re not married? Oh, two different fathers? And you’re a single mother? Questions like these can be hurtful and are frankly quite demeaning. There was so much judgement and disapproval in their attitudes, and it used to get to me, but now it doesn’t. I know that I am who I am today thanks to and because of every choice I made. That doesn’t mean that every choice I made was a smart one, but I chose out of love, and I love myself for it.
I guess it’s just a matter of staying true to yourself and trusting yourself. I’m still re-configuring everything but I take full responsibility. For everything that I have thought and for everything that was a result of that thinking. And now I am me redefining my world again. Changing my perceptions about what life is to me. What I am to me.
For the world and for convenience sake I’m sometimes one or the other. A woman, a mother and a lover. I am brown skinned, short and petite. I’m Surinamese, Dutch or Indian. South American, European or Asian. I am not married, single or without a man. Whichever description suits the ruling conversations of the day.
A myriad of nouns and verbs to describe one person but we’d still have to look each other in the eye to know who we really are. I love this phase of my life and how I see everything as an opportunity to learn about the world from an intuitive need to connect and share. I feel free in my quest for love. I try to learn and take in what is around me because one day I won’t be here to consciously, as Monique the human I mean, enjoy its beauty in my physical form. I’m at a point in my life that I don’t give a shit and care tremendously at the same time. It doesn’t matter what people think of me, but I do care.
Many things describe me, yet none define me. The fact that I can think, say and feel that is the biggest blessing. I really am a lot of things but one thing that I’m not, is a country. I do not represent Indian people. I do not promote Asia. I most certainly do not belong to any religion or cult. I represent and promote beautiful and amazing things, but I belong to me. And God.
This is it. I am happy. I am human. I am alive.
I am not afraid to die but I do want to have lived. In gratitude and appreciation of the fact that I was allowed to be here as myself and with the certainty that we are all, blessed.
Sending you a bucket full of rediscovery all the way from here to where you are.
A selection of pictures taken in Suriname to capture the sweet and sultry feel of the country I have learned to love again. I hope you enjoy the simplicity of what I think is bliss to me.