Criss Cross

4 Aug

My first impression of Bangladesh was formed when I looked out of my window seat on the plane from Mumbai: green. Lots of it punctuated by patches of water, characterising the rainy season that hits South Asia every year.  The green is a deep colour, lush and vibrant, which takes me by surprise.  The air is hot and steamy here, a kind of humidity that reminds me of Abu Dhabi in a strangely comforting way.

People are very curious about my nationality and background, constantly probing: ‘British? But you look like from here, you have face like Bangladeshi! Bangladesh is your motherland?’
I explained my father was Mauritanian and my mother English to one man who promptly smiled widely before saying, ‘Ah yes, you are Criss Cross!’

It is when I travel to places such as this that I am truly reminded of my identity and of the different worlds within it. Like walking into a room here and automatically knowing to say ‘Assalamu Allaikum’ to the happy surprise of the people before me. Being interrogated over the link between Mauritania and Islam, between Islam and myself.

I have only really traveled in South Asia in the last 6 months and it is kind of magical to me that all these individuals I’ve met assume that I am from their part of the world; how I evoke that, when my genetic pool stems from two countries which have nothing to do with this continent. The best way I can explain what it feels like, to be claimed in such an unexpected way, is that it is like being part of a secret. Like the Universe is whispering, ‘The world is small, had you forgotten? We are all part of the same whole, all of us criss-crossing.

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