Who am I? Talina Naviede asks the biggest question of all.
- Credit: Natalie Thrasivoulou
It’s a huge question, and not so easily answered when your lifestyle and your heritage don’t easily mesh, so what to do? Start a podcast, of course
Talina Naviede grew up in Knutsford and Hale, attended Terra Nova School and then headed off to university, where she studied English Language. A very average Cheshire upbringing, by most people’s understanding, and as far as Talina was concerned, perfectly normal – apart from the occasional incident that set her apart.
‘I was the only South Asian girl at Terra Nova,’ she says. ‘There were very, very few non-white pupils, but I genuinely never noticed it, until one day a girl described my skin colour as “like poo”. I had never been ashamed to be different, but in that instant I felt very exposed. I made me, I think, embrace the western side of me even more. No child likes to stand out.’
Talina’s extended family all live in Hale, or close by. ‘It’s very brown,’ she laughs. ‘You know, if the brown families live in the same place they’re going to be next door to each other, or a few doors down. It’s quite nice – I live in London now, but when I go back, which is all the time, the hub of the family is in my auntie’s house, it’s like the centre of our family – even my grandparents and my auntie on my mum’s side, who are the English side, are very integrated – so may auntie’s home is like the centre of our family.’
Talina’s paternal grandparents passed away before she and many of her cousins were born, and she credits the family’s lessening of cultural traditions connected with their South Indian heritage with this loss.
‘I’m mixed heritage, half Indian and half English, my mother comes from Formby. On my Indian side I am third generation – my grandparents went from Delhi to Pakistan, as a result of the partition of India. From there they travelled overland to the UK. They literally drove all the way here, although it was always their intention to go back to South Asia, because it’s their home at the end of the day. Because we lost them when my parents were still quite young, I think that’s why we lost so much of our connection with our culture, our heritage.'
‘As a family our life is very westernised, and I think I am now trying to reconnect to the Indian side of me, because A – I look more brown than I do white, and I am happy about that because I like looking a bit more exotic, but B – because I think not having my Indian grandparents meant that the western side took over, and the fact that my dad and auntie and uncle are all second generation diluted our cultural and religious side of our life.
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It wasn’t something that Talina every really thought about until she left home, headed to London and began her career as a radio presenter.
‘Maybe it’s a subconscious identity crisis. “I am Indian – why am I not embracing this? Why am I not exploring this?” I might not be as religious, but the cultural side I love.’
Talina is creative director at Kip Hotel, Hackney, and has just completed the curation of a major mural on the wall of the building. As well as this, she presents for three different radio stations, and her re-connection with her Indian heritage, and what that looks like now in the UK, has led to her introducing her listeners to the music and culture she is finally discovering for herself.
‘For one of the radio stations I present for, Plus One, I do a South Asian music show, and this has led to me launching a podcast, South Asian Overground, where I not only reveal amazing music from South Asian artists (who at the moment are really under-represented) but meet and talk with artists who are in a similar position to me – they’re not wholly one thing or another, and are having internal and external conversations about what that means.’
Talina is keen to make clear that her podcast isn’t solely for South Asians, but for everybody who wants to discover new music, creative individuals and perhaps expand their understanding of other cultures in the UK.
‘A lot of my friends who are white, love it. They love the discovery of new music, but also tell me they love the culture and love to hear about it. That’s been a big thing for me – it's not just for South Asians, it’s for anybody from any culture who is interested in our culture and wants to learn more.’
It’s been a fascinating journey of discovery for Talina, too, not only in the music and the culture, but learning about how young South Asians manage their sense of belonging in a country where their skin colour makes them, if not a curiosity, at least a little different.
‘A big part of my podcast is asking “where are you from?”. I get asked this all the time, like all the time. My skin is not white, but I am not obviously Indian. People usually ask in the gym, where my skin is more exposed. They’ll say - “Oh I love your tan, I love your skintone – where are you from?” I don’t find that offensive, I really don’t mind – I will always explain I am half Indian and happy to answer people’s curiosity.
‘A lot of South Asian people do find it offensive, though. Riz Ahmed, a brilliant actor, has a rap about it – “people ask where are you from? I say Wembley, and they say no, where are you really from?”
'So there is this whole argument about how people feel about this. In my podcast, I want to find out how people feel about being South Asian. My cousins say they almost feel weird, saying they’re South Asian, as they are so western, they feel like imposters saying that. Then you have others who have grown up in a very South Asian environment, in the UK, and are still trying to figure it out.
‘A lot of South Asian families when they came here during or after the partition purposefully dismissed everything about their Indian culture to allow their children to integrate. A lot have kept every tradition, cook the food, maintain the culture as fully as possible – it means that almost every South Asian growing up in the UK now has a different experience to the next, which makes for really interesting discussions.
‘It’s fun too. I have talked about how we don’t know how to cook a curry, our cultural love of high drama (just look at the huge success of Bollywood), dating in the South Asian community (you try Zoom dating with someone’s mum...), arranged marriages (and how it’s never going to happen) and how very LOUD brown families are.
‘It’s still early days with the podcast, so I am still finding my feet, I am still learning, but so far it seems to be succeeding.’
Find Talina’s podcast, South Asian Overground, on Apple podcasts, or at talinanaviede.com