I am from here
Where are you from?
By Amir Nooriala
September 5, 2003
Do you know what the hardest question you can
ask me is? It's not an equation or a philosophical
it's just four simple words: WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
I loathe that
question. I hate its simplicity, the way you expect me to respond
immediately to such an easy question.
You ask it
without even thinking. It's a conversation starter, a time-waster.
You're at a party, you've just met me, don't
know what to say and I've mentioned the weather already
and what can you say next? You know! You'll ask me: "Where
are you from?"
I get nervous, my forehead gets balmy
and I start to stutter: "Ummm well, umm..."
me explain why this question, to me, is the word-ification
of the devil by carrying on the conversation: "Um, well
what do you mean? If you mean my accent I was born and raised
in London. If you mean my name and mysteriously dark looks, my
parents are from Iran and right now I live in California."
I am sure the asker of the question expects a
standard answer like; San Francisco, England or Timbuktu take
a left past Tanzania,
roll past the Mountains, 2nd desert on your left, the 5th mud-hut
with the no place like home straw-mat outside it. What they
get however, is a young man questioning his own identity, ethnicity
and his soul.
Why am I so confused
by this question? I think the only way for me to answer it
is by interrogating myself.
Well who am I?
I was born a few months before
the revolution outside of Iran. My parents did not flee the revolution;
were already outside when I was born. I see myself as a rare
commodity, someone born outside of Iran before the revolution.
How about some basic facts?
I am called Amir Hossain
(not often used) Nooriala, which is not as some would claim
Italian-sounding but clearly Iranian or Muslim. I am 24-years
old or if you
want to be Iranian, I am in my 25th year. I have not changed
to a Western one, though no one pronounces it Ameeeer, but
rather like a Swedish hic-cup: AM-IA.
How about language wise?
Well I have been told
my first language was Farsi, which I forgot after starting
nursery school. I had
to relearn Farsi after that and English has always been my
native tongue since. I speak Farsi with a slight accent and
when I do
I am still translating English to Farsi in my head. My reading
is slow and childish and my writing is laughable, but I have
progressed from 'baba nan dad'.
I am very close to my family and assorted cousins,
having been brought up in the same house as them. It was always
for my English friends with no siblings to come to my house
and play Sega. They were as equally entertained that a normal
foreign-name-sounding yet totally non-insular child was living
in a house with his 2 aunts, uncle, mother, brother and two
cousins, as they were by my games system.
I was brought
up in the English education system and I honestly never really
saw too much direct racism towards me, other than on the
sports field. I enjoy English and Iranian humor, though more
What do I do socially?
My culture has effected
in me strange ways. I am a big fan of drinking, partying
that it entails. I have no problem embarrassing myself
or being crude in social circles. However I would never have
or tattoo. The reason is that partying is easy
to hide from my mother.
I do not and have never really had any close Iranian
friends (until recently). I do not know the exact
reason as to why I have not bonded with Iranians my age but I
think it is mostly due to my mind set.
Iranians are usually characterized as either being the type who
go to a kababi for dinner with a ghayloun, followed by going
to someone's house to crack jokes and drink some chaie.
Or the type who wear all black, shades indoors, drive
leased BMWs listening to 2pac and are VIPs at the newest sickest
I don't fit in either category. I wear designer clothes
but with label not visible. I enjoy top clubs but not sitting
around VIP tables sipping champagne with my shades on. I don't
enjoy going out in big groups or staying in Iranian circles.
I enjoy telling jokes and stories but not on a regular basis.
I like to take risks and don't consider them as being one,
while my peers frown. I find it very hard to explain how this
is not Iranian, but this is the reason why my friends are not.
Do I like Iranian music?
I do not enjoy Iranian
music. I find many Iranian films can be good (not excellent)
as long as the
title or subject of the film is not GAV, or it is not a 5-hour
epic black and white silent film, showing the struggles and
tribulations of a one legged Afghani refugee in a Western-Mashad
Well you surely must love Iranian food?
Iranian food. My favorite dishes are (the national obsession)
with all it entails: raw eggs, onions and somagh. However
I do not find drinking doogh refreshing. I really enjoy nearly
all the polos; Lubia, Nokhod, Sabzi Polo e Mahi, with Havij
being a very notable exception. I have the very un-Iranian
point of view of not liking khoreshs.
If I had a choice between a good
Iranian dish and a good pasta, I would have to think about it
for a while considering factors such as, is it my aunt/mother's
Lubia Polo or what kind of pasta? I do not know what I would
go for if it was a choice between Iranian or Italian restaurants,
I find Iranian restaurants do not cook anywhere as well as my
family do, leaving me always unsatisfied with my meal.
love sports, do you?
I am the 2nd biggest fan of sports in the
world after George W, the baseball fanatic. This
love extends to Team Melli who I follow religiously. I even
help run Persianfootball.com, a point which some of my friends
as showing my Iranian-ness. I even have the white home kit
of Iran, though I do not wear it out very often.
to test me by asking a simple question: if Iran and England
were playing a football match who would you support? I do
this immediately but my answer is always the same: Iran.
I know my friends who are half-English nearly always support
half in such games.
Do they make me Iranian?
that I even ask this question shows that I am not in my eyes
100% Iranian. I think all those
born outside or living outside for a considerable time should
make a real effort to integrate. I like the fact that my
English or now American friends see me as one of them. I like
I speak English better than they do and I feel welcome in
their company. I also like the fact that I have my own ethnicity,
secret language and am proud of it.
Where am I from? I think there is only one answer
to the question. I am from here. Where are you from?
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