Football's Coming Home
This is my England.
My England is not the land of bucolic country roads and pastoral pubs. It's not the land of spotting Kate Moss while ordering flat whites in Highgate and it's not even a round of pints down The Winchester.
My England is Bollywood cassette tapes nestled against Paula Abdul tapes and always having chickpea flour in the cupboard and potato waffles in the freezer. It's endless cups of chai and watered-down Robinson's Barley Water.
And my England is always about cheering for the Three Lions.
I remember 1990. I don't remember my 7th birthday or the name of my second grade teacher, but I do remember Gazza's tears when he got that yellow card, Gary Lineker's goal and losing on penalties. Fucking penalties.
An Englishman's greatest foe...until last week when we beat Colombia on penalties and I spent the rest of the day thinking there had been a massive gas leak in my home and I was hallucinating.
I am English because my birth certificate says I am and I would probably say I didn't want the last chocolate digestive and then, silently get upset when someone else took it.
I am Indian because my DNA says I am and I'm pretty sure that if I go too long without spices, I turn into a husk of a woman (think non-racist Ann Coulter) and just die.
I'm American because goddamn it, I worked for 22 years to become one, my heroes are Bruce Springsteen and RFK and I firmly believe that a Wendy's Frosty is a condiment and not a dessert.
I visited Northern Ireland a few weeks ago. We wanted to see the filming location for Winterfell - Castle Ward, just a little south of Belfast. Driving around, I noticed a lot of English flags. Initially, I thought the display was for the Cup but then, I took a closer look and realized these flags were weather-beaten. They weren't displayed in support of the English National Team but rather, for the unionist movement in Northern Ireland.
English people of Indian descent have a storied history with that flag.
They are the flags of our colonizers and our oppressors. They represent the people who taxed our salt, stole our wealth, erased our history and starved our people.
They are the flags tattooed on the pink, fleshy arms of those who scream at us to, "Go back to where we came from."
So, in my case - that would be, what?
Yeah. OK. I'm sure my aunts would be happy to see me and I'm pretty sure the samosa lady up the road is still open for business.
But every four years - that flag represents both a little more and a little less.
Every World Cup that passes, the English flag represents another step closer to equality and an inclusive society. It represents demolishing the notion that to be English means being an Anglo-Saxon Protestant, regardless of what that fuckwit Nigel Farage and the wet pieces of driftwood at the UKIP/BNP believe.
(Sidebar: Hi idiots! There's more of us than there are of you. Being racist isn't a multivitamin that will keep you alive longer. You will die off soon and your great-great grandchildren will be brown!)
Being English means rocking the shit out of a turban and wearing your dreadlocks with pride. It means praying to the god of your faith be that Christ, Allah, Krishna or Eric Clapton. It means balti and bao, jollof and jam roly-polys and having tea on every occasion.
It means speaking multiple languages or just the one and communicating that the North Circular, much like the weather, is total shit.
It means understanding that when Pickford blocks one or Kane sinks one, we all win.
Because being English isn't about race or color or ancestry. It's about being in this together - one team, one country.
After all - as Fat Les sang - we all like vindaloo.
(Sidebar: I actually don't like vindaloo and would rather prefer a nice malai kofta or dum aloo, but that's really neither here nor there. They should have just called the song 'naan.' Everyone loves naan.
Oh my God. YOU GUYS.
"Dum Aloo! Dum Aloo! Naan naan naan naan naan naan dum aloo!"
Swear to God, I am the Bob fucking Dylan of our time)