Atlas II

Let’s journey back to where I was headed at the beginning of my last post… Now please don’t get me wrong, to this very day I hold no grudge or animosity toward my great-aunts, they are merely a product of their own generation and echo chambers. We are all on this boundless expedition of unlearning, relearning, and exposing our minds to the unfamiliar. You get the idea right? It is important we practice patience with those who are in the generations before us, they like us are a product of their environments.  

My moments of enlightenment emerged as I began my life in Aotearoa New Zealand, here is how and why we got to the land of the long white cloud: 

There is a common unspoken shared goal in Sri Lanka where you can only really make it if you emigrate out of the country, OR you power through the systemic blocks of a very messy political regime. Due to this unfortunate fantasy, I was always nurtured to only dream of the western world.

My mama knew of my obsession with the Atlas and everything to do with this incredible planet (mama would often buy me many the encyclopedia for me to bury my head in and in turn dish out fun facts about the world when nobody asked), so one evening she brought me a map and she said:

“if you could choose anywhere to live where would you go?”

I can never keep a long story short so I am going to tell you what exactly led me to my answer to her question. 

I grew up on Anchor milk and many a time I would find myself staring at the back of the boxes gleaming at the green pastures with healthy cows grazing away at their leisure. The way I daydreamt with dewy eyes at this damn box, I could have been a poster child for an Anchor ad. Thinking back on this now, I truly was living the proverb of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ (fun fact nobody asked for: did you know that this proverb can be traced back to 43 BC??!!). 

So surprising! My answer to my mother’s question was…New Zealand! My little chocolate finger b-lined straight down to Aotearoa just down the bottom and to the right. 

I didn’t think very much of this query as I was too busy trying to impress my grand aunty Joan who was visiting at the time (she is my Nana’s oldest sister so we call her – big Nana). During my poor attempt of curating a facade of a more polished westernized version of myself, I found myself eavesdropping on my aunties chit-chatting away in my nana’s room over a steamy cuppa of Ceylon’s finest 😏. I subtly placed myself inside the inner circle and then big nana piped up saying “oh when you move to New Zealand you will have a far better education and life” (these words might not be completely accurate but it was definitely along those lines). At this moment I instantly pieced together the puzzle of why my mother asked me that question over my atlas earlier that evening.  

I wasn’t as privileged and powerful in my immediate family affairs as you might think, it turns out the reason mama has asked me that question was due to my father being offered a handful of opportunities around the world. He was blessed and well-deservedly given verbal offers to positions in Bermuda, Canada, Hong Kong, and New Zealand. At this point in time, my father had been working hard to provide for us in Saudi Arabia, so any opportunity for all of us to be together as a family was a blessing. Without this knowledge, I guess maybe I did have somewhat of a say in the fate of my family, based on my own reverie of greener grass in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

This is my little brother and on one of our trips visiting dad in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

And that was the long story, extra-long, of how we decided to shift our entire lives and leave all we knew to move here for a ‘better and more prosperous future’.

Atlas

From a very young age, I seemed to have a fascination with the Atlas. I had this giant map of the world that draped over a wall in the guest room of the very first house we (my family and I) lived in when we first immigrated to New Zealand. I never took an interest in video games or outdoor sports in my tweens, so my idea of mental distraction was lying on the bed that sat below the large plastic map, dreaming of fantastical adventures, guided by my big toe. While my younger brother kept to the stereotype of partaking in the ‘gentlemens’ game of cricket, I was trekking through the amazon in my eat, pray, love fantasy. 

I presume I was enchanted by anything related to an Atlas due to the regular visits from my great uncles and aunties from far-away western worlds while I was still living in Sri Lanka. They would come over bearing gifts of chocolate and their second-hand clothes, there was a certain smell that wafted from their freshly opened suitcases that I could never put my finger on until my family would visit from New Zealand and open our very own luggage to distribute treats. 

Something that I noticed now that I reflect back on from times my relatives would visit from abroad, was that in their eyes they would feel a little sorry for us that we never got to leave (Just for context I was born in Sri Lanka and I lived 12 years of my life on that island until moving to New Zealand in 2008). I would often eavesdrop on my grand aunts advising my Nana and mother on how to raise me, they would watch attentively my every habit in my day-to-day routine and then comment and feedback to my mother. They would discuss this while sitting cross-legged watching gleefully as presents are handed out from their luggage. 

I recall listening in on a conversation where my Nana’s oldest sister was advising my mum to stop sending me to a speech and drama institute on the weekends, or it would turn me into a ‘sissy’. I felt diminished, not for myself but for the position I had put my mother in. I used to have such a ball at these classes and grew very close to a teacher who I referred to as ‘Aunty Ann’, I think she knew I was a stark contrast to all the other boys who went to the Catholic Boys only school I was attending. As soon as mama dropped me off at the front gates of glass, it felt like I was running through a portal of sorts, running toward my little utopia where I hung up my made-up cloak of heterosexuality and slip into my queer stilettos.  

Me at probably age 10 playing a girl in a school play. I absolutely LOVED this day, for the first time in a long time I was able to express myself all in one go. You best believe I went HARD.

My mother never let those comments of ignorance seep into her mind, she was and still is one of the most resilient women in my life. She still continued to support me in my classes and never missed a beat when it came to local speech and drama competitions or examinations. She fed into all my strengths and catered to my weaknesses, she was the shield that protected me from the harsh critiques of the other parents, mama took all the hits for me. 

I seemed to have trailed off my initial goal for this blog post but hey, I unpacked something that I had thought I stuffed deep in my mind.

I am very new to this whole blog thing but it has been somewhat therapeutic to just let it all out into the universe. If you’re reading this and can relate on any level to this memoir, I strongly suggest you write out your own clogged memories you find hard to come to terms with. You don’t have to share it, do it for you

Kia ora, Ayubowan, Hello.

I am uncertain where to begin this blog journey but I have finally decided to sit my fine ass down to get something out on ‘paper’. The thought of creating this little platform of storytelling has been on my wee queer mind over these turbulent years of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

These moments of mandatory social deprivation have stripped away my security blanket of avoiding what has truly been brewing in me for most of my life. Whilst I was slightly delighted at the fact that I can have a little holiday, the doom and gloom of this pandemic soon simmered down into the belly of my thoughts – stirring up some familiar anxiety. A type of anxiety I only read in books and saw depicted on mental health awareness campaigns. 

I swear for years I thought that my coming of age was my undergraduate years at University, my coming out of the closet during these years was your textbook coming of age story. And then came March 2020, what I always thought I was destined to do and who I thought I was born to be was completely shredded in front of me. It was a very long and tiresome realization and coming of age, in which I realized we are all not restricted to A moment of transformation, but as humans, we are capable of shedding new skin at each and every turn of our lives.

My intention for this blog is to share my layers, my stories, and my lived experiences. This storybook will have absolutely no chronological order, but I am sure you will clock a theme or two from what I write. I identify as a queer south Asian bi-racial man, who also calls Aotearoa New Zealand his home as an immigrant in this plentiful country. These accounts and shared thoughts of mine will be me sharing rather raw and real parts of me, some of which not even my closest friends know. 

Through this journey I would like to hold just one selfish ambition, to heal myself of trauma that I have retained deep in me. Trauma that I am not even aware of yet, I am hoping that sharing memoirs will be my own therapy so that I can be a better version of myself toward those closest and those who I am yet to meet. 

This is my pursuit of a butterfly effect, here, the blog is dedicated to the voice I wish I had growing up, to all you special people seeking comfort in a common story. 

Nana and Papa holding yours truly, oh if I only knew what was ahead