I cringe when I remember an uncomfortable conversation with a female cousin in the 1990s. She ticked me off for what she saw as my arrogant assertion that life in the UK was superior to what she had in India. In my mind - and clearly spewing out of my mouth - was the sentiment that Britain had better roads, better schools, better dress sense, better humour and even (what was I thinking!?) better weather. Perhaps that is why growing up I never really delved into my parents' decision to emigrate in the 1970s. To me - a second generation south-Asian girl from north-west England - it seemed an obvious, life-enhancing choice. It was when those opinions were turned on their head back at home - that it became obvious they were driven less by rationality and more by insecurity about where I belonged.
In Greater Manchester I tried to distance my life from its Indian roots. It's awful now to think back about how I'd be embarrassed of walking with my mum at the shops if she was wearing a traditional salwar kameez, or if she spoke Hindi loudly in public. On the occasions that I would wear a sari to an Indian event I would go to great lengths to avoid being seen by white neighbours, crouching down as I ran from the front door to the car. Perhaps worst of all was the way I felt pleased when a local teenage boy once declared that I was "different to other Pakis". After all I was a girl who daydreamed about what it would be like to have white skin and an English name. Once, when I was very young, I even rubbed talcum powder into my face in a bid to lighten up.