Another Outsider

However, Dorothy endured heartbreak at Aberystwyth as well as acclaim. Sheela Bonarjee still has the battered black exercise book in which her aunt collated her verse. Alongside one of the poems, Dorothy jotted down a note: “Written at the age of 22 when a Welsh student after 3 years of secret engagement dropped me because his parents said ‘She is very beautiful and intelligent but she is Indian.’”

(Source: BBC News)

I’ve never heard the story of Dorothy Bonarjee before. As I read the story, parts of it seemed so familiar to me, even though she was born in 1894, seventy-two years before I was.

I feel I know her struggle, being caught between two cultures and never truly feeling a sense of belonging anywhere. I’ve certainly been in the position where girlfriends have kept me secret because of my Indianness. Reading her note, above… the dispassionate detail alongside the words of her poem is so heartbreaking.

And yet, she found her own way and made her own place. Like all of us diasporans do, she made a space for herself where none was given.

We have to fashion new cultures, make new homes.

The old ones neither want nor fit us.