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12 Nov 2020

Humans of Kent: Roshan Sankabattulla, Recruitment Analyst, Dubai

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We're more than just a label

Since joining Kent in August 2019, I can mostly be found working away in Recruitment while I listen to some music. I am a 22-year-old Indian, born in Saudi Arabia, and moved to Dubai with my family about 13 years ago.

As with many immigrant families, I struggled with trying to figure out my identity and the labels I could associate myself with.

I studied Arabic at school for 7 years, yet I cannot speak a sentence. I never learnt how to read nor write my native language of Telugu, so my conversational level sounds hilarious in India. It’s a very common struggle for us NRIs (Non-Resident Indians, Indians living abroad).

A famous quote passed around amongst kids of immigrant families, perfectly summarizes this widespread dilemma;

“So, here you are. Too Foreign for home. Too Foreign for here. Never Enough for both.” – Ijeoma Umebinyou.

There is significant appeal of associating yourself with labels. Whether that be nationality, religious views, sexual orientation, gender, interests, personality characteristics, the list goes on. Those couple of words make it easier for others to understand you but in the limits of their own perception. However, many times these labels are not flexible, and very rigid.

I am sure you’re aware of the discrimination people face when they associate themselves with certain labels. Naturally, I would try to associate myself with more desirable, popular and safer labels. I would hesitate to call myself Indian, because of the discrimination that Indians face and I would hesitate to call myself an introvert, because I didn’t want to be associated with being a loner.

One day, I was introduced to Japanese cartoons called Anime. I was so infatuated with it that I decided to learn the Japanese language myself. I wasn’t spending that time to learn Arabic or Telugu. Instead, I decided to learn a language whose practicality in my environment was completely irrational – simply because I liked it.

I immersed myself in a culture that was different from my own and from that point forward, I started looking at things in a different light. It did not matter to me if things abided by the rules of labels. I continued to learn and do things that I just simply took an interest in.

My interests became widespread and varied, from world history and commercial aviation, to Korean pop and interior design. If you asked me how I developed these interests in the first place, I’m sorry, there is no deep story behind it. I just like it!

With that, I started becoming a little more comfortable with my identity and self-expression. I love the intersectionality of my own labels, and I don’t let it confine me by its rigidness. For me, that’s what life and happiness boils down to – continuing to freely pursue and develop new interests, with nothing holding me back. Looking back at Ijeoma’s quote, I agree. I am not and will not be enough for both, and that’s completely fine.

Hence, I find it difficult to answer questions on the likes of ‘what words would best describe you?’. I have an essay. A couple of words and sentences can never define me. I am so much more than that, and you are too, so much more than that.

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