Tag Archives: Bangladeshi

Emotional Rollercoaster

I feel like I’ve been going through an emotional rollercoaster recently, but his won’t be news to any of those who have been following my blog. I’m not usually very aware of how particular incidents or events have affected me, but it’s something that’s becoming more and more apparent to me.

In recent months, I’ve noticed just how easily I get emotional, whether that’s watching powerful or meaningful videos and movies, or reading a book. There was a point I had to stop reading, because I would connect to it in such a deep level that I couldn’t get myself out of that headspace for a very long time. Have you ever had that? Where you become obsessed with the characters and their lives?

I recently read a book which had this type of affect on me and I wanted to mention it here because I think it’s something that many of the followers of this blog can relate to. It’s a book called ‘Sofia Khan is NOT obliged’ by Ayisha Malik. It’s about the life of a single 30 year old Pakistani muslim girl who, like many of us, is constantly under that pressures of marriage from family and friends. Even though she’s not Bengali, I found it so relatable to my own life because of the cultural similarities. The culture may be different, but the pressure is the same.

It’s such a good read, at first I was able to read a chapter or two and get on with things, but then I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. 6 hours later, I had finished the whole book. I had laughed hysterically, and cried even more than I could have imagined. I don’t know if it’s because of how I’ve been feeling lately, but it really struck a chord with me. I won’t ruin the book for people who are going to read it, but one theme that was hugely evident throughout, was the incessant pestering of people who kept asking her when was she going to settle down and get married. It was even doing my head in and I wanted to reach out to those people and shake them to make them stop.

I’ve just got back from a well needed mini-break with my best friend. I’ve not been in a good place and this trip felt like it came at just the right time when I was about to crumble. I explored a new city, fell in love with it’s beauty, absorbed it’s culture and history and let go of all my worries for a few days. It was only the second day into my 4-day trip that I realised just how wound up and stressed out I had been. And although I knew this was what my soul needed, just before I went away, I had an encounter with my mum.

I’ve mentioned before how hard it is for me to talk to my parents about the topic of travelling. So when I called my mum to tell her I’m going away for a few days, she completely lost it. She went into me like this was her last opportunity to do so in her life. She brought up everything I’d ever done in my life that she disapproved of. How disappointing I am as a daughter. How she can’t show her face in the community because she’s too embarrassed that she has a single daughter who shows no sign of getting married anytime soon. She said I’m not young anymore, I can’t afford to be picky. She gave me a warning, and said that she is no longer going to care if my younger siblings end up getting married before me. In fact, she said she was going to encourage it. It was like as if she was doing this to spite me. She said my dad should have never let me leave home because then none of this would’ve been a problem. How things would’ve been better if I hadn’t had that taste of freedom…

It hurt, a lot. I wanted to shout back and say ‘do you even know what you’re talking about? You blind woman, can you not see anything past the ridiculous need to be pretentious and impress these people, who do not care about anyone but themselves?’. Does she even think about how I would’ve been feeling and what that may have led me to do? By moving away, I took back control of my sanity and developed the will to live a good life. I didn’t go down any dodgy paths or do anything that would’ve reflected badly on them and my upbringing…

But I stayed quiet, which spurred her on to continue with more. I cried silently, it was just painful to listen to. I kept thinking ‘why don’t I just hang up?’. But that would be asking for more trouble. I became numb. I didn’t sleep all night. I went on this holiday with a sad and heavy heart.

This is what my life is like. I know this pattern particularly well. The calm before the storm, the destruction and devastation. Then the task of picking up the pieces and putting things back to together with the hope that it won’t happen again. Or that next time I’ll be better prepared or at least have made some progress. But then it happens all over again, and a little piece of me gets lost in the sadness somewhere.

In my opinion, Sofia Khan in the book was very lucky to have parents who, despite being a pain and putting on the pressure, understood the importance of education and wanting their daughter to be happy. I don’t think my parents put happiness before pride and honour. Actually, I know they don’t. They aren’t evil people, but they are so blinded by culture and society, they don’t know what is more important anymore.

The old me would’ve shouted back to be heard, but the me now is staying quiet and waiting for the storm to blow over….until next time.

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Insecurities about marriage

I’ve been in a weird place for a while. In my previous post I mentioned some of the things that have been bothering me lately. But I wanted to talk about some things that haunt me during the day and night, and that’s my insecurities.

It’s no secret how much I dread talking about the ‘M’ word that is marriage. It’s inevitable; it’s part of culture, society, religion and life! I know it’s expected of me to get married someday, and the truth is I do want to get married. But there are so many thing’s holding me back, and they all come down to the insecurities. So I wanted to give a breakdown on some of the areas of my life that I feel these insecurities come from. Get ready for a long and bumpy ride.

Career: If you’ve read any of my earlier posts, you’ll know how much my career means to me. I’ve worked hard to fight for my right to have one. Even though my family is in no way against girls working, whether they realise it or not, they’ve never really been one to encourage girls to be the best person they can be. They’d rather you opt for the option where you ‘act like a girl’ and do any job that doesn’t require too much commitment, therefore resulting in an ‘easier’ life all around. And because ‘you’re a girl’, you’re supposedly only doing this to keep yourself busy and get some money to put towards your wedding…

I fought for my right to go to university – my dad wanted me to just get a job locally because ‘What’s the point? People only go to uni to then get any odd job afterwards anyway’. I fought for my right to do my placement year in London. I fought for my right to move to London for my graduate job. I have been fighting this good fight to make a name for myself over the last couple of years and develop a successful and fulfilling career that I could be proud of. I wasn’t doing it for anyone else, I was doing this for me. So what does this have to do with marriage? Well, everything. Even though it’s been a little while since I graduated, I’m still at the early stages of my career. The stage where you have to work your butt off to be noticed and so I’m nowhere near being a leader in anything just yet. How can I put my career on the back burner and make marriage a priority? Because trust me, looking for a life partner is like taking on a second job.

I called my mum yesterday and she asked what I was up to. I gave her a generic response, as you do, and said I’ve just been busy working. For some reason that really annoyed her and she took that as an opportunity to start having a go at me. ‘When are you going to be “unbusy”? You need to quit your job and become “unbusy”. When are you going to sort your life out? You need to think about these things seriously now!’

Wow. There goes feminism and girl power down the drain. Thanks mum.

I know she doesn’t mean it in a bad way – she’s only being the typical bengali mum that she is and thinking about how I’m getting old and soon no-one will want me (which is probably true). But I’m finding it harder and harder to explain to her that, right now, my career is the most important thing to me. I know I have to realise there is a point where I can’t put my career first, and that’s usually after marriage when you’re then expected to have a home and children to fill it with. I’m just in such a funk with work at the moment, how can I focus on anything else?

Money: This slightly links to career. But when I moved to London, I was just so happy to have a job away from home that I accepted whatever salary they gave me. This was tough because it was barely enough to survive on and I would consistently have to dip into my credit card to make ends meet. Slowly my pay increased, but that wasn’t enough to save, it was just enough to start paying off my student overdraft and credit card interest. A few years down the line, I was able to clear most of it, then a holiday mishap happened (it’s a long story) which led to even more debt. So then finally, I landed this amazing dream job, I even negotiated an awesome salary (woohoo, girl power!) and managed to clear pretty much all of my debt. But things on the work front is a bit shaky right now (another long story) and this is where I’m at. I’m not in debt, but I also don’t have any savings. I know you didn’t need to know the ins and outs of my financial history, but the point is, life is so unpredictable. I don’t owe anyone any money, but it doesn’t mean I have the ability to magically save anywhere close to enough money to pay for a wedding. How am I supposed to do this AND find a life partner AND get married in the next 2 years (or so)?

Appearance: This is probably the hardest thing for me to talk about and the most insecure area of my life. I’ve always said I’m a realist on this blog. I don’t make ‘negative’ comments about myself for attention or because I’m trying to make out that I’m ‘uglier’ than I actually am. And this is why I find this the hardest thing to talk about because people always come up with the same kind of response to ‘comfort’ me, and you know what? I hate it. Literally, please don’t say these things thinking it’s the right thing to say, because actually, it makes me lose respect for you. Look, I’m not saying I’m an absolute monster, but I have many insecurities for a good reason. A lot of guys think they care about the person on the inside more than the outside, but let me tell you this, they are absolute liars, whether they know it or not. Everyone cares about the outside, we all do. I’m not saying you don’t care about the inside too, but don’t kid yourself in thinking that the outside isn’t a big deal, because it is. I am saying this because I have ‘experienced’ it.

I haven’t really spoken about it on the blog and it’s probably a post I will write about soon, but not so long ago, I decided to give online dating another go. I tried it a few years back, hated it and never wanted to try it again. But I did it again, and hated it all over again. That’s a story for another day, but I’ll tell you one thing that did happen. This muslim dating website gives you the option to have your photos on private and allows you to give access to this photo album if someone makes a request. So naturally, most people choose to have their photos on private. So I re-wrote my profile and was being upfront and honest, and hopefully it came across genuine and refreshing. I’m a strong independent lady, I don’t want to fool a guy into thinking he’s going to get that perfect little housewife (although, I am a damn good cook, but that’s not the point). So a few guys contacted me, and I got chatting to one and I’m like really nervous… what if this is the one? I read his profile, he seems cool and normal and likes similar things as I do. It’s weird. We message back and forth with some banter and it’s nice. Then he respectfully asks if he could request access to my photo album and I’m like, oh god, here we go. I say sure, but I tell him how nervous this makes me feel. He laughs it off, saying don’t be silly. I bet you can just imagine what happens next. He takes one look at my photo and never messages me back ever again.

Now, there are 1,001 things I want to say about this whole exchange right now, but I don’t want to go off topic, but I will just tell you a little bit. Look, I totally understand and respect that everybody has their own taste and sometimes that spark just isn’t there. I didn’t expect the guy to fall in love with me, far from it actually, but I wanted him to have the decency to message back and in a polite way say ‘thanks, but no thanks’. Don’t get me wrong, I would HATE him regardless, but I would hate him just a tiny bit less if he had the courtesy to respond, rather than him just disappearing off the face of the earth and leaving a girl hanging. That’s just rude and really not nice.

The point I’m trying to make here is, I know I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, and yes, I hope there is someone out there who thinks I’m alright. And to my credit, I actually used my personal social media profile picture which got over 80 likes and 25 comments! None of my photos have ever had that type of response. This goes to show there is a reason why I have these insecurities. I’ve said it before, I’m not your typical Bangladeshi girl. I’m not slim, slender, skinny, thin, trim or any other adjective the thesaurus could come up with. It’s something I’ve been insecure about my whole life, and have tried to change and not had much success in, but that’s a story that I won’t depress you with today. I’m also not conventionally pretty. Don’t get me wrong, I can make an effort and whack on a whole load of make up and look half decent, but let’s just say, the face and the shape match. I get compliments about my ‘pretty’ eyes all the time, and it’s something I’m really happy about, but that’s where the list starts and ends really.

Confidence: When it comes to many things in life, I will be your champion as well as mine. I am confident about so many things, especially my career. I may be in a bad place right now, but I have faith and confidence that I will achieve my dream and that in turn will help the money ‘roll’ in. However, appearance is something I do not have confidence in, which in turn doesn’t give me much hope when it comes to marriage. It’s all to do with taste, and I do not have control over that. I know there are things I can do to start feeling more confident about how I look, but until I am happy with myself, how can I put these insecurities aside and look for happiness in marriage? No-one else can do this for me, and with my mother on my case all the time, reminding me that I can’t afford to be picky, can you blame me for feeling this way?

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Keeping secrets from parents

I’m not sure if this will come as a shock to many people or if I’m not actually alone in this, but keeping things from my parents has become a norm in my life. Now, before you jump to conclusions and start thinking I’m one of ‘those girls’ who goes off behind her parents back and gets up to all sorts of mischief, let me set the record straight – I certainly don’t.

What I’m referring to are the little white lies you have to tell your parents or things you leave out on purpose in order to live an easier life. I’ve been doing this ever since I was a teenager and have always felt a pang of guilt whenever the topic came up. It’s only recently when a friend and I were talking about it, that I realised how much I actively avoid telling my parents things.

I always find it strange and a little bit baffling, how much a few of my friends share with their parents, the ins and outs of their lives. I mean, I actually admire having that type of relationship to a certain extent. But then I imagine myself having those open conversations with my parents and it completely weirds me out.

When I was younger, I was constantly frustrated by the made up rules and regulations they thrusted on us which made no sense at all. I always questioned things and pushed boundaries (as mentioned in my previous ‘never good enough’ posts part 1 and part 2). But I would always get resistance from them and this just ended in me getting ultimatums and stern looks. So naturally as a teenager when you’re put in these situations and wanted something so badly, you will look for every possible way to make this happen. I wasn’t even that ambitious with what I wanted, which is the sad thing about all of this. All I really wanted was to do all the little things all the other kids got to do. Like go round to each others’ houses, go into town on the weekends, attend (supervised) birthday parties, etc. Was that really too much to ask for?

I discussed this at length with all my little friends at the time and hatched a plan to get their parents involved. So on this particular occasion, my friend’s aunt (who was her legal guardian) called my parents to ask if it was okay for me to go round on the weekend to work on a project together which required us to go to the big library in our town centre and do some research. She even offered to pick me up and drop me off, so my parents reluctantly agreed and I was over the moon. I could not have been happier if I tried – it was the best day of my life! Haha, now thinking back and writing about it seems silly, but the reason why I’m telling you this story is because this was a huge triumph for me, because the other thing is, none of my friends were bengali. So naturally my parents didn’t really care much about them and didn’t take any of my friendships seriously.

So yes, I did go round and do a little bit of homework with a trip to the library, but the rest of the time, we went to the shops, bought all the sweets our money could buy, stuffed our faces and I even had dinner round my friend’s house, where I felt like an alien. It involved sitting at the dinner table with her family, napkins, knives and forks and polite conversations, where people actually took interest in their kids’ lives – school, projects, friends, hobbies. What was this new and different world that I clearly wasn’t living in?

I don’t think bengali kids these days truly appreciate how good they’ve got it. Their parents are somewhat younger and much more educated than my parents, who genuinely want their children to do well in school and life and will be there to support them. I didn’t have that growing up, and that is how my relationship with my parents ended up like this. Me keeping secrets from them.

Many years ago when I was given the ultimatum of going to a university close to home, which meant commuting everyday or getting a full-time job, I chose to go to the uni of their choice. This meant I didn’t really get the true university experience, which I’m still trying to figure out if it was for the best. But meeting these new people who were experiencing new found freedom of their own, I was invited to many cool and exciting things. Obviously, I hardly ever took part in social activities because, firstly my parents wouldn’t approve and secondly, I always had to answer to them whenever I came back ‘late’. By late I don’t even mean midnight, I just mean later than my normal class times. But even then, I was a good kid at heart, so didn’t even want to get involved in the clubbing/drinking/smoking scene. But I made some genuinely lovely friends and we liked to treat ourselves to nice lunches and dinners now and again, so I told my parents I was studying in the library – the classic.

My relationship with my parents has somewhat improved over the years because of me living away from home. But I will only share nuggets of information with them because as soon as they get too much insight into my life, they find a way to use it against me at another opportunity. Or they give me a lecture there and then about how I am careless with money and only think about myself and how I value having fun with my friends more than spending time with family, apparently. It always comes down to two things – money and marriage. The two evil ‘M’s in my life. For example, if I book a holiday, I’m ‘wasting’ money and therefore not saving for my imaginary wedding. If I tell them about an amazing meal I had at a nice restaurant, I’m washing money down the drain. You get the picture.

So now to current day, a quite big change has happened in my life recently which, as you may have gathered, I haven’t told my parents about yet. I feel bad for keeping it from them, but I know that ultimately, it will only mean that they will worry or tell me to move back home (their default answer to everything), which is not happening, ever. So for them, it’s business as usual.

I don’t know if this even changes your opinion of me or if you think this thing that I do is right or wrong, but I would be really interested to know how you feel about it.

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Travel or plan an imaginary wedding?

I’m sure this sounds like an odd title for a blog post, but it’s seriously one of the biggest stresses of my life. When I was at college many moons ago, I realised how big the world was out there. That’s when I developed this curiosity and caught the travel bug. My closest friends were either going on group holidays or taking a gap year before going to university. It was an alien concept to me. Don’t get me wrong, I have actually left the country before. I had visited Bangladesh precisely 9 times at this point in my life. Oh and not forgetting a day trip to France when I was in high school. Very adventurous, I know.

But when my friends came back from their travels with the most colourful and amazing stories, I couldn’t help but feel jealous. I wanted what they just had. But the idea of me, a young Bangladeshi girl, going on holiday or travelling with friends, was just absurd. But a girl can dream, right?

Well that wasn’t good enough for me. I had to make this happen somehow. So I hatched a plan with my best friend who is the most awesome person I know, and that’s a fact. She’s strong and independent, but caring and thoughtful at the same time. And she doesn’t give a crap about ‘what people will say’. She knew how much I wanted to travel, and having experienced a gap year herself, she was the one who passed this travel bug onto me. So we decided we will go on a big holiday after we graduated from university.

Now the tough part was convincing my parents. I’m not sure if you know this, but a lot of the time, some parents will say ‘yeah okay, we’ll see when the time comes’ just to shut you up. And this was probably the first time my dad regretted saying that, because I didn’t let it go. As mentioned before in my earlier blog posts, I have worked all the hours under the sun since the age of 16. I had a part time job in retail for 5 years and then did some temping after finishing uni. And I managed to save a bit of money for my holiday. When graduation came around, I brought the topic up again and reminded my dad that we had discussed the possibility of me going on this holiday after I graduated. I was ready with my reasons and prepared to fight my case. I told him how hard I’d worked for 4 years at university and just really wanted this once in a lifetime opportunity to go on holiday, as a reward, with my best friend who they knew and could trust. She had already travelled the world on her own and I have saved up money for the flights and costs. They really had no way to get out of this.

When I look back, I really have to respect my parents for letting me do this and I’m truly grateful to them. It can’t have been easy letting their single, 22 year old daughter wander around the world. But also, they really didn’t have a choice because I went ahead and booked my tickets. I know, what a rebel! I wanted this more than life itself. It’s so strange reflecting on something that happened 5 years ago and just looking at how far I’ve come.

It came with all these conditions and promises on how it was going to be the first and last time I do something like this, etc. I just nodded yes to everything. Little did they (and I) know that this was only just the beginning…

Since 2010, I have been on holiday 12 times. And I have to say, it has enriched my life and made me so happy beyond belief. There’s just something so magical about escaping reality and exploring another country, culture and the world in general. Every year since my first trip away from my family, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit so many wonderful places, which has broadened my mind and opened my heart to beautiful things. I have learnt a lot and it has shaped me into the person I am today. I am always on the lookout for my next escape… but this is always against my parents wishes.

They detest me going on holiday. They see it as a way of losing their ‘control’ on me and they’re always saying it’s a waste of money. They constantly argue, asking me what’s the point in working if you’re going to wash all your earnings down the drain? They just don’t understand how important it is to me.

Funnily enough, that’s not the case when they want to go to Bangladesh or Dubai, because apparently that’s different. Over the last year or so, travelling has become even tougher as they continue to put the pressure of marriage on me. They want me to save for my (imaginary) wedding, even though I don’t have a partner, therefore I’m not actually getting married. This would sound ridiculous to anyone else outside of the culture. So every time I book a holiday, I torment myself with what my parents will say this time. And when I call them to tell them that I’m going away, I get a huge lecture down the phone, about how I don’t care about anyone other than myself. That I’ve never given them any money, but spend it all on holidays instead, which is not true whatsoever. It hurts hearing this emotional blackmail every… single… time.

But I know how lucky I am. Firstly because I have fought for my right to have a career, move out of home and have a great quality of life. But also because I work damn hard and save my money to spend it on things that I love, travel being one of them. Girls my age are generally married off with a mortgage and kids by now, and although I do want to get married, all the other stuff can wait for a while in my opinion. I don’t want to live a life full of regrets and what ifs.

How do you feel about this? Do you agree with my view on this situation? I would love to know.

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Muslim Blind Date – #Fail

I’ve been a little quiet on here for a while, but I’ve had so many people ask me about this date I made such a big fuss about. So I thought I better update those who wanted to know.

Well… this blind date didn’t actually end up happening. It just wasn’t meant to be. After finally co-ordinating diaries via this mutual friend, the guy had to ‘postpone’ due to a last minute family commitment. Whether this was a legitimate reason or not? I have no idea, although I’m going with the latter. But as this was so close to the end of the year, I think everyone just got busy and forgot, as did I.

We never got around to rescheduling it, and I felt a little disheartened (although I must admit I was quite relieved at the time). How do I go back and say ‘Oh hey, remember that date that never happened? We should really make it happen now’? I just don’t think I can, as it’s a little embarrassing, so I just left it.

I haven’t felt like I have missed out or anything, I haven’t even had a chance to deeply think about it. I can’t believe how fast life zooms past you in London. We’re already nearly 3 whole months into the new year and I feel like I haven’t done anything I planned to do yet! I’m always busy doing one thing or another, or busy with work and career progression. Where is the time to date? Someone please tell me!

But at the same time, is this only applicable for those who live in London? Non-Londoners… do you also see it the way I do?

I know dating is meant to be made a priority if you really want something to happen, but do I want something to happen right now? I’m not convinced just yet. It doesn’t mean that I never want it to happen, but maybe not right now.

On another note, I got a sneaky secret squirrel type of call from my sibling today, who had overheard a conversation between my parents. My freshie brother-in-law came to my mum with what I call an ’empty proposal’.

Some guy he knows has a cousin who is on a student visa and they are looking to get him married. So what does my bro-in-law do? Oh he brings this ‘proposal’ (if you can even call it that) to my mum, despite knowing I have made it so damn clear that I don’t want to marry someone from ‘back home’. I outlined my reasons in one of my previous posts about the pressures of marriage if you are interested to find out why.

I know that at the end of the day, this isn’t going to happen. And that’s because this isn’t what I want in life, and I’m a pretty strong-willed person. I’m dreading the day I go home and they confront me with this discussion, so I’m already psyching myself up for it (as well as getting very mad whilst imagining them in front of me and already playing out the argument)!

I think the thing that upsets me the most is that I genuinely thought I had made progress here. I have had many awkward deep and meaningful, and quite frankly, honest conversations with my mum about marriage. What I want, what I don’t want and why. But she is so consumed with the obsession to get me married before I die of old age, that she conveniently forgot all of this. It’s like 2 steps forward, 10 steps back.

And worst of all? They know NOTHING about this guy. His background, his own family, what he does/studies, if he and I would be compatible, etc. The list is endless! All they know is that he is somehow related to this other guy… and that is it.

WOW. It really makes me feel special, knowing that they have such a low criteria for my future partner, because frankly, in their eyes, anyone will do right now – anyone who will have me.

I’m just sad that they didn’t once think about my happiness. This sucks. I have no idea how this story will end; all I know is that I’m in for a long and bumpy ride and will fight till the end. Whether I win or lose… stay tuned folks!

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Muslim Blind Date – The Introduction

So fast forwarding 2 years from when I started this blog, a lot has happened. The London life zoomed past me without me even realising that all of this time had passed.

So I am no longer in my early or mid-twenties, which is very upsetting. So as you can imagine, the pressure of marriage is pretty high right now. I tiptoe around the subject, especially around my parents. They don’t even care about all the other things I’ve achieved in my life since I moved to London, because that’s not important in their eyes.

Last summer (or was it the year before that? I can’t remember to be honest) I gave into this pressure and signed up to an online dating site for Muslims. It was pure torture. The whole thing made me feel uncomfortable and caused me so much stress. But I’ll save that story for another blog post – it seriously needs it! After that experience, I felt like I had been put off the online dating scene for a while. It just wasn’t for me at that point in my life. I kept this quiet from my mum as well – I didn’t want to give her any ideas! But the downside was that my mum thought I was sitting here idle thumbed with no care in the world about finding a suitable partner to marry.

So the pressure got more intense and my mum used every opportunity she got to lecture me. You know the usual – hurting the family reputation by being an unmarried single girl living away from home; being a burden on parents (even though I didn’t rely on them for anything), stopping them from fulfilling their duties, not saving money for my imaginary wedding, oh and that I was causing her to develop some kind of depression because of all the stress she was putting on herself. Quite lovely eh?

I’ve been able to somehow ignore all of this for a while, because… London happens! But then the other day, I got the most random message. Out of the blue, an ex-colleague asked me how I felt about going on a blind date with her Bangladeshi friend, who I knew absolutely nothing about. I’m not going to lie, I did freak out a little… or a lot. I have never dated before, let alone go on a blind date! How do they even come about? Well… apparently like this!

I messaged my closest friends and they all freaked out too – more out of excitement rather than panic, unlike me. Whilst I got a brief description of the guy (his age, background, hobbies, etc), I freaked out even more. I was scared more than anything else – this was a world that was completely alien to me. My friends were telling me to just do it, what’s the worst that could happen? And I knew they were right; there was no pressure on me to actually marry the guy – just to meet him. So after a day of panicking, I plucked up the courage and gave the go ahead, so she messaged her guy friend who got back to her pretty much straight away and was up for meeting me.

OH MY GOD.

I had so many questions going through my mind… Did I really want to do this? Will this guy like me? What does he know about me? What even happens on dates – is it like the movies? What do we talk about? How do I dress? Where do we meet? And most importantly, how the hell am I expected to greet this person?

I think out of all the questions, the last one is the one that’s stressing me out the most. If I was meeting a friend, I would greet them with a big fat hug or squeeze. But what about when it’s practically a complete stranger – a Muslim male who could potentially become ‘somebody’ to me – how do I make a good first impression? Do I shake his hands? Do I go in for a gentle hug? Or do I just do an awkward on the spot wave and say hi? What am I supposed to do!?

I meet new people in my job every single day and have to be able to do a pitch on the spot – that seems so much easier to me now compared to this!

So my friend asked the guy to choose where to meet and I was asked to suggest a weekend when I am free. And now I just have to get myself there, looking half decent, to be wooed or to woo the guy myself. This sounds like hard work and I am freaking out. It’s not even the thought of keeping a steady stream of conversation going, because my friends and I know very well that I could talk for England. But it’s everything else that goes with it.

I don’t fit the typical Bangladeshi girl mould – I am not that pretty, or skinny, or really religious and I don’t wear a headscarf. I’m sure I could add so many other expectations to this list. But with this being a blind date, this poor guy doesn’t even know any of this. When I shared these thoughts and feelings with my friends, they just didn’t get it. Instead they got annoyed with me for thinking and saying such things about myself because apparently I’m an incredible person. But they are my friends, they have to say these things. I am a realist and not delusional, so I do tell it as it is.

I have no idea how to cope with these nerves or this weird type of stress. It’s so strange to me… Somebody help me!

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Never Good Enough – Part 2 My Reality

Continuing from Part 1 of this story where I was talking about Cultural Expectations, I wanted to tell you about the point in my story where my life changed forever.

Eventually when I hit the age where my parents started to think about my marriage prospects, that’s when the drama started.

My dad never wanted me to go to university. In fact, he told me to just get a job, because after all, people only went to university so that they could get a job afterwards, so that was the same thing apparently. This made me even more determined to go to university, especially as that’s what everyone else  was doing and I wanted to show him that I could do this too. He wasn’t happy with my choice because he didn’t feel that the subject I wanted to study was worth going to university for – Business. Of course, if I wanted to be a doctor, that would’ve been a whole different story.

He then gave me an ultimatum – study close to home and commute, or I don’t go at all. I don’t know how, but once again, I was clever enough to put a ‘get-out clause’ in this agreement which he would come to regret later.

I completed university with a placement year working (and living) in London – my get-out clause. Getting that wasn’t easy either, I still can’t believe I did it. But it turned out that this was the point where my life changed forever and I started to realise there was more to life than I knew. I was able to support myself completely knowing that I didn’t have to rely on my parents; I had freedom and breathing space; I matured and made friends with people from all walks of life; I took on great responsibilities at work and excelled. But most importantly, I became a strong independent woman (cue Destiny’s Child)!

This was when I realised I wanted more from life. Don’t get me wrong, I never forgot my roots or did anything during that time to disrespect my parents or tarnish their reputation. But I just wasn’t willing to settle for a mundane life back home with my parents without goals and aspirations to have a better life. My mission after university was to find a job in London and move out. I did not want to be stuck in a small town full of narrow-minded people. But once again, my dad was not happy about this. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find (and didn’t want to) work in our town. Little did he know that I had not applied for a single job in the surrounding area. I also didn’t sit at home and do nothing over this period either, I worked full-time, either by doing all the overtime I could get at the retail job I’d had for 5 years, or by temping for an agency.

Then trouble started to brew. There were a few girls around my age in our community, all a year or so younger than me, who started to receive marriage proposals and eventually ended up getting married in the space of about 3 months between each other. My parents started to worry as I was older and yet unmarried (even though I was still only 22 at this point). This frustrated me a lot because I knew I was nothing like them. They’d barely made it to college, let alone university. None of them had even worked a day in their lives, sitting at home like princesses, whereas I had done all of this. I felt outraged that my parents were putting me in the same box as these girls and comparing me to them. I also felt insulted that they didn’t take my career aspirations seriously. Any time these topics came up, they’d upset me so much to the point I could not argue with them and just wanted to burst into tears.

Then one day, my younger siblings and I came home to find my parents sitting in the living room together which rarely happened because of my dads working schedule. Little did I know that they were planning to have ‘the talk’ with me. My dad asked one of my siblings ‘So, when are we going to Bangladesh?’. To which the response was ‘Errr… never’. Then he said ‘Oh but *Culture Clash* is going’. I looked at him and said ‘What?’. He said ‘Yeah, we’re going’. I turned to him and said ‘No, I don’t think so. And even if you tried, there is no way you could force me to get on that plane’. What you may not know is that when parents want to take you ‘back home’ at this age, it generally is with the intention to get you married off.

At this point he started to get annoyed, but this is when my mum took over, waiting in the sidelines ready to (verbally) attack me. She basically told me how I am not getting any younger and that if I had any chance of getting married it would have to be soon before I got too old. May I remind you that I was still only 22 years old at this point. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden they were getting all hot tempered about this – what had brought this on? Then it got really sour. She said that I wasn’t pretty or skinny enough to be picky…

Yes, you read that right.

I know I shouldn’t have been shocked, after all, they are my parents and they have never hidden the fact that they don’t think I’m pretty like my older sibling, who by the way is 3 years older than me and got married at the age of 21 to a freshy which was completely by choice, no forcing whatsoever.

I have to admit, they really got me where it hurt. If that wasn’t bad enough, when I decided to speak up for myself, the most hurtful things were said to me in return. I told them that I did not want the life of my older sibling, who clearly wasn’t happy and struggling to make ends meet. To which she replied that my happiness wasn’t important… their’s was.

Yes, you read that right too.

She went on about how marriage isn’t about being happy, it’s about compromising. I just couldn’t believe what my ears were hearing – how could my own mother say these things to me? How can a mother not want her own child’s happiness? How have these people got so blinded by this ridiculous culture that they don’t realise how absurd those words coming out of their mouth sounded? I was in disbelief.

That night I cried myself to sleep. I felt numb. It’s at that point when I decided enough was enough. If they didn’t care about my happiness, then I would have to find my own happiness away from them. I got myself an interview in London the following week, I was so distraught with everything going round in my head that I was barely able to prepare for my interview. So I did all of that on my train journey up to London using my smartphone and a notepad. I was so nervous going in, but then something came over me and I had an incredible interview… and I got offered the job within half an hour of leaving the place.

I couldn’t believe it. I took the job of course! In a space of a few days, my life had turned around and I could finally get off this roller-coaster of emotions.

And I have never looked back since. Moving to London just over 3 years ago was the best thing that has ever happened to me and this was only possible because I fought for my happiness. And even though my parents and I still have so many differences and issues, in a weird way, I am closer to them now than when I was living at home. There is always drama going on, but my thinking now is that I need to pick and choose my battles wisely, ideally one at a time, because that is the only way I can make change happen.

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Never Good Enough – Part 1 Cultural Expectations

It’s been a while since my last post, and for that, I must apologise. Life gets busy and priorities change. But I came back to some wonderful comments left on my last blog post about the Pressures of Marriage and it made me think about how far I have come.

I never really got a chance to tell the story of how I ended up being in the minority of British Bangladeshi girls who actually moved away from home before marriage. Every time someone asks me about my past and I recount this story, it hits me how my life has changed over the last few years. And for this particularly long story, I will have to split it up in 2 parts.

I grew up in a relatively small town which consisted of a tight-knit Bangladeshi community who knew everything happening in each others lives. Then as we were growing up, this community grew, with extended family members moving down too and all of a sudden we were no longer a small community.

In this culture my biggest frustration to this day has always been the importance put on the phrase ‘what would people say?‘. I was never brought up to live a fulfilling life. In fact, I was brought up to behave extraordinarily well and always do the right thing – you don’t want to be the talk of the town.

And the day I realised that no-one but myself actually cared about me or my happiness, it was the most sad and loneliest day of my life.

When we are young, we are very impressionable. And trust me when I say this, Bangladeshi parents know this all too well. They put a lot of effort in deterring you from doing anything seen as remotely fun outside of your home environment, mainly to stop you from mixing with people who could potentially be bad influencers. In my case this meant no extra-curricular activities (don’t even think about wanting to play an instrument), no after school clubs, no play dates, no birthday parties and don’t even mention sleepovers.

When I reflect on my childhood, I find that I don’t actually remember much of it, which is sad. I just remember how naive I was throughout my school life. I never thought bad of anyone, never realised that others took advantage of me and my generosity and especially didn’t know all the naughty things other kids knew before their time.

Then as we hit our prime teen years, my friends went out, they drank, some smoked, they dated, they went clubbing, they went travelling; whilst I sat at home watching Indian TV dramas and movies with my family. If ever I was feeling brave enough to ask to meet a friend outside of school time, I would get the answer ‘NO’ and that was that. I was too scared to protest, I just accepted it and told my friends that I wasn’t allowed with no further explanation. They all knew my parents were strict.

Then I got clever (kind of) and realised that if I can’t go out, surely they can’t object to my friends coming over – how can we get up to mischief under their roof? I was never that type of rebellious child anyway. This idea also didn’t sit well with my parents, but they really didn’t have an excuse, so it did end up happening. I never thought of myself as clever growing up, but I must admit that without even realising, I wore them down over time.

Mixing with people from other backgrounds and growing up in a Western society with an Eastern upbringing was tough. Just saying ‘no’ was no longer good enough. I felt that I was broadening my mind, whilst they remained narrow-minded. We were constantly compared to other children in the community ‘look at what so-and-so’s son/daughter did’ etc. It was like a constant competition. I’m sure this is the norm for many other cultures out there, but not once did I hear any parents supporting their child in what he/she wanted to do. Just what they wanted him/her to do.

There are just so many unrealistic expectations put on Bangladeshi children; some yearn to get their parents approval throughout their whole life, and some quite frankly don’t care. A lot of these expectations I outlined in my Bangladesh or Bengali? post.

It does make me wonder if any of these parents ever stop and think about how their behaviour affects their children? Do they ever realise the heartache and internal battles they cause on a regular basis? Sometimes my friends just couldn’t understand why I had to abide by so many rules when they didn’t have to follow any.

Being a bit older and wiser, I have have seen and heard enough in this corrupted world to understand SOME of the reasons why my parents were the way they were; because children are easily influenced and parents do have our best interests at heart. But my issue has always been the lack of explanation and communication in general. Is that too much to ask for?

Continued on… Never Good Enough – Part 2 My Reality

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Bangladeshi or Bengali?

I just wanted to explain the difference between Bangladeshi and Bengali. In the correct sense:

  • Bangladeshi is the term used to describe someone who is from Bangladesh.
  • Bengali is the language spoken in Bangladesh.

However, in the real world, both labels are actually used to describe the origin of a person.

The reason why I am clarifying this is because you’ll probably see people referring to someone as ‘Bengali’ and then you’ll be thinking ‘why are they calling them the language?’. It’s all a bit confusing to people who aren’t Bangladeshi/Bengali to be honest.

I’m grateful that my non-Bengali friends understand what I mean regardless of which term I use. I might as well continue telling you a bit more about the Bengali ‘culture’. These statements are stereotypes of the typical people of course – I’m not claiming that everyone is the same and I don’t have the statistics to back it up… yet!

But another fact is that the majority of Indian restaurants and take-away’s in the UK are owned and run by Bangladeshi people and NOT Indians! This coincidentally also means that the majority of Bangladeshi men in the UK work in these establishments as well.

Bangladeshi women in the UK typically are housewives and so have the luxury of not having to work even in this tight economy. Yet they always seem to have many more things to moan about than those women who actually have to work full-time and run a household.

It is generally expected of girls to get married between the ages of 18 – 25. The average age these days tends to be around 21 years old. They are then expected to follow the footsteps of their mothers and also become housewives and pop out some babies after a year of marriage. This is regardless of their financial position or household status because it is supposedly the right thing to do, even if they have to struggle to make ends meet.

The boys are expected to study and get good grades whilst working for their dad in their families restaurant or take-away. The boys are then expected to take over managing and running the business whilst their father either expands the business, or just expands his belly.

The boy is then expected to take on even more responsibility by getting married, so he is then whisked off to Bangladesh to have an arranged marriage, and whilst they’re there, why not get his sister married off too? You know, kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

OK I will stop. This was the typical life of a Bangladeshi family… up until now.

Times have changed, the economy is in a bad state, the education system is tougher and people can’t afford to carry on living like Kings and Queens as described above. British Bangladeshi’s are starting to understand that things have to change in order to live a better life in this country. Boys and girls are (nearly) equally encouraged to study hard and get degrees in sensible fields , resulting in good, well paid jobs (if lucky). And then when they do get married, both partners are expected to work and run their household together. 

Yet it pains me to hear stories of those stereotypical families who still exist, enforcing their backwards, old fashioned way of thinking and ‘culture’ on their children even in this day and age. The pressure they put on their child to conform to the norms of society, regardless of what is good for the child’s future, is a joke. I feel so sorry for those kids growing up not knowing any better and then struggling throughout their life – from getting bullied at school, to getting married and being treated like they are insignificant.

I am only one person, but I am always fighting for others. I know that sometimes it is pointless arguing with these types of people, but I can’t help myself. I don’t like to see injustice of this sort, it makes me so sad.

Sometimes I wonder, what if I hadn’t developed this willpower? Would I have ended up like them?

You know, I haven’t always been this ‘confident’. I struggled a lot before developing a backbone. I just hope that I can reach out to others suffering from Culture Clash.

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