I got a very unexpected Valentine’s Day present today: the results of my DNA test!!!
Two months ago i ordered a DNA test from 23andMe, spat into the test-tube, packed it back and sent it. Then i registered my personal bar-code online and waited. And waited. It was an expensive purchase, and i was nervous something would go wrong along the way. It took weeks simply for my spit to travel halfway across the world and get to the testing lab. I was not meant to get my results before the middle of March, but my inbox told me otherwise this morning. ‘Your results have arrived’ it said, and still-not-fully-awake, i clicked on the link:
So…i found out i am 49% South Asian: not too surprising- my mother was from South India, and probably the first in her family-tree to break with tradition and have a child not just out her caste, but with a complete outcast: my Franco-Italian father.
Genetically speaking on my mother’s side, i imagine that like many South-Indian Brahmin families, her ancestors had hundreds of years of practice of NOT marrying outside their community!
I laughed with surprise and amusement when i saw that my father’s Franco-Italian roots also include German & British/Irish ancestry.
This, from the man who likes to poke fun at everything British and complain about Germany and les teutons.
Perhaps it is not such a strange thing that i was born in Hamburg, and that my father spent 10 years of his life there. His first marriage was with a German woman- something he likes to complain about too.
I think of my 17 year old half-sister (on my father’s side) and the adolescent animosity she nurses for everything teutonic (starting with her German language teacher). I can’t wait to tell her that she is ein bisschen Deutsch !
I also found out i have Spanish (Iberic), Middle Eastern and North African ancestry. Which i think is linked to my Italian heritage, what with the Mediterranean having such a history of inter-mixing, even if loud politicians everywhere like to pretend national identities are fixed, immutable things.
This Middle-Eastern strand could come from my Indian side too. Perhaps somewhere along the family tree a Tamil Brahmin great great great great grand-aunt was so charmed by a Persian poet, that on a moonless night she sneaked out and met him under a mango tree, and they feasted on the ripe scented fruit and each other…
For my part i prefer the idea of my partly Middle-Eastern and Arab ‘white’ Frenchy father, who was born and raised in Paris, and swears like Jean Gabin, eats his steak rare and religiously has his wine and cheese every evening.
It turns out i have a tiny tiny smidgen of Melanasian ancestry which includes the indigenous populations of Australia and the surrounding areas. I assume it has to do with my South Indian heritage, and ancestral migrations from Central & East Africa to Southern India and Melanasia.
It makes me think of the central and eastern-African students living in Bangalore and other Indian metropoles, and the far-too-frequent racism and aggression they encounter in their host country. It makes me think of the quickly-forgotten ones that ended up murdered. Perhaps, among the angry mobs, there were some who shared DNA with the young person from Tanzania or Congo they were so intent on killing…
This DNA test also gives you a fairly detailed health report, listing traits you inherit and medical conditions you might pass on.
For instance, i am genetically lactose-intolerant, which had my parents known this all along, i might have been spared many health-complications i find myself in today.
It also says i have a genetic disposition to be HIGHLY sensitive to the ‘sound of people chewing and eating’. True! I thought i was just being hormonal every time i have wanted to strangle my boyfriend eating his muesli for breakfast, blissfully unaware of the homicidal thoughts on the other end of the table. As it turns out, i was simply fulfilling my DNA destiny.
And, my body type is made for ‘sprinting’: i am a genetic Usain Bolt apparently. Hmmm.
It turns out i have 337 relatives (close(ish) & distant) among the people who have also used this DNA-testing provider and registered on their website.
They live in the US, India, all over central and southern Europe and the UK, some in Australia and South America. One in Sweden and one in Norway.
What would the champions of race & identity discover about themselves if they took this test, i wonder? Would it change their worldview? Would the Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders of this world embrace their new-found multiculturalism?
If this became a routine test for everyone (and hopefully subsidised and FREE), would racism still be possible?
If everyone were to spit in a test-tube and get their results this very minute, on this ‘global day of love’ (which some politicians seem so eager to ban), and we could see how in all the conflicted and war-torn corners of the Earth, people are busy actively hating & hurting their own relatives (however distant), would it change anything?
Probably not. After all, the Mahabharata epic, which my Indian grandmother read to me as a child, tells the story of cousins fighting each other, again and again and for a long time.
History and epic literature is packed with cousins and relatives making life miserable for another.
Still, it makes me daydream.
Of a world where arms manufacturers discover themselves a passion for bird-watching and Tai chi, and instead of a global economy based on exploiting resources and force-feeding people consumer goods that damage the planet and our health, humanity will once and for all wake up to its divine, compassionate essence and shift its attention towards healing our crying Earth and our collective trauma(s).
So…if you want to invest in a unique gift for yourself or your family: