A Kethaki by any other name…

This guy then asked me what my name was. “It’s Kethaki, nice to meet you” to which his legitimate response was to laugh and say “That’s too hard, I’ll just call you Kathy”.

I laughed it off, give the guy a break, its 4pm and we still have class, he’s probably tired, who knows maybe he’s a little slow and can only process 2 syllables at a time, you don’t know his story, let it slide.

To whom it may concern,

Today was admittedly a long day. Early start, 3-hour (compulsory) lab on how to send a bloody email, 1 hour of chatting to my friend Aidan without realising it was HIS BIRTHDAY!! (Happy Birthday Aidan J) followed by more class.

Furthermore, despite substantial evidence to prove the contrary I thought the snacks, juice and lunch I packed for an average human being of 5’2” would keep me sufficiently energised throughout the day. I stand corrected.

By the time 4 pm rolled around marking the start of my final class its safe to say I was in a vulnerable place. This particular class had only occurred once previously, last week and aside from the lovely girl I sat next to last Wednesday and an old schoolmate I happily discovered took the same paper, I knew no one.

So when a friendly looking chap bounced over, literally bounced, and asked me if I was enjoying the class and started dirting on the lecturer before giving me a chance to answer, I smiled and agreed.

This guy then asked me what my name was. “It’s Kethaki, nice to meet you” to which his legitimate response was to laugh and say “That’s too hard, I’ll just call you Kathy”.

I laughed it off, give the guy a break, its 4 pm and we still have class, he’s probably tired, who knows maybe he’s a little slow and can only process 2 syllables at a time, you don’t know his story, let it slide.

He proceeded “ So where are you from originally? Fiji? India?”

“No, I was born in Sri Lanka”

“Hahaha, you brown guys are all pretty much the same anyway right?” He said. Out loud. In Public.

Before my Criminology class.

Where we learned about racial profiling.

When I first moved to New Zealand I insisted on not shortening my name or using my middle name Sarah in class because I knew I’d never respond to it organically. Aside from my little brother calling me Akki, older sister, it’s always been Kethaki. Somewhere in the throes of adolescence, my closest friends nicknamed me Keth.

I suppose it’s a technicality to most, It’s not a far stretch from Keth to Kathy, I could probably get used to it if this unlikely friendship grows stronger in the future. But nicknames are a term of endearment and a sign of familiarity. Renaming someone you’ve just met to save you learning an extra syllable? It’s one step up from referring them by a serial number instead…

My parents picked names carefully and excitedly for their first child. It is my identity and I’ve stubbornly held onto it. I fear I will hold onto it despite the enunciation fears of a handful because, for the most part, Kiwis will give anything a good try once.

Xx

Kethaki Sarah Thalia Masilamani

The fever of the jungle kind…

To whom it may concern,

I hope you’re all geared up with a stupid amount of chocolate, sure to cause severe cases of diabetes in the near future, I know I am.

The other day my friend Aidan showed a group of us a photo of an Indian girl stating “Bro she’s definitely a 9” although the group was in agreement, shawty was definitely a babe, there was the swift and giggly justification “Oh Aidan, you’ve definitely got that jungle fever going huh”. Aidan sheepishly agreed, “Well I think it’s quite evident”. Not everyone wears the branding with as much style as Aidan. Another mate on the other hand previously said of the same girl “ I don’t really know if she’s pretty, I’m not really into brown girls aye”. Which is a vastly accepted notion here in Kiwi- land, a notion I only found out about having left school.

According to the ever-handy urban dictionary, Jungle Fever is: When a non-black person has a sexual fetish partial to black people. Originally it was used for when a white woman dates black men, but now the term has even shifted enough colloquially to commonly include a person who is Caucasian who is attracted to a non-African, or to a person with a diversely different racial background.

Thanks, urban dictionary!

My first celebrity crush was Jonathan Taylor Thomas from ‘Home Improvement’ when he didn’t grow very much I was convinced we were meant to be, my first boyfriend was Caucasian but not intentionally, I didn’t grow up with the idea that white men needed to have a sexual fetish of my skin to be attracted to me. I was definitely under the impression it was my unintentional slapstick humour and let’s be real, Sandy and Mandy that were my selling point(s)…budum bum chhh. Apparently, I was wrong.
But friends lets all be a little kinder and more sensitive towards each other, because if someone asked me if I find Ryan Gosling attractive and my response was “um I’m not really sure, his skin, y’know the fact that its all white isn’t really working for me so I can’t tell if he’s hot” a group of trained females, gay men, and straight male assassins would find me and kill me for my crassness and stupidity. Some men are genuinely un-attracted to women of colour and some have a genuine fetish towards a certain race, which is absolutely fine – don’t hate a pl4Ya. But let’s not make the ones who feel as though they’re “diseased” with a “fever” and perhaps then more men would feel more comfortable to look past skin colour and appreciate Sandy’s and Mandy’s of all nations.

My funny Valentine…

My man is a little different. At first he’d just come to the mall to kill time either from lack of a job or maybe he’s so rich he doesn’t need to work. Either way he was there with his extremely long beard. Not the sexy kind, the kind that homeless men have because they can’t afford a razor.

To whom it may concern,

Valentine’s Day is swiftly approaching so I figured you all needed a cure from the last depressing post. Don’t feel too bad about my lack of social skills with men. Sometimes, not often, there’s one guy who finds my lack of a grasp of the English language in situations of pressure rather adorable.

Since I left school I’ve had a part-time job as a Customer Service Representative for a mall. The mall is pretty schmancy, in the heart of Newmarket in Auckland; a mall where most of the retailers themselves are a pristine reflection of the ridiculously expensive clothes they sell (I’m looking at you hot Barkers guys…yeaah, you aiite 😉 ) On your average Saturday morning the mall is streaming with the love children of Beauty Queens and Millionaires wearing boat shoes and a Ralph Lauren sweater casually slung across their broad shoulders even though there isn’t a boat in sight and it is really rather warm for a sweater. But no complaints here because when you’re that good looking nobody cares and apparently you don’t sweat! Pretty much the perfect place to meet a beautiful man who is not only smart but also rich?

My man is a little different. At first, he’d just come to the mall to kill time either from lack of a job or maybe he’s so rich he doesn’t need to work. Either way, he was there with his extremely long beard. Not the sexy kind, the kind that homeless men have because they can’t afford a razor. One day he walked by the Customer Services desk and saw a Brown Princess awkwardly daydreaming (me, I’m the Princess…it’s my story) He dares not approach the Princess for her vacant stare was too intimidating but mostly creepy. So he returned every day after trying to figure out exactly which days she worked there, all the while plucking up his courage to talk to her.

He gained hope when one day she wasn’t daydreaming and looked in his direction so he quickly took advantage and did the ethnic head shake that all fobby ethnic men give a girl when they recognise that she too, is of similar ethnic and cultural background! He did some reconnaissance work with the security guard and asked for her age and name. Turns out he was quite a bit older than she was and by a bit I mean a lot. But he didn’t care. He continued to show up as she started her shift and didn’t leave the mall till she finished her shift. Sometimes he’d walk by her desk “on the phone” so it didn’t look like he was just there. Then FINALLY one day he went up to the desk and said “I’ve been coming here every day for you. You want coffee sometime?” and she said, “No thank you, is there anything else I can help you with?”

But he persevered! He would not take rejection, for months of preparation had gone into asking her out. So he began watching her at her bus stop. That’ll win her over for sure! But then she called security who rewarded him with a trespassing notice from the mall and a warning that the next time he approached a Customer Service Girl the Police would be called. Because stalking young girls is a crime.

So what am I doing for Valentine’s Day? I’ll be working the evening shift at the mall where our kick-ass security team keeps me safe from stalkers 🙂 Come say hi! Bring me chocolate 🙂

xx

Your Valentine

Does it matter if you’re black or white?

What’s cookin’ good lookin 

Moving to New Zealand at the age of 12, an age of social development and finding of oneself lead to a lot of confusion. My first day of school at Remuera Intermediate was truly traumatic. I knew absolutely no one AND because i’d joined in year 8, relationships had already formed in year 7 and everyone else already had friends.

I had buckteeth; curly (ok frizzy) hair was Black as night and had one seriously seductive accent. People were pretty much lining up to be my friend. My teacher found me hesitating to leave class at morning tea so she told a girl in my class to introduce me to her friends. This girl rolled her eyes and took me outside to a group of girls whom i later found out made up 50% of the Kapa Haka crew. I fit right in. After about 2 minutes of awkwardly standing around and trying to join in with their jokes the girl told me to turn around and “follow the light”.

I awkwardly laughed really hard (dying on the inside) and just told myself to laugh it off and walk like i didn’t care. I must’ve looked like such a tosser strutting back to my classroom. My teacher found me about 2 minutes later and obviously took pity. She said “I’ll find you some friends!”. Do you know how many cool points you get when your teacher tries to find you friends? Not many…

Bless her heart, she found the first two Brown girls and said “You’re Indian aren’t you? (I’m Sri Lankan) This is a new girl Ketarki (close enough). She has no friends (cooool). Can you please play with her and show her around”. Turns out the girls were from year 7, One was from Dubai and just really tanned and it was also their first day but they were really lovely and we hung out for the first week till I made friends with my actual classmates.

A year later when it was time to leave for highschool and I’d cemented my relationships with peers in my own year group, I was informed that I had gotten into Dio and would therefore be attending Dio. All my friends were going to Eggs. I definitely cried. Can you blame me? Would you want to relive my first day?

I’m probably one of the few people that actually benefitted from Dio’s Buddy system. Mine was awesome. Lydia played the electric Bass (totally badass) and loved ‘The suite life of Zach and Cody’ (even more badass) and was the most welcoming person.

A few years into Dio I looked at my friend group and one thing definitely struck me. My year group was predominantly white. And of the 7 “brown” girls in our entire year, 4 of them sat with me. It wasn’t long before I was asked to join the Indian dance crew (still not Indian…) and the teacher in charge would speak Hindi to me, regardless of the fact she knew I was Sri Lankan. She told me I had to learn it.

I loved school but I think the lack of diversity has left me extremely confused. I started milking the fact people couldn’t tell the difference. I let People think I’m good at accounting, or believe that I’m a lot smarter than I actually am. My bus driver always greets me with a “Namaste”. One guy asked me if I was good at Kama Sutra. I just nod. They will never know. I know its really bad but I can’t help myself. Its too easy.

Then my friends and I thought we were the closest that Dio had to actual African Americans so we often refer to ourselves as each others “black-up” (definitely not African American enough to get away with that), Sometimes my best friends refer to me as “Maaa nigga” (seriously Shreenal stop, someone’s going to hit you one of these days). And its not just the “Black” issue that gets confusing.

Sri Lanka is part of Asia. I make Asian jokes ALL the time. People must think I’m really racist making Asian jokes but technically I’m FULL Asian. Geography bro.

Aside from LOVING curry I have almost no stereotypical “ethnic interests”. Guys I play the cello, genuinely enjoy Western classical music. Sometimes I listen to Jazz? What of it? I only like cricket if the English team is playing and that’s only because the talent is better and by that I meant they’re much much hotter than the Sri Lankan team. I feel like I’ve let down the team. I think its time for a visit back home. Maybe a cup of Dilmah. This is getting out of hand.

At 21 I’ve learnt to embrace all the races I’ve decided I belong to. They are yet to embrace me but that’s alright. I’d like to think that if I were to go back to that first day of social awkwardness that the Kapa Haka group wouldn’t tell me to go find the light or at least explain to me what they meant by that. Did they tell me to die? and follow the light to heaven? Because I was 12 and that’s a bit extreme guys.

This blog has achieved nothing.

xoxo

Racially confused.