My heritage gives me a reason to go forward in pursuit of conserving my individuality – what I hold dearest to me.
By Sumona Bose (Varsity contributor)
The 24 September marks the annual national celebration of Heritage Day. This day is celebrated in South Africa as a way to pay homage to our roots, cultural backgrounds and give tribute to the diversity that has kept our nation vibrant. Termed what is now known as the Rainbow Nation, South Africa’s reputation as a versatile society has experienced persistent socio-economic woes over the years that have greatly challenged this beautiful country. However, the spirit for an optimistic and amicable future remains grounded in building an equitable society for the present. Diversity has retained different meanings for each individual, as the occasion itself requires more than a celebration but deep introspection. Every year on this day, I have always asked myself what does it mean to me?
I arrived on South African soil in the early days of 2015 to start my undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT). For the entirety of my 17 years before then, I had socialized as a “foreign-born” Indian. I was raised in Botswana while my family dispersed around the globe, identified as being part of the broader South Asian diaspora. I do not think I thought any differently then, but it was only during my early university days that I began to dig deeper into what my heritage meant to me rather than just identifying my heritage as being tied to a specific nationality outside the country of my origin.
As a native of Kolkata, the “cultural capital” of India, diversity is nothing new to me, but to be a part of the diverse South African society made me realize what an auspicious opportunity it is to blend in with the crowd while also standing out. Growing up in a multicultural context has always allowed me to embrace individuality. I have grown up in a household where Kolkata (the city is a central element to my personality) has had a portable ability to be present in every part of life, mundane or significant. I find the same rhythm in Cape Town in its ability to give space to identities and celebrate individualism. To stand out but still find a sense of belonging. To be not only one identity but exist within many.
Heritage is more than a passport or lineage. It is carrying a unique soul, a different story and bringing a personal perspective to the table. And for me, being able to live my individualism is my heritage – a glorious legacy of being your authentic self, inspired by countless people who have adopted the same philosophy.