😡

It breaks my heart and ruins me to see one of the most talented and wonderful people in my life, one of the girls I would give my life for and I know she would do the same; upset and distraught. And there is so little I can do to make the situation better. 

The world is a cruel fucking place. And people have lost all sense of respect and dignity. 

I can’t. 

Xx Simran 

POST FIVE

“Where were you born?”

“Oh, I was born here in Sydney”

“But you don’t look Australian?”

“Yes, um my parents are originally from India.”

“So you’re Indian?”

“No. I’m Australian”

“But then where are you from?”

“From Sydney. I was born here and I’ve lived here all my life.”

“No, where are you really from?”

How am I meant to respond to “where are you really from”?

I had this conversation last week with an elderly lady while on a train to the city. And while I’m sure she meant no harm with her questions, I couldn’t stop the self doubt and that little stab of pain and shame from blooming onto my cheeks, albeit hidden by the olive tone of my skin, because I did not know how to answer her.

And I think it was a blessing that my stop arrived and I could politely excuse myself and leave the situation, and pretend it never happened.

The elderly lady I was conversing with may not have had any intention of being racist or narrow minded, but every question about my identity was another reminder that no matter how hard I try to portray myself as an Australian, I will never be accepted as one.

As much as I know I have patience and tolerance to deal with obtuse questions, there is a limit. Having a different culture to the “norm” – if something like the norm even exists in a multicultural, secular nation like Australia – is something that’s extremely difficult to accept. When you’re constantly asked shallow questions like if you’re part of the caste system, if you’re vegetarian because of religion and whether you’d like a piece of beef (really classy attempts at humour here), you begin to distance yourself from the thing that provides the fuel for aggression.

People may mean no harm when they ask questions like this, but micro-aggression has been a source of the externalised and internalised racism I’ve been subjected to. And it’s a source of the psychological and emotional struggles many bicultural Australians like myself are going through. Micro-aggression or passive-aggressive racism is still rampant in our multicultural society. I noticed that I worked so much harder to perfect this “true Australian” image of myself. I spent hours trying to cultivate the perfect image to please society. I spent so much of my childhood trying to create two versions of myself. I tried to separate my cultural dichotomy into two different beings so I could try and erase the shame that was inflicted by the classic passive-aggressive rhetoric of our society: “But where are you really from?”

And that has gotten me nowhere.

And it saddens me to say that I know I’m not the only one. I’m not the only child of a migrant family, who hosts a bicultural identity she should be proud of, but spent so lon trying to sever ties to one in order to be accepted in another.

It saddens me to think that I’ve had to take these measures because in 2016, living in a secular multicultural nation means nothing when you don’t have fair skin, light hair and light coloured eyes.

It’s a bit distressing when there is so much emphasis on one’s place of origin as a discerning factor of how valuable, worthy and prominent they are in society. It’s distressing when race and where someone is from is a key political issue and the backdrop to many racist and bigoted campaigns.

Micro-aggression has reached a point where I’ve armed myself with the long explanation that my parents are from India but my sister and I were born abroad, and I was born here as an answer to “Where are you from?”

But I do look to the future with hope. Because I know that we don’t have time to focus on the pettiness of such trivial matters like where someone is from. One day, maybe I won’t need to arm myself with the defensive rhetoric I use right now. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to say that I’m Indian-Australian. And maybe one day, I’ll be proud of that little element of my bicultural identity.

xx Simran

 

 

 

WE AREN’T FLOWERS

Isn’t it time older generations let go of the things that have been imbibed in the Indian culture, to see how the youth has adapted to being split between two cultures that are so different?

 

POST FOUR:

I know this is coming after such a long time, but life has been a slight tornado and I’m finally finding the time to get back into writing.

I am as Australian as I am Indian. 

I am eighteen years old. I have brown skin (to keep it easy), black hair and dark brown eyes. And in these eighteen years, I’ve been buried under a mountain of expectations, judgements, critiques and frankly unnecessary commentary on how I should live my life.

This post serves to tell anyone who’s listening that I am not a flower. I am not a delicate little thing that needs guidance and constant watering from people who believe in imbibing ways of thinking because it’s the “right way”.

From youth, there has been this struggle for the two cultures that create me to work harmoniously. For the most part, it’s been pretty breezy. I’ve been able to stay true to my Australian nationality and my Indian heritage. And I’ve always loved knowing I can come back to one culture and just embrace it for a day or week or whatever whenever I want. But what has continuously stressed me out as a child, a teenager and now an adult, is this presence of “right and wrong” that seems to always be around.

It’s very common for people of the same or similar culture, or from the same country to form friendships. This is apparent with many of my parents’ friends. We’re part of these circles of Indian families, who will get together and have dinner parties, have whattsapp groups where they talk everyday, and are constantly clutching onto their roots and heritage even through they’re all Australian by nationality and citizenship.

If you’ve read/watched The Namesake, you’ll have a great visual of what my childhood was like. Every weekend, we would be at someone’s place having dinner. The mums would be around the kitchen, talking about the latest movies and sari trends (and obviously, boys and the culture of the youth). The dads would be getting serious in the living room with bottles of beer or glasses of wine or whiskey in hand. The share market was a classic favourite topic of discussion. And the cricket.

And the kids? Well if you were with a circle of friends that you liked and were your age, you would be playing games, watching movies and having a riot. If you were the youngest in a crowd of older children like I sometimes was depending on the circle of friends, you would be counting down the minutes until you could leave.

These dinner parties and events were always fun when I was with the group of kids I liked. It was great to see your friends who didn’t go to the same school or who weren’t maybe in the same grade as you on a weekly basis. And looking back on it, it was because as a child, I never thought about the amount of subtle controlling members of the Indian community used to impart on us.

Growing up in Sydney meant coming home from school, downing a glass of milo that was 2/3 milo and 1/3 milk, and then running back out to meet the gang at the local park. It was a ritual. We would play for hours after school, running around, riding our bikes and having a blast in general. And I think the moment I started resenting that childish innocence was when another Indian mother passed a comment at my mum, saying how dark I’d become.

“You shouldn’t let Simran in the sun so much. Once she becomes dark, it will never disappear”.

To tell a young girl with a lot of energy that she shouldn’t go outside was unheard of. I continued to play outside much to the chagrin of some members of the community who were wholly invested in my life, and my mum dutifully applied “besan and dhai” body packs to ensure I stayed fair.

Looking back on this, I’m so grateful my mum never stopped me. Because I do know girls who were asked to stay inside and they listened.

What a travesty.

So that was my childhood. Grandmas, aunties and overly concerned family friends indicating that I was too dark, and to remedy it, apply all these packs to my skin. Yes, my skin was fantastic, but that was also because I was breathing fresh air on a daily basis, running around and being a child.

I think the most resent comes from my experiences as a teenager. Firstly, there’s the physical appearance – the body hair.

I think one of the reasons I remove all removable forms of body hair is because it was engrained in my mind that it isn’t a normal or attractive thing to have. And frankly, I resent having that thought in the back of my mind. Yes, I would remove the hair for myself, but knowing that I’ve taken comments to heart about my eyebrows needing to be done really annoys me.

But that’s pretty minor.

As a teenager, there was always this small voice following Indian girls my age saying we were too brash. Too crude. Not ladylike enough. Not demure or submissive or quiet.

We were told to not befriend girls who were deemed wild and out of control. Girls who went to parties and knew many boys were red flags. There was always this circle of gossip, where all the girls were constantly talked about.

“why are you hanging out with that girl? Did you know who she was going around with last week huh?”

I once “got caught” hanging out with a guy friend and honestly, some acted like it was the end of the world. My parents had no issues because they knew the boy. They didn’t care. So I was left confused as to why the oppressive force of the indian community did.

It is so taboo for indian girls to date. To flirt and not be in a committed relationship. Friends with benefits is virtually unheard of because it’s so shunned. Casual sex is a sin in our community. And while I personally don’t want to/won’t engage in a casual lifestyle, there is nothing wrong with it. But there’s a generation of thinkers who haven’t left the seventeenth century and think it is a sin.

We were instructed not to play sport with boys because the length of our shorts weren’t acceptable. Our clothing had to be loose modest and demure. I remember getting these judging looks from a group of mothers when I turned up to a beach event in shorts and a tee. Because that isn’t what I’m meant to wear apparently.

“What will people say if they see you dressed like that huh?”

And obviously that started the whole, “Simran sit in the shade, you’ll get even darker than you already are” bullshit.

We were told not to engage in activities that weren’t ladylike. I was condemned for liking and playing sports like touch footy and rugby. My friends were condemned for listening to rap music.

And now, as an eighteen year old, I’m no stranger to mothers asking each other whether we’re in relationships and who’s next to get married. Because yes our goals in life are to get married, leave our careers and bear children for our husbands. Cook and clean and slave after kids and husbands and have no lives whatsoever.

But let me make something very clear. In this group of “wild youth” you see, you’ll find business students, engineers, medical students, law students, designers and architects. Artists, dancers, musicians, photographers. Girls who can cook damn well. Girls with a keen eye for fashion and makeup. Girls who love sport, cars and going out. Girls who are proud to be themselves regardless of what you might have to say.

You’ll find a confident group of young women who love themselves, love their heritage and love the freedom that comes with being Australian. We aren’t these delicate, touch-me-not things that need constant protection. We were raised to not take any shit from anyone. We were raised to be strong. To argue and defend ourselves. To be bold. To be absolute bosses in the boardroom. To dress to impress for ourselves.

I might have an indian heritage, that that doesn’t mean that the backwards bullshit that comes with oppressing my desire and right to express myself comes with me.

You might think that my love for shoes, photography and celebrities is a waste of time. That I should’ve been studying medicine instead of business and economics. That I’m too ambitious, loud and brash. That my shorts are too short.

Let me tell you that I really don’t care. I am a proud, loud brown girl who isn’t going to be held back by these cultural stereotypes. I don’t want your guidance and your beliefs infringing on my experiences growing up. I am free to wear what I like, what makes me comfortable and what I feel confident in. I will not hesitate to shut down people who start shit with me. I love my sport, I love my inexcusable taste in music and I love the fact that my parents are so open with me wanting to find a partner for myself. My friends are some of the most wonderful people and I would go to the ends of the universe for them.

I love my heritage. I will never let go of my heritage. I will always love and respect who I am, who my parents are, what my lineage is and how significant being an Indian is to so many people.

But, I’m not a flower. And I sure as hell don’t need your constant watering.

xx Simran

 

 

 

 

on love

This is for my parents. Time and time again, it strikes me that I am so lucky, so privileged and so blessed to have two loving and wonderful parents. And these thoughts aren’t just occurring to me.

I cannot even begin to eloquently express how thankful I am that I was blessed with two parents who are open minded, forward thinking and have done so much for me.

I think I’ve come to realise that I take you both for granted sometimes. I think I’ve come to realise that I don’t share my gratitude and love and pride for you as much as I should. Because I couldn’t be more thankful for parents who have never turned me away. Who have openly accepted every piece of news I’ve told them. Who have comforted, guided and motivated me to become the best person I can.

My parents are two of the most hardworking people I know. They aren’t just qualified professionals in their fields. They’re nurturers, protectors and guardians. My mum comes home from an 8 – 5 job to talk to my sister and I. To counsel, comfort, guide and help us if we need it. She cooks for us, teaches us to cook and teaches us to look after ourselves. She puts everyone before herself. She will always ask if I need help with research or note taking or revision for my exams. Even if she’s ill, we come first. Mum will go the ends of the Earth to ensure my sister and I are safe and happy. She will do anything for her parents and her family. She is the one who engrained the love for cooking in me. She is the one who nurtured my love for English and history. She is the one who taught me to dance and sing.

And I can’t even begin to describe how dedicated and wonderful my dad is. He works the equivalent of 4 people’s jobs as a man in finance. He’s worked hard all his life and has never given up in the face of challenge. Even when he’s had a day of board meetings and a crazy workload, he will come home with a smile on his face, joke with us and make sure he spends at least 2 hours just talking and ensuring we’re all ok. Even if he’s come home at 11pm the previous day, he will never fail to rise early, get me up and take me driving so I can improve myself and get my provisional license. He spent so many hours on flights, in hotel rooms and during his free time making sure my economics was top notch, and even now, will never hesitate to skype and call me so we can discuss accounting principles that I might be confused with. He is the one who taught me to swim, ride my bike, fall in love with the All Blacks and gain an appreciation for cars.

I’m not the easiest child. There are personal matters and tears and a lot of anxiety and self-doubt that accompany who I am. But there’s also the pride, perseverance and dedication to making myself the best version of who I am. And I know that my proudest moments are always going to be a reflection of the both of you. Every single step to success will be made in your honour because there is no one in the world who will continually lift me up, wipe my tears and give me the motivation and drive to fight for what I want and what I deserve.

Mum, I want to thank you for being the most open, forward thinking and beautiful lady I know. Thank you for providing me with a safe space to open up about the issues in my life, no matter how trivial. Thank you for always listening to me when I come to you with boy drama. Thank you for never judging me. Thank you for holding me and wiping my tears when the boy I thought I loved broke my heart. Thank you for building me back up when I wanted to leave high school after the bullying became too much. Thank you for listening to me when I ramble about my passions and inspirations. Thank you for always showing me the bigger picture and instilling in me that every challenge I face makes me a more empowered and intelligent young woman.

I take your openness for granted sometimes. To know that I can always talk to you about relationships and boys and life is the biggest blessing. Because I know so many people who don’t share that luxury. I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am that you always allowed me to open myself to you, speak my mind and seek counsel without the fear of being judged or told off.

Thank you for making me the strong young woman you’re proud of. Thank you for always making sure that I know I’m validated and that I don’t need the opinions of a man to feel beautiful and wanted. Thank you for teaching me to stand up to those who bullied me and broke me. And thank you for never ceasing to make me laugh by pulling out the age old book of Hindi insults to make me feel even the tiniest bit better when I’m feeling like crap.

Dad, I don’t know where to begin. Thank you for never letting go of your inner child, no matter the title next your name in a company. Thank you for your patience and your dedication so I can become an all rounded, successful and intelligent young woman. Thank you for every time you taught me maths and read to me so my mental calculation and vocabulary would increase. Thank you for indulging in my sweet tooth and sharing my love for chocolate. Thank you for being so open with me and allowing me to explore my tastes and never saying no to me trying different types of alcohol.

Thank you for all the car rides where we jam to Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift. Thank you for teaching me to be a mean speed machine on my bike and now with the Audi. Thank you for always encouraging me to play as much sport as possible, and for always being there to hold my hand at the physio when I suffer yet another sports injury.

Thank you for everything you’ve provided me with. Thank you for never saying no to my wants and desires. Thank you for the travel experiences I am so blessed to have. Thank you for always standing your ground when I asked to go to things that weren’t important or necessary. Thank you for imparting wisdom and knowledge. Thank you for telling me that the boy I cried over was a “donkey’s pile of shit” because he didn’t know he just lost the single best thing in his life. Thank you for validating me and ensuring I don’t go through the same hardship you did when you were working your way up the career ladder.

Mum and dad, thank you for supporting my journey of self expression and discovery even when it doesn’t seem like the most logical thing to do. Thank you for letting me develop myself creatively and aesthetically. Thank you for providing me with the choice to do what I want. Thank you for instilling trust, virtue and dedication in me.

Thank you for showing me how to be a lady and a boss at the same time. To be feminine and classy and sophisticated but not submissive.

Thank you for showing me what heroes look like.

Thank you for showing me what love and dedication to a person, a family and the community looks like.

My accomplishments, my successes and my joy are as much mine as they are yours. I still don’t have the eloquence to express my gratitude and limitless love for both of you. Thank you for being the anchors in my life. The above 1000 words doesn’t even being to express how much I cherish my parents, but it’s a start.

xx Simran