Tag Archives: Bangladeshi family

Marriage Pressure: The bubble has burst

When things are going a bit too smoothly with my parents, I am always anxious rather than happy. It’s really sad, but it’s the truth. I always go on about the calm before the storm, and the storm has well and truly arrived.

During this lockdown period in the UK, I hadn’t been able to see my family. I’ve lived a fairly independent life since moving to London many years ago, so I wasn’t too bothered about it. And besides, I spoke to them on the phone or video called them all the time anyway. But as uncertainty grew around the world, it really did bring people together. All of a sudden my weekly calls home turned into pretty much daily calls, which is completely unheard of from me. I slowly started to get closer to my mum and we’d have long conversations on the phone, discussing the local situation and also what we’re cooking and eating from the only food available in our local supermarkets. It sound’s odd, but I started to tell her more about my day-to-day life, even about boring and useless stuff.

You may not know this but I’ve never been close to my parents. They only know the absolute basic things about me and I never embellish on details. Then I got a bit lax, forgetting that we weren’t in ‘normal’ times and not realising that it will come back to bite me in the arse one day.

Fast forward to a few days after Eid, I’m feeling good and happy because life was slowly going back to some level of lockdown normality now that Ramadan was over. But then all of a sudden, I get a call from my mum in the middle of the day. This never happens as we only speak in the evenings, so I was worried something was wrong. I pick up feeling apprehensive, and oh boy was I right to be feeling that way.

I was verbally attacked and it came out of nowhere. It started with asking how I am and what I’m doing, and I innocently boasted about my lie-in that morning (the first one in months after some restless nights) and how I was making lunch when she called. And all of a sudden she turned on me.

She threw questions at me like ‘what are you doing with your life? When are you going to get married? Do you not care about your future – look at how old you are! Don’t you know how stressed we are because of you?’

I was silent. How do you even respond to that? You have to know when to pick and choose your battles in life. I was taken aback and upset, and could have easily responded aggressively, but I chose to stay quiet, which only encouraged her to keep going on. She emphasised my faults and flaws, and told me that she will happily get my younger siblings married off before me. For those who aren’t familiar with the Bengali culture, although it can be different for guys and girls, in general people tend to get married in age order.

This wasn’t a completely new ‘conversation’ for me though. Sadly I’ve heard this all before, but this time it stung me a little harder for some reason. Maybe because I knew she had a point… what was I doing with my life? I’m not even against marriage – I do want to get married. But if you read my previous post, you’ll see I hadn’t been in a good place until recently. Maybe that’s why it hurt – she threw the things I’d told her over the last few months in my face and used it against me to point out that I’m living a selfish life, i.e. just living a normal life like everyone else except for the fact I’m not married yet.

The icing on the cake, and the cherry on top too, was the point where she threatened me. ‘Either find someone soon or we will find someone and you have to marry that person no matter what – you have no choice’.

Ummm… okay mum, whatever you say.

At that moment I was ready to hang up the phone. But being the respectful Bangladeshi daughter I’ve been brought up to be, of course I couldn’t do that. I just grit my teeth and said nothing. I felt a different level of sadness and disappointment, rather than anger. It’s taken many years to build respect and an understanding with my mum. I’d say 10+ years of trying to be treated like an adult, an equal. Also broaden her mind and change her old school way of thinking and that backwards mentality towards the role of woman in society. And we really had made some incredible progress. But it just took two seconds for her to wipe it all away and revert back to being that small minded person she once was.

I don’t know what I was expecting to be honest with you. I knew it was all too good to be true. The calmness, no drama, feeling happy and content with the state of our relationship. I felt stupid for letting my guard down. Why did I voluntarily invite her into my day-to-day life? Just so she could compile a list and throw it back in my face someday?

I know it might seem like I’m overreacting, but only I am to blame for getting carried away with wanting to build a nice, healthy relationship with my parents. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have a bad one, just not a close one. Over the lockdown period, whilst everyone went home to be with family and shared more about their life online, it made me realise how different my life and relationship is with my family. I always say we’re a tight knit family… but are we really?

In all honesty, I do get where my mum is coming from. It’s a place of frustration, but also fear. I know she’s thinking about me and my future, but she just doesn’t know how to express it in a non-offensive and not so hurtful way. Of course I understand the stress they must feel to have an unmarried daughter in her 30’s showing no signs of moving onto the ‘next stage’ of her life. I’m sure it’s even more frustrating for them because they aren’t in control of my life. I moved out of home in my early 20’s, and nearly 9 years on, I’m still not married. But the thing is, I have made progress in my life, a lot of it actually. I’ve gained a huge amount of experience and built a career. I’ve travelled the world and learnt so much from all the people I’ve met along the way; I’ve grown as a person. But sadly, this isn’t enough in the Bangladeshi society. Unless you follow that typical path set by others, you’re not seen to be on the right course in life.

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The marriage trend… has it skipped a generation?

I’ve been quiet for a while, so apologies for that. But recently I’ve noticed a lot more marriage announcements happening amongst my family and relatives. The majority of these people happen to be much younger than me, which isn’t that surprising seeing as I’m now technically in my late 20’s. Whereas these young’uns are in their early to mid 20’s.

But it got me thinking; has the marriage trend, or the need to get married, skipped a generation? I took a moment to step back and analyse my peers; people who I grew up with in the Muslim/Bangladeshi community. We are the generation who seemed to be the first ones in our families to actively pursue education and a career. Some of us are even the first to go to university out of all of our family and relatives. A lot of us have also steadily and somewhat successfully climbed the career ladder. Although a fair few of the people my age I’m referring to happen to be guys, I’ve noticed that a lot of them in this age bracket are still unmarried. I know guys tend to get married a little later than girls, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference in this case.

I still don’t understand how I’m so different from my siblings. My younger siblings are now ‘of age’ according to my mother, so the pressure is on, more than ever. And after many deep and intense conversations I’ve had with my siblings, I still can’t quite believe how ready and open they are to the prospect of getting married fairly soon. At their age, I was fighting for my right to pursue a career and live an independent life. I was seriously pushing back because I felt like I had so much more to achieve before I got married. But these kids, they seem to lack any serious ambition.

I’ve spent many nights discussing their aims and goals in life, and have been stumped when I discovered they don’t really have any. What has drastically changed for them to be like this? Or am I the abnormal one, being selfish for wanting to lead my life with a purpose different from those set by my parents and society?

I’ve noticed another trend; people my age are being ‘skipped’ and their younger siblings are getting married before them. This makes me feel pretty uncomfortable. I feel like I’m stuck in the middle; on one hand, I’m open to marriage but don’t feel like I’m ready just yet. On the other hand, I feel like time is running out and that my parents will just ‘skip’ past me and get my younger siblings married off before me. The reason why this makes me feel uneasy is because there is a stigma attached to this. If you’re older and unmarried, then surely there must be something wrong with you, otherwise why wouldn’t you get married first? It’s different for guys, if they have younger siblings, especially sisters, it’s fairly normal and acceptable for them to get married off first. But for girls, they have to accept that people will be talking about them behind their back and speculating.

The final trend I want to mention is the rise of the love marriage. A lot of these young couples seem to have been in relationships for quite a few years, which is now converting into marriage. This could be for many reasons, two of which I believe are temptation and fear. Temptation being that they’re ready to take their relationship to the next level and get serious about life. Fear being the fact that they might ‘get caught’ (or already have) so needing to nip it in the bud before it gets out and causes drama in their community.

The thing that astounds me about this whole situation is the number of love marriages happening in the first place. Or maybe I’ve been blind or just naive to the fact that muslims are dating from a much younger age now. Again, as far as I can remember, people in my generation were brought up so differently, and somewhat more strictly, than this younger generation. I know I’m making myself sound like an old granny, but the truth of the matter is, even just being a few years older, I feel like I’ve had a whole different upbringing. One of which instilled the fear of my parents wrath if I were to do anything to tarnish their name and reputation.

A thing my mother instilled in me from a young age, and I hope it’s the same for my siblings, is the understanding of what’s important in life. She said how money comes and goes, but respect takes a lifetime to earn, and just a second to lose. I grew up with those values close to my heart, and everything I’ve done up until now, I’ve made sure to never do anything that could harm this. I always want my parents to be able to hold their head up high when it comes to this daughter of theirs; even if they’re stressed and embarrassed about the fact that they have an unmarried daughter in her late 20’s, living away from home and showing no sign or interest in getting married any time soon!

But the reason why I’m mentioning respect and reputation is because I have always been told to stay away from boys. Not to be seen with them in situations that can be misunderstood to mean something else. So in a sense, I had quite a strict upbringing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had guy friends, which my parents certainly knew about – I made sure of it to ensure they knew that I’m not up to no good. But this also meant that I actively avoided pursuing relationships. Not that there were many offers anyway, ha! But the truth is, relationships were just a big no. And here we are, hearing of these young couples about to get hitched, who happen to have known each other for several years (read: been in a relationship secretly for 5+ years).

All of a sudden, this is a much preferable situation to my mother, than my situation, where I’ve actually been a good, respectful daughter and avoided scandal. She has the audacity of turning around and saying ‘well at least they’re actively doing something about it and sorting it out themselves!’ I mean, can you actually believe this? I cannot fathom how this is a much better outcome and how I’m now the ‘bad’ one in this situation. Just because I haven’t had a secret boyfriend all these years? What is this nonsense!?

I will never know. But all I can say is, it’s making me feel on edge. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this feels like the calm before the storm. Am I alone in feeling like this?

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Family Dynamics

I’m going through a bit of a rough time at the moment. It’s nothing new or serious, it’s just an issue that crops up now and again. This is about the relationship I have with my family and the dynamics.

My mum is all around loving and caring at the best of times, but then something comes over her and she will be on at me about my life, my priorities, marriage, etc. It get’s tiring and I wish she’d stop. But at the same time, I know she means well because she just wants what all parents want – for their children to settle down. This is because they think that as soon as that’s done and dusted, I will be happy and they will have fulfilled their duties. However, what I can’t seem to get through to them is that, I am actually happy. Like super happy. I love my life in London and sure, I do sometimes feel like there is something missing in my life, but for the most part, I’m more than content with how my life has planned out thus far.

The reason behind this blog post is to talk about my siblings for a change. I have always thought that I had a good relationship with them. We have a whatsapp group that I basically started a few years back as a way to moan about mum and dad, haha. Now we send each other all sorts of stuff, just like everyone does. However, the more time passes, the more I realise how different we all are.

I’m the second child out of four, and you may call this second child syndrome, but I could not be more different from them if I tried.

My eldest sibling is the golden child – did everything the way my parents wanted. Never really lived a little. Has fulfilled my parents wishes of getting married, having a home and child. Myself on the other hand, I’m the ‘rebel’ apparently. I always pushed the boundaries, always questioned ‘why’, I moved away from home before marriage, I’m ‘wasting’ my money on holidays (therefore not saving for my imaginary wedding)… The list is endless. The younger two on the other hand get away with everything because I’ve basically paved the way for them.

But the fundamental difference between us is that I have a goal and drive to achieve something in my life, that they don’t really seem to have. Their goals are very materialistic. They want the latest trends, fashion, beauty, gadgets, etc. I want to focus on my career and work in an industry that I love, so may not take the most conventional route. They’re happy to settle with whatever job they can get in the town where we grew up. I want to travel and see the world. They want to spend all their money on possessions.

I know that having these differences isn’t a big deal – everyone is different. However, it’s when I realise how different our morals are too, that’s when it really affects me. For example, the way they view other people and cultures is so different to me.

I find it difficult to understand why I’m so different from them despite us having the same upbringing. We were brought up by the same parents, in the same home and town, in the same education system. Yet, I stand out like a sore thumb.

Going home to visit my family feels like a chore now. I really enjoy the first day because I miss them. I miss my parents and their petty arguments, I miss the jokes and banter we all have together, I miss my mums exceptional cooking. But as soon as day 2 comes around, I’m counting down the minutes until I can go back to London. That’s because that fun and jokey side soon fades and their true colours start to show. Don’t get me wrong, my family are generally nice and normal people. I think it’s just me, I’m like the odd one out.

I’ve thought about this long and hard over the last few years and I’ve finally started to realise what it is… I care too much.

I care about my siblings and their future and so I try to make sure they take advantage of all the good opportunities in life. I care about sharing and celebrating all the little successes. I like to communicate and tell them about all the cool and lovely things that are happening in my life. I like to give thoughtful gifts and make a fuss over people to make them feel loved and special.

A few years back, I realised they didn’t care about these things as much as I did. In fact, I was made to feel bad for getting upset or annoyed about this. Like, why was I making this into a big deal?

In the past, I’ve spoken to a few of my close friends about this and they’ve felt sorry for me. That’s because they know what kind of person I am and how much this all means to me. Their conclusion was to not let this get to me and not take it to heart. If only it were that easy. How can someone train themselves to care less?

I don’t even know what to put this down to. Is it culture? Or is it that I’ve adopted the more western way of thinking, of being more supportive and encouraging? Is that such a bad thing? I really don’t know, you tell me.

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