Spirited Reflection: The outsider insider perspective- how a KBE changed me
I am a settler in Canada and having immigrated from India about a year ago, I felt a longing need not just to belong here, but also to be able to connect with the cultural and historical past of this land. With that perception, I signed up to participate in a KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE), held very recently at University of Toronto. I have heard and read about participants’ experiences, but little did I know that there would be a wave of emotions coming my way, to wash away my own stereotypes, notions, ideologies, burden of colonizers and pain of my forefathers that I myself carried.
There was a lump in my throat as I sat through the reflection circle after the KBE, trying to reminisce the last two hours I had spent walking around blankets, being killed or banished from my blanket, or having been asked to crumple it and occupy a very tiny portion of it. I was shown the last 450 years of Canada, which would have been impossible for me to empathize and learn from a google search or a social media post. Doing the KBE meant it was something more real, where you are literally defining what it may have felt to be in the shoes of an Indigenous person. And for that, I am grateful.
From the Outside in
Although I say I am a settler, and an outsider, I felt very much an insider at the same time throughout the KBE. As facilitators narrated the history, I was given the responsibility to read out scrolls and be a part of decolonizing effort, in unison with the other participants. The decolonization was a powerful element to help me relate to my own roots, coming from a country that was once colonized by the British with its own struggles. India and its land have been colonized, recolonized and decolonized over and over again for centuries, as historical evidence points to settlers such as Aryans and Mughals invading parts of the subcontinent over our past.
In India (as worldwide) impacts of these invasions and settlements are still felt today, where current generations struggle to preserve their culture, language and more importantly, their identities. I am a product of migration, and we all are. But what defines me is the opportunity and the capability to reconcile with the past and heal as part of a collective.
In this digital world, the much-needed real life experience with humans who are connected to one another, simply by standing on top of blankets is a breath of fresh air that KAIROS has provided me with.
As Digital Communications Coordinator at KAIROS, Deepa Venkatesan brings four years of reporting and newsroom experience from India, along with teaching and education experience, inspiring her commitment to human rights work. Currently Ms. Venkatesan is also a graduate student pursuing research on topics intersecting new media technology and anthropology at York and Ryerson Universities through a joint M.A. in Communication & Culture Studies.