Last weekend I went to the Global Peace and Unity Conference in London. The GPU is one of those things that I’ve heard of and have known about but I’ve never been. I’ve never even thought of going. We don’t do that, in our family. You know, go to conferences, or lectures, or events. But my uncle goes almost every single year and a few months ago (on the day I moved down to Brum, actually) he rang and reminded Mum that she had expressed in an interest in it a while back and did we want to go?
Well yes, we did want to go but couldn’t really swing it at the moment. But somehow, using his excellent and at times scary skills of persuasion, my uncle persuaded us. It would be an investment in our future. And to be honest, I was really looking forward to it. Global peace and unity is one of those things I shout at the TV screen about. I think the only way to end the bombings and the fighting is for people to have a greater understanding of other religions and cultures. For people to discuss their problems. For there to be a mass global movement that opposes war and thinks that talking is the way forward. I’ve become very opinionated in the last few years (it drives my mum crazy!) and it seemed like this was right up my street (if people even say that anymore).
So on Friday night Mum and brother came down to Brum and stayed the night. Thankfully we’ve become a family of ear plug users so the huge house party next door didn’t affect them (thank goodness – honestly, if one bad thing had happened in Brum to do with the house Mum would have worried about it for the rest of the year). Then on Saturday we started the drive to London, stopping off at Watford Gap services to meet up with my uncle and his family.
I was really excited. This was going to be great. Not only was it a weekend where I could see my family (for the first time since term started) but it was a weekend of peace and unity and Islam and hotels and it was LONDON BABY (this has to be said in an American accent like Joey does in Friends).
But the first day wasn’t great. There was one hall full of stalls and a conference room. We stayed in the stall room where we proceeded to lose everyone almost immediately. And it was busy. Couldn’t-see-the-stalls-properly busy. And my brother kept moaning. And my grandma was ill back at home. And for some inexplicable reason I had a bit of a breakdown that my brother and cousin saw that involved me sitting on the floor crying.
Don’t ask me why. I honestly don’t know.
We didn’t manage to make it to the conference room till that evening. We just spent all day walking around, trying to get freebies, trying not to lose people, (trying not to cry) and eating really good cookies and cream ice-cream (which I would pay for on Sunday!). But eventually we got to the conference room and that’s when it all became extremely overwhelming.
To understand you have to understand my family. I’ve grown up in a very White, lower class, ex-mining town. I was the only Asian at my primary school till about year 4. The BNP are loved where I’m from (although not enough thank goodness; they were still 4th in the last election). My friends growing up were white. High school was better. It had a huge catchment area so I grew up surrounded my people of different beliefs and different religions. If I could do that again I would – it’s what fuels my people-understanding-different-religions rant from earlier. I love that I know loads of different people from loads of different backgrounds. I love how I know little tidbits of information about different religions and different countries. I especially love how I have at least one friend from each of the major world religions and some less major ones.
I’ve never felt particularly deprived due to the fact we didn’t have a strong Islamic/Asian community. The only other Asians we saw were family, or family friends or at weddings. But I never felt like we weren’t seeing enough of them. That was my life. I thought I had the balance pretty well sorted.
Then we were sitting in the hall surrounded by Muslims from all over the world and there was a nasheed artist on stage (Zain Bhikha) and everyone was cheering. Apparently he’s famous. I’ve never heard of him before. My mum, brother and I kept looking at each other quizzically. That kept happening. More cheers, screaming girls and quizzical looks. Then Sound of Reason came on. Apparently also very famous. And they were great! I loved them. I want their CD. But through it all I was just laughing because it was so overwhelming and I felt so cut off from this world that’s meant to be my world.
Does that make sense? Does anyone else feel that?
Sunday was better but still not enough talks or peace and unity and still too many stalls.
The same thing happens when I’m with ISOC. They’ll talk about these people, about things they’ve seen on Peace TV or the Islam channel and I just sit there and smile and feel ignorant of the world. I bet Friday’s the same – I’m going to the Stranger’s tour at the uni. At least I’ve heard of Baba Ali.
It was odd. But it’s like I don’t belong in this world, this English world because I’m Asian. But apparently I don’t fit into the Asian world either. Like I said, I thought I had the balance just right. Turns out I was wrong.