We went to see a musical, my best friend and I.
It was a musical about seeking light. Sitting in the dark next to her, this girl whose heart beats as full as mine, images of India came flooding back.
I had left Delhi two days earlier. Boarding that plane that would take me far, far away from India was the easiest thing I had ever done.
See, India broke my heart.
She knocked the wind right out of me. She took my beating heart in her hands and squeezed. It hurt. A pain I will never find full forming words for.
From the start, my intention was pure and my mission clear:
I was going to India to observe, to listen and to learn. I was going to India to experience her. An old land of history and culture. What I ended up experiencing was myself. In all my folds and crinkles. With all the light gone out of me.
I had the audacity to go with my candle. The moment I landed at the airport and stood at the immigration counter, my light was forcefully snuffed out.
“Where are you from” they demanded to know. That was the question that started it all and the question that I have tucked underneath every corner and every furrow of my body.
They wanted to send me back. They did. On account of my passport. My Zambian passport. I had become a spectacle even before I had opened my mouth. And it went downhill from there.
When we took to the streets, in the nooks and crannies of new and old Delhi, I was a walking, breathing anomaly. With my dark flesh and brown eyes. The stares I received were dehumanising. Constant accusations of why I wrought myself in this body. It was suffocating. It was overwhelming.
I found myself walking around with my head bowed as if in mourning. I was unsure of how to hold my body upright. Every ounce of confidence in me had been sucked dry.
But sitting in the dark of a theatre in Singapore, next to my best friend who holds my heart in her own breast, India close yet so far, I watched as the characters on stage danced the story of seeking light. They sough it from themselves and from each other.
It suddenly dawned on me that I had allowed the world to crowd in, to become so intimate with me. I had allowed myself to accept the ugliness it works so hard to reflect onto me: tales of dark flesh that was wrought in dark coalmines. Deep underground. Where light does not reach. Years and years of hearing this had stencilled it onto every fibre of my being. It had made me walk like a slave, my knees buckling the deeper I went into the core of the world. I had folds on my skin to prove it. Scars on my heart. Bundles of hurt hooked to my shoulders.
The world. The way it is structured. The way it moves. The way people view people who look like me. The perceptions. The stereotypes. They have tried hard to convince me and everyone else that I am part of the darkness.
But the truth is even more frightening for some, uncomfortable for others:
I am part of the light. I am part of the rainbow that forms because of the light. I am created to belong in the spectrum. It is not your choice or mine whether I stay or go. I was created.
I have work to do in this rainbow. My job is to be here. To exist. To disrupt your fantasises. To make you think. To make you uncomfortable.
My job is to be light.
It is the most silent yet most powerful thing in the world. When it arrives, there is no noise, no drum rolls, no fuss. But it holds the whole floor by its presence.
It penetrates the murk.
It chases away the darkness.
It forms molecules of beauty that match every part of its essence.
Light is life giving. It is nourishing.
And this is part of what I have been called to be. I knew this, yes, but I did not understand it. Understanding means I lift my chin off the ground and I let this light unfold all the folded parts of me. It means I tell you when we are not being properly human.
It means I say NO to the darkness the world wants to shove into sacred spaces of human beings.
To be part of the light, I must seek it. This I know for sure.