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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Make-up Mix-up

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My dad and I went to do some shopping on Oxford Street this weekend, whilst I was browsing a rack of jackets I see my dad being approached by an old lady near the payment counter and ‘bit-and-pieces’ stand about 5 feet away from where I stood.

Old lady picks up a big blusher brush from the sales section, turn around and asks my Dad: “What is this used for?”
My Dad picks up one of the the big blusher brushes too, examines it very carefully and answers very truthfully: “You use it to clean your face.”
The old lady picks up two and takes it to the counter. I know I should have run across the store and stopped her but I just could not stop laughing.

My dad’s still non the wiser and the poor old lady is probably using it to scrub her face…

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…?