TONES

We aren’t known by our skin. We aren’t recognised by our achievements. We aren’t celebrated for our successes. We’re known as the fair skinned beauties or the darked skinned disappointments.

After perhaps one of the most exhilarating and eye opening experiences of my life, I returned from Europe on a high. Tanned, high on French brioche buns and the centuries of history I was able to walk through. And the very first thing that broke my bubble was the offhand comment “Simran, you’ve gotten so dark. Didn’t you take care of yourself in Europe?”

Why.

The superficiality of the comment was so off-putting. Out of everything that could have been said, a pass at my temporary tan from being in the European sun all day was the thing that sprung to mind.

We’re told to chase after these dreams of fairness. To be fair because fair is beautiful. We’re slathered in creams and face-packs and body packs to reduce tanning from the day we’re born. Who is going to marry us if we’re dark? Who’s going to want us if we’re dark? Will we be desirable if we’re dark?

In retaliation to this bullshit, I’m going to impart my own secret to enjoying skin that’s golden and warm and bronzed. A skin tone that my Chinese and Caucasian friends tell me they can only dream of attaining after countless tanning creams and spray tans. A colour that’s natural to me, and only to me.

This secret is an answer to who’s going to marry me. The man who will marry me isn’t going to look at the colour of my skin, and judge that my warm gold-caramel isn’t fair enough for him. He’s going to look at me and see someone who he wants to spend the rest of his life with, colour be damned. He’s going to see the young woman for whom he fell for in the first place.

After all, I’m not a paint selection for a wall. I’m a human.

 No on chooses to like or dislike me based on what colour my skin is and whether I’m too dark or too fair.

I love my skin tone. I love that my skin is warm and golden. After years of coming to terms with the fact that my time in the sun playing sport and running around being a healthy child should impact very little on my self-confidence, I’ve come to love how gold compliments my skin tone, and how deep blues bring out the warmth of my skin. I’ve come to love how royal deep reds and magentas and vibrant oranges look against my skin when I wear traditional Indian clothes.

My skin tone isn’t a determinant of wealth, class or status. Being fair does not make one superior, and being dark doesn’t make one inferior. This backward way of thinking has plagued Indian society for generations. It’s heartbreaking to think that marriages are torn apart because the bride is too dark. It’s horrific to see capable young men curl into themselves and hide behind layers of sunscreen and anti-tanning packs because being dark is a crime, but showing insecurities and weaknesses is frowned upon.

My secret is that I had and continue to have a wonderful support system, where my parents don’t really give a damn about what society thinks about beauty. They never stopped me from going and enjoying myself. Yes, taking a hat and cover up, maybe an umbrella was always advised. But not for fear of my getting “darker”, but to protect me against the harshness of the Australian sun given I’m allergic to sunscreen. The first thought that should actually come to all Indian parents’ minds instead of “let me give my daughter all this sun protection so she doesn’t get dark and she can get married when she’s 21”.

It is so institutionalised in global culture, that women should feel guilty for how they look. Whether it’s the plethora of fairness and anti-tanning creams flooding the domestic Indian market, or the countless anti-aging, nose slimming, face compressing products we see everywhere; we can’t catch a break.

Our skin isn’t good enough. Our colours aren’t right enough.

But who are you to judge?

Maybe you were forced to stay inside so you wouldn’t be dark. Yes, that is horrible. But that in no way should give you the right to limit my freedom, impede my happiness and step on my dreams.

What really boosted my confidence and love for my skin tone was my love for photography. Playing around with photos in different light settings showed me just how versatile my skin tone is, and how accommodating it is to the different lights, shadows and environments I take photos in. Yes, I am camera shy. I prefer being behind the lens. I love taking photos of my friends, family and loved ones. But even through that experience, I could understand how well my skin captures light, tone and depth.

In today’s society, driven by social media campaigns, ideals of beauty and perfection, and the continuous challenge to find perfection, which really doesn’t exist; we’ve become addicted to attaining a standard of beauty that’s impossible.

I’m never going to be fairer then I already am. It’s impossible unless I subject my skin to the stress and harm of bleach and chemicals.

I love my skin. I love that applying rose water and sugar to my skin twice a week gives it a healthy and fresh glow. I love how deep vibrant colours intertwine themselves with the golden hues of my skin. I love that I am naturally tanned and bronzed and don’t need to subject my bank account to the horrors of tanning products.

Isn’t it time we stopped institutionalising the bullshit about the desirability of fairness? Shouldn’t we look beyond the colour of skin and admire how capable, talented and unique we are? As Indians, we should feel ashamed of our actions. The racism we face from outsiders on a daily basis is frowned upon. Yet the internal hatred against those who are dark or dusky reigns supreme.

Instead of classing us by the colour of our skin, why don’t you appreciate who we are based on our achievements and our strive for success?

xx Simran

The equality agenda

We stand for equality, here in Australia.

I think that’s a joke.

For the past two weeks, the following things have headlined Australian media stations nationally: Donald Trump and his frankly disastrous grip on America and its politics, terrorism, Princess Diana (yes we’re part of the Commonwealth, but what did she do for Australia?) and lastly, the fact that marriage equality is going round in circles between old white men in parliament.

It’s no wonder I’ve stopped exercising to music, and instead decided to listen to the news while I do my half hour of cardio. There’s nothing quite like Malcolm Turnbull’s annoyingly slow discourse to get me invigorated enough to smash out a stellar workout session.

We stand for equality. But do we really? My question to parliament and those in opposition of legalising same sex marriage is simple. What’s going to happen if tomorrow, two men can get married under the same legal jurisdiction that I can? What’s going to fundamentally change if two women can be wed and celebrated in the same way that my husband and I will one day also enjoy? Why is there a problem with two people wanting to celebrate their undying love for each other, and in the process, legalising it?

Australia, constitutionally, is a secular nation. That means there is no state church recognised. However, Australian citizens are given the choice to exercise their beliefs or not. Religious lobby groups are able to push for their point of view on issues that impact greater society, but so too are humanitarian groups, athiest lobbygroups and rational organisations.

If we so strongly claim to be a secular nation where the religious rights and freedoms our people have cannot impose on the human rights and freedoms of our people, why hasn’t marriage equality been legalised?

At the heart of this cacophony is the horrifying fact that Australia is sending out this message to its people and the global community: Australians value equality and justice for all, but it’s ok to exclude any individual who does not identify as heterosexual from one of the oldest social traditions – marriage, as their relationships are immediately seen as inferior.

If it were up to the public, Australia would be a place where anyone could legally marry, regardless of sexual orientation.

To think that as a nation, we praise ourselves for our views on equality and acceptance for all, but my friends who aren’t straight today will not be able to share their love in a legal union like I will disturbs me on many levels. If people are really concerned with Adam and Steve getting married legally, let me point out that under human rights la, all individuals are seen as equals and are entitled to the protection of the law.

To keep it short and sweet, a room full of old white men should not be allowed to decide whether or not those who have a different partner preference to the norm should be allowed to get married. Politicians shouldn’t be the ones choosing who can and can’t get married. Perhaps the most fatal flaw however, is the fact that the Australian constitution has not solidified the notion that all individuals are equal under the eyes of the law, and should be treated so.

Maybe that’s why we’re still going to keep waiting.

Thoughts?

xx

Simran

London diaries (extended) 

Majestic. Vibrant. Imperial. 
In every sense, London can be summed up in those three words. You enter London through one of the most chaotic but also grand scale international airports. It’s an overload of British accents ranging from Cockney to Manchester and a funny combination of Brirish as I coined it (British and Irish). It’s a working mess of double decker buses and black cabs with their partitions weaving in and out. 

London is any big city lover’s dream. Noise. Rush. Excitement everywhere. For me, stepping out on the streets of London was like stepping out in Sydney. I was at home immediately. Granted, pedestrians are intense and road crossings don’t make that familiar buzz to let you know it’s safe to cross. But that being said, even in my jetlagged state, I was at home in a city so far from home. 

London has mastered marbling the old and new. The historic and contemporary. Chanel, Dior, Sephora and H&M take residence in architectural masterpieces. Walking the streets is like being immersed in multiple periods of history at once. 

I started my whirlwind romance with London at perhaps a fitting place. From the hotel situated in the heart of Mayfair, my family and I ventured towards Westminster, to look at the sights of London that make the city so exciting. We weaved our way between the graves of Newtown and the kings and queens of England to have our breath taken away by Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. 

To this day, I still can’t comprehend how such architectural marvels were made all those centuries ago. When our buildings today barely stand the test of time, structures like Westminster abbey were built when health and safety didn’t exist, wars and plagues were rampant, and there was nothing holding onto the builders constructing high up into the sky. 

I think having come from 27 hours of airports and aeroplanes, for us to have conquered Westminster and Tower hill, we did pretty well for our first day in London. After that, I’m not quite sure what went down, but all I remember is sleeping until 4:30am the next day. 

On our second day in London, we were firstly treated to a wonderful brekkie buffet, which was greatly appreciated by all. We then decided to conquer the London tube and test out our touristic navigational skills to get to south Kensington. Our whole day was spent amongst various periods of history, weaving in and out of continents and countries by admiring their art, textiles and jewellery in the V&A museum. We then decided to change things up, take trips down memory lane to the fun side of science classes from school and immerse ourselved in the wonders of the natural world at the Natural History Museum. 

For me, there’s nothing thaf can hold me back from taking a photo with a t-Rex, standing in a seismic room and walking amongst the weird and wonderful that inhabited and currently inhabit earth alongside us. It was a sensory overload, and I haven’t had so much fun in a museum in a very long time. 

Day three in London was spent in oxford. A short coach ride landed us in the heart of oxford. We spent the day walking the streets of this beautiful university town. We walked the same streets that many of our traditional and contenporary artists, politicians and law makers have made. After ascending a tiny, twisted staircase to the top of a university chapel, we were greeted by some of the most amazing panoramic views of the colleges and surrounding suburbia of oxford. The whole experience in oxford was mind blowing. From the history to the architecture, the appeal of this gorgeous university town has stuck with me. 

Finally (and regrettably) our last day in London arrived. After a leisurely breakfast, we decided to walk around Mayfair, Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square, take in the sights and have a relaxing morning before our afternoon departure to Paris. I tried champagne mangoes (which were absolutely divine), enjoyed the most beautiful gluten free pistachio cake with a cappuccino made so well it rivalled the coffee I drink in Sydney, and got to interact with local shop keepers and wander through the mazelike connection of alleyways.

 I think it quite a perfect way to end my whirlwind romance. Our four days in London gave us a taste of what this marvellous city had to offer. And I can’t wait to come back so I can maybe drive out and explore the counties as well. I can’t wait to return to London. I hope I can come back soon because London really has stolen my heart. 

xx Simran 

LONDON DIARIES

Firstly, excuse how vacant I’ve been since June started and finished. In the midst of finals, a wedding and packing for Europe, publishing took a little step aside. But I have been continuously writing. 

– 

I’m posting from a vantage point in Paris as I wait for the Bastille Day fireworks. I thought it would be a great time to look back at the beauty of London and how little justice I did to the city. A whole Europe post will come when I’m back home, but here are my photo diaries: 


Walking the streets of this stunning city made me fall so in love with it. I can’t wait to return. 

Xx Simran 

defined

POST EIGHT

Have you wondered what it’s like to coexist in two places at once? To be physically, mentally and emotionally present in not one, but two realistic and very real environments? For many, it’s a daily occurrence.

I’m not referring to some out of body, science fiction-esque experience. I’m referring to being bicultural. For me, that’s existing in the Australian reality and the Indian reality simultaneously. And let me preface this post by saying it isn’t all fun and games. It isn’t always exciting and breathtaking. Behind the joy of this experience lies a plethora of hurt, dysphoria and questions.

It has taken such a long time for me to come to terms with my biculturalism. To love my Australian self as much as I love my Indian self. And I think that’s because I’ve finally come to terms that I’m an Australian that’s a person of colour. I have black hair, olive skin and eyes that are so dark, but change from amber to mahogany to hazelnut depending on the sun. Obviously, the physical disparity I share with the typical Australian wasn’t a new development for me. I knew I was different from the very beginning. What I’ve developed and come to accept is that, no matter how “Australian” my upbringing has been, there’s always going to be a part of me that’s inherently Indian. Inherently different in values, attitudes and labels. And that’s what makes me special. That’s what makes my story so much better.

Being bicultural means facing crossroads at almost every decision you have to make. Do I wear shorts so it’s more comfortable to run around or do I protect my modesty? Do I eat a paratha for lunch or a Nutella sandwich? Do I give up my loud voice because I’m not being demure enough, or do I continue my love for debating against the wishes of society? Do I join in a discussion with the men or do I stay silent? Do I go to the co-ed school dances or stay home and finish my work? Do I run around in the sun and be a kid or stay in the shade because I’ll get dark? Do I go out with the guy who asked me out, or refuse politely out of fear of someone seeing us together?

For nineteen years, questions just like that have popped into my mind, time and time again. And it’s boiled down to whether I want to make my own identity, or frame myself to a series of values, ideals and images constructed by a collective mindset.

One thing I have grown to deeply resent is when people assume and make judgements about whether I’m being Indian or Australian. When I present an opinion that would go against the demure, quiet and submissive portrayal of Indian girls, I’m typecast as being more Australian. In reality, I’m not thinking as “an Australian” or as “an Indian”. I’m thinking as Simran Goyal, a nineteen year old with a viewpoint and a pretty damn loud voice.

If anyone remembers the scene in A Walk To Remember, where Shane West takes Mandy Moore to the spot where she’s in two places at once, that’s often where I’ve found myself. Unable to decide which side of the line I should be on, when in reality, I can have my feet planted firmly on either side.

My actions don’t have to be defined by either of the two cultures that make me who I am. I’m not Australian because I love playing sport, am openly opinionated and do my own thing. Nor am I Indian because I choose to cook and help out in the kitchen, and sometimes submit to the wishes of elders even if I don’t think they’re right. What I’m doing there is choosing what I inherently believe is right, and which will make me a stronger, independent, more confident and assertive young woman.

I will always say yes to parties and the mention of having a good time, but I’ll never submit to sex before marriage. Not because I’m demure, but because it’s personal choice. I will always advocate for strong and assertive female voices, but I’ll also be a good daughter for my parents. I’ll flirt and have fun, but I know how to hold my own and only make decisions that I’m wholly comfortable with. I’m brown, loud and proud. I do things that I know I’ll benefit from, not because I know they’ll please someone.

I want to make something clear. My decisions aren’t based off me choosing one side of my identity over the other. I don’t make decisions as an Australian or as an Indian. I make decisions as a strong, independent young woman who is doing the right thing for herself. There has been so much dysphoria and inner turmoil that has come with accepting this fact about myself. But today, I’m so proud to call myself bicultural. To know that I’m wholeheartedly and unashamedly a part of two beautiful cultures. Two beautiful environments that have given me the opportunity to define myself without labels.

I am as Australian as I am Indian. There might be times where I’ll feel more of one part of my cultural makeup than the other, but that doesn’t mean one culture is wrong or inferior to the other.

xx Simran

Life must be a funny thing if a nineteen year old has stopped wishing for happiness. 

Food for thought? Maybe. 

Xx Simran 

BRANDED

POST SEVEN

As much as we hate to admit it, we live in a world of stereotype. There’s no need for me to even open my mouth, for someone to throw me into a pool of stereotypes. Stereotypes have played a crucial part in both taking me away from my biculturalism, and me owning my differences and “otherness”.

 

I’ve been branded as a brown skinned girl who couldn’t possibly have been born in Australia. I’ve been branded as a girl whose parents had to work odd ended jobs to make ends meet, and of course, my dad was the proud owner of a 7-11. I’ve been branded as a twisted joke because I’m a vegetarian who was forced into this lifestyle by her religion. I’ve been branded as an unclean freak because my skin is “shit coloured” and I eat with my hands.

 

All these assumptions, these stereotypes, are untrue.

 

I am the Australian born daughter of Indian immigrants. But that shouldn’t brand me as anything.

 

Growing up, there was always this seemingly childish innocence that accompanied questions like: Why do you eat with your hands? That’s gross. Adults would brush it off as curiousity, of course. But to be in a position where you’re challenged about the things you’ve grown up with, isn’t a walk in the park.

 

There were always giggles and snickers accompanying questions about why we wear colourful stickers on our foreheads. Why our clothing is so embellished and embroidered. Why our food stank so much. Why we were all curry-munching, sheltered kids who had sergeants for parents.

 

I detested these stereotypes. I still do.

 

I remember asking my mum to stop giving me indian food. To not put coconut oil in my hair. She never stopped me from anything. My parents are liberal. They always have been. They trust me and know I won’t make stupid decisions.

 

It hurt so much growing up, knowing that I couldn’t truly express and value myself. I was crowned Display A when we looked at India during our social sciences classes. It was with some sort of perverse satisfaction that people would ask questions that they knew would be disrespectful to any other culture.

 

Part of growing up with two cultures has been growing a thick skin to the bullshit, as horrible as that sounds. I have trained myself to be immune to the snide remarks about my brownness. In fact, today, I own my brownness as a traditional Indian-Australian would.

 

I want to remind the world that bindis aren’t a fashion statement endorsed by the likes of Kendall Jenner and Vanessa Hudgens. You are not allowed to shit on my culture and then flip when an overhyped socialite wears them to a music festival, claiming how ethnic and boho you are.

 

The deities you giggled at and imitated out of sheer disrespect aren’t signs of your awareness when they are emblazoned on shirts from every known international clothing company.

 

You mocked my use of coconut oil in 2006, yet here we are in 2017, when you come up to me and rave about how good it is. Calling me a stinky curry muncher for my use of coconut oil will never go away, just because you make the discovery 11 years too late about the benefits of oil for the skin.

 

It’s been a tough journey, but I own my brownness.

 

I’ve come to realise that my culture and heritage will always be used incorrectly. That’s an unsettling thought. But I need to accept, move forward, and remind everyone that culture needs to be respected and valued. Not made into a celebrity endorsed commodity.

 

To end this post, I want to disregard all of the stereotypes I was typecast as.

 

I was born here in Sydney. I’ve lived here all my life. I have the most wonderful parents, who did sacrifice a lot, but who have established themselves as prime members of our society. They worked hard and worked their way to where they are today, instilling in me the same values, motivation and drive. I am a vegetarian out of choice. I’m intolerant to meat and eggs so I don’t consume either. It isn’t a forced decision because of religion. Religion has nothing to do with any of my decisions. I love my tanned skin. I love how olive and warm my skin it. How it’s so healthy and luckily immune to lines and the onset of wrinkles at an early age. I love my food. I love the simplicity and the complexity of Indian food. How comforting it is. And you know what makes it even more comforting and delicious? The fact that I can break a piece of roti with my fingers, wrap it around a piece of tamarind pumpkin and really use all of my senses when I consume my food. It makes the experience so much better.

xx Simran

 

 

 

the comfort edition:

Truth be told, this was made up on the spot. It tasted pretty damn good, but then again, because it wasn’t made with the creation of a recipe in mind, measurements won’t be exact.

 

 
It’s nearly Winter here in Sydney. It gets dark at 5. The sun only rises at 7. And there’s nothing I want more than comfort. On nights like this, most gravitate to the the online food ordering services that are in abundance. I gravitated towards two fridges, the pantry and spice cabinet.

 
Tonight, I drew on inspiration from one of my all time favourite dishes – the Moroccan Tagine, and created my own variation of it. I wouldn’t call my creation a vegetarian take on tagine, simply because I chose not to let my broth absorb completely. I wanted a distinction between liquid and vegetable, while still maintaining that rich, earthy flavour.

 
I served my dish with lemon and tumeric infused rice, a generous helping of fresh mint from the garden, fresh coriander, and lemon.

 

 

This dish was made with the thought of a busy working woman who still likes to eat healthy in mind. I’ve covered the essential foodgroups I eat as a vegetarian, and the best part is, that extras can be stored for other meals or to take to work/uni the next day.

 
As with the dishes I create, I like to invent on the spot. I’ve written with as much detail as I used when I was preparing my meal. The result was a tangy “tagine” whose vegetables were tender but held the chilli, subtle aroma of bay leaves, and the oomph of onion and garlic. The broth was light but flavourful. The tomato, onion and garlic came together to create a tempest in my mouth. They juxtaposed the sweet fleshiness of the raisins, that had almost disintegrated. The broth was tangy and held dimension. Paired with the vegetables and fresh herbs, it was a delight in my mouth.

 
Alongside the rice, the meal was light on the palette but still comforting and fulfilling.
This is an ideal sunday night meal, as extras will go a long way for Mondays at work. One pot meals have always been one of my favourites to make. I know that my meals for the next day are sorted. I can eat this dish with rice, cous cous, roti or bread. I’m gaining all my foodgroups and I’m eating the rainbow.

 
This dish can also be served with fresh Greek yoghurt, toasted walnuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. For a vegan alternative, soak the raisins in coconut milk. Coconut always works with root vegetables and will provide an additional layer of flavour in your broth.

 
The vegetables are also interchangeable. I made this dish with whatever was in the fridges. That I think is the best part. I didn’t need to do anything extra, and for a busy lifestyle, this option is perfect.

 

 

 



The “tagine” – for recipe’s sake

The base:

  • Two large truss tomatoes, finely diced
  • Two large red onions, finely diced
  • two cloves of garlic75 grams Iranian raisins, soaked in half a cup of buttermilk, 1 teaspoon of red chilli flakes and grated ginger. This should soak for approximately half an hour before you begin cooking.
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1.5 teaspoons of red chilli flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or a stock cube

The substance:

  • Half a large cauliflower, chopped into bite sized florets
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into bite sized cubes (about half an inch)
  • 2 large carrots, cut into bite sized cubes (about half an inch)
  • 1 can of chickpeas (I like to rinse and soak mine for half an hour in warm water, just to remove any excess brine and salt)
  • a decent handful of snow peas, cut into thin pieces (I honestly did not measure how many snow peas I used. If you don’t have snow peas, use any other bean)

The rice:

  • 1 cup of basmati rice, rinsed and pre-soaked
  • the skin of half a lemon
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • half a teaspoon of tumeric

Making the “tagine”

  1. Soak your raisins in buttermilk, the chilli flakes and ginger and set aside
  2. Cut your vegetables and steam the cauliflower, carrots and sweet potato. This helps not only cook the vegetables thoroughly, but makes them more tender and open to absorbing the flavours of the broth.
  3. In a deepset steel pot, heat half a teaspoon of olive oil, and once the oil is hot, add your spices, except the bay leaves. Stir in the garlic, diced tomato and onion, and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, continuously stirring.
  4. Add in your yoghurt soaked raisins and bay leaves. Cover and leave for 10 minutes on a low heat.
  5. Add in your steamed vegetables, beans and chickpeas.
  6. Add 750ml of water and your stock. Cover and let cook for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Once the cauliflower has almost disintegrated and the carrots and potatoes are tender but juicy, the “tagine is ready”.
  8. Top with freshly chopped coriander and mint, generously squeeze lemon on top, and serve.

The rice:

  1. In a large pot or rice cooker, add your rice, the amount of water you require depending on the vessel you’re using to boil your rice, lemon juice, lemon skins and tumeric.
  2. Once the rice is cooked, remove the skins and run under cold water for 10 seconds to ensure the rice is fluffy, light and the grains are separate.


xx Simran 

Once upon a story of teenage love 

The heart is a funny thing. It opens us up to new emotions. To foreign experiences, and to situations we never think we’d have to deal with. My heart has taught me a lot. It’s taught me about my values. My attitudes. My character. Being guided by the heart has served to teach some of the greatest personal lessons.

I was 15 when I fell in love for the first time. I sound like such a grandma, but nearly 4 years from that commemorative and daunting self confession, I’ve come a long way, and a lot has changed.

I fell in love with a boy. We’d been friends for a while. And he was the first guy I became close to, who wasn’t family or someone who was akin to an older brother I never had. It was every bit as special and as unique as I thought it would be. Some describe falling for someone like fireworks being set off. For me, it was like the warmth of a blanket had settled over me, and the pleasant comfort of a steaming cup of coffee was slowly mellowing me from within. It was slow and soft and comforting.

At 15, I was painfully naive. And also wore rose tinted glasses. It was with almost childlike innocence that I realised I liked him more than as a friend. But of course, out of fear of screwing up the precious friendship we had fostered, I kept my longing quiet and played the role of the dutiful friend.

We became closer. Talked more and more. He was one of the few guys who knew me for who I truly was: a little shy and self conscious, wildly passionate, fiercely loyal and driven as hell. He saw various sides to me as well. From the confident outspoken young woman, to the young teenager who sometimes needed a little protection from the world around her.

He made me happy. Seeing messages from him when I’d wake up first thing in the morning never ceased to cause a zoo’s stampede in my stomach – as cliché as it is. It’s like he knew what to say to keep me wanting more. We’d talk. We’d flirt. We’d laugh. We’d have serious conversations as well. It was mystical and magical and at 16, I was falling fast and didn’t know how to stop my feelings.

At 17, I experienced my first heartbreak. It had taken me two years to quell my anxiety about screwing up one of the best things in my life. I decided that as a confident, independent young 17 year old, I didn’t need to wait for a man to ask me out. I could do it myself. Months of flirting, cute messages and enough phone confiscations during my classes at school had proven that my feelings weren’t one sided.

But as all dramatic moments do, I received my heart, shattered into fragments, on the day of one of the most important exams in my short 17 years. I cried at a public train station and passed it off as allergies when my concerned friends found me pathetically sniffling and wiping away traces of tears. And slowly it turned to anger. I screwed up my exam and returned home in a fit of rage. Because how dare he.

Consolation from my best friends quelled the storm of emotions, and I vowed to draw back from him. In my hurt and anger and confusion, I did spiral into an endless chain of: why am I not good enough, why did he flirt and play coy if he didn’t want me, and I’m nobody’s bitch.

At 17 years and 4 months, with a heart that was confused, I tried to navigate through what I was feeling and find solace in knowing he didn’t want me, and that was ok because I’m nobody’s second serving.

The flirting continued, the messages to cover for him from his parents kept coming, and foolishly, I decided to listen to my heart and try keep the friendship alive by being there for him.

And looking back on that, I was such an idiot for doing so.

At 17 and a half, I lost contact with the guy I first fell in love with.

At 18, I tried to rekindle the friendship.

At 18 and 7 months, I completely cleared him from my life. Social media, phone, text. Photos, songs, screenshots, memories.

All thrown away. All buried in the realisation that there was no point in holding onto something toxic.

Now, 4 days out from turning 19, I’ve found peace with myself. I’ve come full circle to realise how much emotional stress I put myself through for someone who didn’t even deserve a single hi from me.

Is it sad to see the way in which a first love dissolved? Of course. Do i regret anything? To an extent I do. But I learnt so much about myself in that chaotic teenage journey. The tears and frustration and long conversations with my best friends taught me so much. I look back on that period in my life in contemplation now. It’s a source of amusement with my friends who knew. We look back on how fickle it all was. How innocent. But how educational it was as well. This journey serves as the perfect entertainment for those days when reflection on how you’ve changed is so important.

First loves always stay with you. But for me, he’s in the metaphorical attic gathering dust. A faint recollection of how much I’ve grown as an individual. How much I’ve come to play into the belief that I am a strong independent and confident young woman, who really doesn’t need a man. 4 days out from 19, and I’ve got my life working out for me. I’m at a place where I don’t need anyone else. I’m busy and committed to vying for success and happiness from every possible angle. I do want a relationship and a future with someone, but I’m no one’s second choice. I’m no one’s backup plan. And I sure as hell am no one’s bitch. 

xx Simran

 

S K I N

P O S T  S I X:

“Your skin looks unclean. You’re so unclean Simran”

Those words will forever be burnt in my mind. They are the product of losing my childish innocence to the hands of a girl I thought was my friend.

She may have been playing around, but the comparison of my skin colour to that of waste, faeces and mud became so common. It was the typical angle that bullies would come at when they taunted me. I thought little of it, because I did have a great circle of friends. I played it off as bullying that occurs because children are children, and it’s no different to teasing someone who has a mark on their skin, or who is overweight.

I came to realise, years later, that it was the systemic teachings by parents, siblings and society that bred these horrendous thoughts, and made children of colour, like myself, disassociate from their heritage.

Comments stick with us, whether we like it or not. In the backs of our minds, we always have a little tape of our biggest insecurities. For the longest period of time, mine was my skin. Girls struggled with their weight, the size of their boobs, how pert their asses were. I struggled with how brown my skin is.

I spent a lot of my childhood constructing a shield around myself, to mask out negativity and convince myself that it was ok. That the comments were alright. They were little steps in making myself more Australian.

I think I almost started believing that if I was outspoken, loud, active and involved, my skin would automatically lighten. If I could convince myself and society that I was “Australian”, my skin would change and I would no longer stand out.

Obviously, it didn’t.

At the age of 10, I think I was akin to a chameleon. Masking my true colours from those who didn’t want to see it. I actively sought to weed out the indian from my life. I asked my mum to stop making me parathas for lunch, and instead give me sandwiches, or let me buy the only vegetarian option from our school canteen. I tried to give up my mother tongue – an action that I still, to this day, regret ever venturing upon. I prided myself on how non-Indian I thought I was becoming.

I played sport out in the sun. I wore shorts and singlets and played with boys. I was outspoken and loud, unapologetic and enthusiastic.

I’m still all of those things today. I’ve just had a change in attitude and mindset.

When I was 12, and I started high school, I quickly realised I was again in the minority in my grade. I was one of six Indians in a group of 150 girls. However, I remember, very clearly, being told by one of the first girls I befriended, that my skin colour was so nice and tan, and that I was lucky I was naturally bronzed and olive.

In that moment, I think I was thrust into a very different pair of glasses, because it was one of the first nice things I had heard about my skin colour from someone who wasn’t family.

I found myself in an environment where cultural diversity was celebrated. My friends and peers were genuinely interested in my culture, identity and heritage. there was great pride with knowing you did come from “somewhere else”. But I was so far away from my heritage. I was so removed from what I used to love as a child, that I didn’t know how to come back. I didn’t watch Indian movies, my Hindi had become so limited, and I stopped dancing as much because I took on different sports and activities.

I was lost between wanting to accept my skin and who I truly am, and not being able to.

In a learning environment where cultural difference was prided upon, I felt like I was losing grip on mine. By trying to mark my identity as a simple, linear path, I had lost the understanding that our identities, our bicultural identities are so complex, diverse and multi-faceted, that there is no one equation to creating our identities.

So then what brought me back?

I think it was self acceptance and the creation of a safe environment where difference was a matter of pride. I was surrounded by students who wore their differing heritages as badges of honour. It was a matter of pride to be able to fluidly move between two cultures when they felt like it. To be able to effectively communicate not only in English, but in their mother tongues as well. To relish traditional, home-cooked food. To be able to dance and sing their cultural songs.

I started immersing myself in the bits of Indian culture I knew I would always enjoy. Weddings, dance, fashion and food. I gained more interest in understanding why my mum would add certain spices to our food when she was cooking. I learnt how to cook by watching mum and just listening to the stories she would tell me about the dishes she was preparing, and how she used to enjoy them as a child herself.

I asked my parents to take both my sister and I to different parts of India every time we visited, so I could immerse myself in the different elements that make up the whole of the subcontinent. We travelled to the west, to the south. We lived like locals. Hiked to holy grounds and I learnt about my heritage. I learnt about the rich history that I come from. And I was mindblown.

I started respecting my mother tongue.

And all around me, there was an air of acceptance, that difference was and is ok. When you’re different, you’re interesting.

For so long, I had struggled with the notion of difference. I wasn’t Indian enough to be a true Indian owing to my lack of submissiveness, my inability to be a proper young lady and my terrible Hindi. But I wasn’t Australian enough in my lack of courage, my vegetarianism and my dark skin.

What I needed to realise is that the term “Australian” has no one true meaning by default. My parents immigrated to Australia because they knew the quality of life here would be better. There was no restriction on who or what made an Australian. In fact, the term Australian encapsulates the different voices, accents, beliefs and values that we all bring to the forefront and truly accept about ourselves.

To be Australian is to strongly believe in yourself and be true to yourself, regardless of the colour of your skin.

It takes time to accept. To this day, I face bigots on the street who tell me to go back to my own country because of my dark skin. And the irrational fears do sometimes creep up. But then I remember that I have so much going on for myself, knowing that by day, I am a young, confident Australian, and by night, I am a young confident Australian-Indian, dancing and singing, eating my favourite dishes, and immersing herself in two cultures that made me who I am.

xx Simran