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Shaana Diya Biography


My name is Shaana, which I have been told means “pride/ prestige” in Hindi and “beautiful” in Hebrew. My mother is a Gujarati from India raised in Kenya where my grandparents still live, my father is a Swiss Hungarian Jew raised in Zurich. Both were educated in England, which explains how two polar opposite worlds came together, fell in love and decided to create one world.

I was born in Kenya with pale skin, jet-black, poker straight hair and green eyes, but strangely enough looked Oriental. I was this genetically interesting concoction that looked neither Swiss nor Indian. My genes decided to continue changing and turned my green eyes brown and my straight hair wavy. I still didn’t look like I belonged. The Japanese children in Swiss pre-school spoke to me in Japanese, my babysitter spoke to me in French, my family spoke to me in English, my neighbors spoke to me in Swiss-German and the movies I watched spoke to me in Hindi. I was neither here nor there. Nevertheless, no matter what I looked like and no matter where I lived, I always felt my core was Indian. I used to sob to my mother and her siblings exclaiming that I didn’t want my last name to be Levy, I wanted it to be Nathwani like them! Despite my Swiss passport, when asked where I was from, I used to say, “I am half Indian/half Swiss.” I am too anal with being on time and too much of a perfectionist to be Indian; I am too passionate and emotional to be Swiss. I am a constant dichotomy, never feeling like a local yet being a resident, never feeling like a foreigner yet being an outsider, and always being a foreigner behaving like a local.

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