The Reality of Dreams

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When I was younger I had a dream that I would move out, live life, travel the world and be independent. How wrong I was.

It’s easy to watch a movie, read a book or even hear a friend talk about dilemmas and think/advise- why do you not just go for it, sure you’ll will disappoint someone but it’s your life and as long as you’re not hurting anyone why not live the way that makes you happy? But when the tables are turned it’s never that easy.

A South Asians families expectations of their daughter:

  1. Get consistent A*s in all subjects (Art and Physical Education excluded) preferably getting 100%. Even if you get 98% they will question where the remaining 2% went.
  2. Be a good and obedient daughter. That means no unnecessary hanging out with friends and definitely NO boys that are friend or otherwise. If you get caught with a male friend all hell will break loose, because it is assumed that you are dating every guy you are in contact with…
  3. Get into a top ranked uni to study an important subject like MEDICINE or LAW, no airy fairy subjects like Literature or Animation.
  4. Learn to be a South Asian master chef before getting married.
  5. Get hitched. Be a great daughter-in law and wife, a chef, a career woman until you have 3 kids and then be a stay at home mum.
  6. BE PERFECT. FULL STOP. Anything less then perfect automatically reflects badly on you, on your family, on your upbringing and so on and so forth!

Being a South Asian girl born and raised in London the things that I want and the culture that I come from are constantly conflicting. Wanting to spend time for yourself is not really an option. Going on a journey of self discovery to figure out who you are and what you want from life is absolutely absurd. There is the set list of how things should pan out and it ends with marriage!

Don’t get me wrong, there are many aspects of my culture I find amazing, but some of the fundamental ones that affect my life directly make be feel utterly caged. It is hard to break free of the shackles of family and cultural-expectation. Those who do live life as they want are often ostracised by family and the community (depending on the kind of family you come from). I assume it would be like living in Victorian Britain. To rebel against these expectations, if you’re family are not more liberal or supporting in the first place, will open you up to a barrage of constant criticism. Coming from a family who prefer to shun those who ‘transgress’ cultural norms and boundaries, it is extremely difficult to pursue my dreams. My culture stresses the importance of family. When making a life decision not taking your families hopes, wishes and thoughts into consideration above your own is considered an act utmost selfishness. People who live in similar situations to mine will understand the difficulty of breaking away and trying to live your own life before marriage, because lets face it for South Asians the position of wife is a full time job. There is no life real time to yourself, education, work and then marriage for girls. As soon as you have a stable job it is timed to get hitched! That is the order, a social and cultural obligation that I am expected to fulfill. And to want anything different to this is completely ridiculous!

I love my family and I know that they sincerely believe this is the best and respectable route to take in life.

Just like a bird in the cage, my family and culture keeps me from pursuing certain things and living a completely independent life. Should I wish to fly towards my dreams the door is always open, it’s just about altering my state of mind and fight for what I want. I deliberately took a year of before doing my masters, much to the dismay of my parents, and have decided to take a route into teaching which will take another two, maybe three years.  In the mean time my parents will be forced to stop their London-wide search for eligible Asian bachelors to set me up with. Ha!

*Taking control of my life*

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Breaking the Cultural Taboo

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‘What?! He’s not South Asian?! You’re parents are going to kill you!! How are you going to tell them?!’

My boyfriend is African/Middle Eastern. We have been together a little over three and a half years and we are still learning new things about each other because of the different backgrounds we come from. I’m not saying things are rosy twenty-four/seven, that would just be absurd. We have our ups-and-downs like any other couple in a long-term committed relationship. But ultimately our differences keep things interesting!

The best thing about being in a relationship with someone who is not from your own country is that things are always exciting and new. You continue to learn and view the world slightly differently as well as allowing someone else a glimpse into your world. Cultures, traditions, faiths, religions and beliefs all play a central role in shaping the person you are, the person you become, and the fundamental point in which these beliefs are either accepted or rejected  starts with family. Personally I have never felt comfortable dating guys from my own country nor any other South Asian country. It’s not because they’ve all crawled out from under a rock somewhere, there are a lot of very good looking and decent South Asian men. It is because all South-Asians feel like family to me, which makes it extremely hard for me to actually feel attracted to them.

For South Asian girls, such as myself, the idea of dating first of all is a no-no, secondly dating a guy outside of your own country is considered taboo and something that is kept hushed. For example, to stress the scale of the inability to accept such a union, if a South Asian girl wanted to marry a guy from another South Asian country (Bangladesh/India/Pakistan) there would be a huge fuss. Be prepared for a lot of shouting, tears, argument, threats, plates being broken, bags being packed depending on the type of family you come from. South Asian countries all have similar fundamental cultures and tradition regardless of whether you are Muslim, Hindu or Christian. Damn it, the women wear red and are adorned in gold on their big day, we take a lot from each others cultures, the language is more or less similar and we all love curry and naan! So why the big commotion? If South-Asians can scarcely accept inter-marriages with an individual form another South-Asian country imagine how they would react to someone who isn’t even from the continent! As I have reiterated in previous posts, not all families are like this but the majority are!

[Not] looking forward to breaking this bombshell to my parents when technically I shouldn’t even be dating let alone be involved in a committed relationship! That’s my parents arranged marriage plans out the window! Oh well!

Rape: The Injustice of Justice

Community Service for Rape?

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ -Martin Luther King Jr.

I have been contemplating whether to write on this topic as it is an extremely sensitive issue. However as this is a completely anonymous blog and has nothing but my first name, I am safe in the knowledge that I will not reveal anyone’s identity.

A friend of mine was raped at the beginning of this year. I never thought someone close to me would ever have to deal with a situation like that. It is something that I am still reeling from and I cannot begin to imagine what my friend is going through.

She had made the journey from work to the bus stop many times since she started her first retail job (in a quiet and isolated part of London) without any problems whatsoever. Unknown to her, she had been followed to the bus stop that night where the horrendous incident took place.

The case was taken to court where it was concluded that the cretin would serve community service for his crime because it was a first time offence. To say my friend was devastated is an understatement, the unfairness of it is utterly soul-destroying. The violation of another human-being does not even equate to the mere slap-on-the-wrist sentence that had been handed out. How can this be, that a young girl is left physically and psychologically damaged and the man who did this to her gets to literally take a walk in the park picking up empty crisp packets off the grass? It makes me blind with anger and white-hot rage!

That is the unfortunate truth about the British criminal justice system. The victim is made to feel like she has over-reacted and the infraction of her body is equivalent to that of someone stealing a packet of sweets from a News-agents. Does this lenient sentencing then not serve as an encouragement for worthless individuals to commit first time offences rather than to deter them?

Nearly a year on and after undergoing a termination she is facing ongoing health problems and the possibility of never being able to conceive again. Though she has the support of her friends she is too ashamed to tell her family as she does not want to hurt them, and coming from a South Asian background a girls worth is considered to be in her virtue. A happy, bubbly, promising individual that had previously been getting amazing grades at the beginning of her second year of uni only scraped by at the end.

Nevertheless, she is determined and focused on doing the best she can for herself in her final year. She is stronger than I could have ever imagined! This is something that will haunt her for the rest of her life and it is not something that can ever really be forgotten but she has decided to try live her life instead of letting it destroy her.

The Pursuit of Marriage

The Pursuit of Marriage

At this time in my life there is only one thing that’s on my mind, and that is marriage. Not because I want to get married but because my family believe that now I’m out of education and on the cusp of finding work it is time. As far as I am aware they have been checking out potential ‘husbands’ for the past two years, maybe even three, but they have not approached me directly yet. They think I am getting too old and they’re worried I will turn into a spinster because no one wants an old bride now do they?

I’m in my early 20’s. Hardly ready to take up a walking stick!

What makes it a high pressure situation is that the majority of (South Asian) girls my age are either already married (some have been for several years and some even have children) or have already started the lengthy process of allowing their parents to find them a husband. Of course there are some who will get married to their other-halves, but I am pretty sure their family will be able to pass that off as an ‘arranged’ marriage, so no-one but the immediate family will know of the pairs ‘scandalous’ history. South Asian girls are brought up with the mentally that they need to be good daughters, study hard, get a job and get married, in that order. I ask myself ‘there must be more to life then marriage, settling down and having children’? And there is. But when you’ve been brought up in that sort of environment it’s hard to break free, family ties and expectations are deep and sometimes suffocating.

I deliberately took a year off after finishing my Bachelors degree and before going on to enroll for my Masters to throw my parents off the search for a husband. My parents were annoyed to say the least. They could not understand why I would choose to work a year and pay for my Masters, when they were more than willing to pay for it themselves (my parents are scarily education orientated as are a lot South Asian parents!). The year I took out represented a year of me ‘wasting’ my life when I could have been closer to finding a spouse. I am currently taking another year out (I only finished uni last week) to gain payed experience working at a school so I can apply for my teachers qualification teaching secondary and college students! Muhaha! My evil plan is in progress! Time to take possession of my life and fulfill it the way I see fit me thinks.

I know for South Asian girls our families expect us to get married in our early twenties (for some late teens even) but the thought just makes me feel depressed. I know a lot of girls grow up understanding that this is what they must do and it is a duty they must fulfill. Don’t get me wrong, there are also lots of girls who want to get married early and start a family, and if that is what they sincerely want then that’s great! I am not against this system of marriage but only if the person really wants it. I just don’t believe marriage should be a duty. Do it because you want to and because it feels right, regardless of whether its arranged or with someone of your choosing.

Ps. I am nowhere near ready to get married yet! I want to live some life before settling down, is that so bad? Rhetorical question. ‘Living life’ is the job, the marriage and honouring my duties and commitments to my family. My family are lovely really however old fashioned and traditional they may be, they only want what they believe is best for me! A good husband with an amazing educational background, high-flying career and a loving, decent, hardworking family who will welcome me with open arms! Now that’s not so bad is it…?