I was not a product of Indian upper middle-class culture, so my schooling at ‘english medium Indian school’ in Tehran put me in a socially awkward position. At age nine, I entered third grade and did not speak English. Officially assigned an outcast position by other students, my only friend was the romanian girl in my class, Claudia. Neither of us spoke English, both of us were outcasts. This incomplete knowledge of English also led to my acquiring a very superificial knowledge of elite English high culture (which ironically continues to the present).
At some point during my early twenties, I desperately tried to develop a sophistcated taste in English movies, T.V shows and popular music and to learn to conform to the customs. After years of practice and absolute failure in cultivating a refined taste and after having been mocked by a dear friend for not knowing Indiana Jones, I decided I have had enough. Growing up with incomplete and fractional knowledge of languages; English, Urdu, Persian, Hindi has potential for producing critical insight that remains forever fragmentary and creative urge that is forever dependent on dictionaries and thesaurus, its creativity and beauty lies in the very inadequacy of its expression.
I sit in the dining hall with fork and knife in hand and I think about how I am yet to master the art of cutting with knife and eating with fork simultaneously. Does it even matter? As I sit day after day in dining hall, I become more and more aware of how bodies are regulated, controlled and disciplined. I am surprised by how efficiently I have picked up on norms that are acceptable and unacceptable. I am told by some that my hair is beautiful, that its long. When was the last time I cut it? Every time I am seen without my hijab, I am appreciated. My hair is long. Every time I am seen with scarf, it causes confusion. My hair is so beautiful, they don’t understand why I have to wear a scarf at all. I become aware of how the acceptable Muslim woman is produced, easily assimilated if she is without her scarf.
Anger and passion is monitored and controlled. I am intellectually fascinated and frustrated, there is no outlet. An outburst of passionate anger can very easily be declared unregulated emotional excess that makes everybody uncomfortable. It is aggression. Aggression must be controlled and safety prioritised. The dominant theme at dinner table everyday seems to be TV shows and movies, Hollywood of course. I smile at the irony of situation as I am reminded of third grade, Indian school. I am situated at the center; as a nine year old I would have never imagined being here, as twenty year old I dreamt of what would be found at the very centre of western hegemony over knowledge- it is to learn humbly what it is to be on the outside and in this exclusion produce work that is fragmentary, scattered and yet causes rifts at the very center.