Tag Archives: bengali culture

Feeling lonely (and old)

I’ve got all the ‘feels’ today, so I feel a rambly post coming on. I’ve had a pretty terrible week, worse than all the bad weeks I’ve experienced in a while. You know, when one thing goes wrong after another?

I’d had a long and exhausting day and I was on my way home on the tube, standing up amongst the commuters rammed in the carriage. And all of a sudden, I felt really lonely. I was surrounded by people and felt like I had no one to lean on. And that’s when I thought ‘I could really do with a hug right now’. 

I know it sounds so random, and I always hug my family and friends whenever I see them, but it wasn’t what I wanted. Can you ever ‘miss’ something you’ve never had? It’s at that point I thought ‘this is the time I wish I had a partner who I could go to for a big fat hug, bury my head in their chest and hide from the world, whilst they reassured me that everything will be alright’.

I feel really weird writing this, but I have a feeling it’s something that people don’t tend to talk about but will be able to relate to. Maybe the right word to use here is companionship. Someone who is always in my corner, who has my back and is my little cheerleader in everything I do.  

I know the simple answer to this problem would be to put myself out there and take this whole ‘looking for a life partner’ thing seriously. But I still have all those demons to deal with before I can even begin with the search. I’ll also admit that I’m a bit scared. I don’t take rejection or disappointment well. I know no one really does, but I have a feeling I will take it to heart, maybe a bit too much when I’m already feeling vulnerable. 

When I was talking about all those people (including myself) who pretend that everything is okay, I mentioned how I find it hard to talk to people about my problems. And I found this to be extremely problematic this week. I was going through a lot, and I know my friends are here for me, but I also know they have a lot on their own plates right now. So I didn’t want to add to this. And just how others sharing their problems with me eventually became a stress in my life, I didn’t want to become that person to them.

So here’s some real talk, I’m no spring chicken. A milestone is fast approaching, and I’ve been reading some of my old posts and realised I’m still moaning about the same things from 3+ years ago! I need to get a grip, haha!

Whilst hearing about some scandalous news from my hometown (so and so being in a secret relationship and whatnot), my mother decided to turn on me. She goes ‘when are you going to get married? You’re not getting any younger, don’t you care about your future?’. Oh mother, if only you knew.

I managed to dodge the bullet, as usual, but I’m not sure how long I’ll be safe for. She has a point, and also has the right to ask. I’m just the one who doesn’t have an answer for her. I do feel sorry for my parents to be honest. They’re still waiting for me to sort my life out, after so many years of waiting already. And even though they give me a hard time now and again, I understand it could be far worse. When you have younger siblings ‘of age’ at home and you’re the one that’s causing the bottle neck effect, the pressure is on another level. I’ve become very good at burying my head in the sand, so I’ve continued to do so. But now I’m feeling old and tired.

My actions and words don’t add up. I want a partner, but I don’t want to do anything about it. Feeling lonely sucks, but then I find a distraction and get over it (until the next time). I have a dream, that I eventually find ‘my person’. We respect each other, support each other, care for each other’s family and friends and live a simple, but happy life; full of travel and laughter. I know everyone dreams of the whole package, but to be honest with you (and I’m not just saying this to sound like a ‘great’ person), but I really don’t care about the materialistic things – house, car, latest gadgets, etc. Sure, having a nice place to live would be pretty sweet, but if I can travel and see the world, or even live abroad with my partner instead, then that would make me the happiest person.

I watched something recently where a very wise person said, look for qualities in a partner like you would look for in a roommate. Someone you could live with harmoniously, where you respect and are considerate of each other, rather than going by looks and credentials. And that is probably the most enlightening thing I have heard in a while. It’s so simple, but true. I don’t even want to get started on the criteria that Bengali parents have in mind for their children. This Bengali society we live in goes by the exact opposite of these teachings, and that makes me sad.

Now, where is this person I’m looking for? This is probably where I should insert the cheeky wink emoji or something, but in all seriousness, I hope to find this poor sod person soon!

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Showing-off and pretending… where do we draw the line?

Those who are familiar with the Bengali culture will probably be aware of the notion of showing-off, or pretending that we’re doing better than we actually are. It’s something I’ve seen happen in my own family as well as others, from the beginning of time. In fact, you see it in your day-to-day life outside of this culture as well. Some good examples would be where a mum exaggerates her child’s success and achievements, just to make it out as if her child is a genuis and better than other people’s kids. Or when people get into crippling debt whilst throwing the most lavish wedding, just to show off to their family and friends that they can ‘afford’ the finer things in life.

Unfortunately, this has just become the norm, but it has lead to my distaste of this behaviour, which has been building up inside of me for a while. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this in my posts. But it’s only recently that I realised just how tired I am of keeping up appearances. I didn’t even realise how much this behaviour was ingrained in me. People pretend to be okay when they’re not, pretty much every single day. Some people feel like there’s no point in sharing the truth with others because they ‘won’t get it’, or it’s just the sheer energy that’s needed to explain your feelings. Or it can even be the fear of being judged once you reveal this.

I’m probably making this into a bigger deal than it actually is, but truthfully, I’m exhausted. Just to give you a mini life update, career-wise I wasn’t very happy at the beginning of last year. Then in the middle, things started to look up… and now we’re back to square one again. It’s the nature of the type of work I do, which isn’t something out of the ordinary or difficult, but it’s not something the older generation of Bengali’s understand. So I ‘dumb it down’ into terms they should understand, but they still don’t really get it. Basically, they’re not impressed by it or vaguely even interested. The younger generation on the other hand, think that I have the most awesome job… so go figure!

Whilst I was (and still am) going through my ups and downs, I had to always put on the brave, positive face. People are like ‘wow, she’s got a cool job and is always doing amazing things’, but what they don’t see is what is happening behind the scenes. Stress, long days, unclear career path/prospects/progression, and then me in general being a ball of mess. I’ve mentioned before how lucky I am to have such incredible friends; they are like my little supporters cheering me on from the sidelines. They are also the ones who have had a stern word or two with me to tell me to stop going overly above and beyond with little return. But they don’t entirely understand… it’s just the expectation of the field I work in. My friends have secure jobs in industries that people are more familiar with; the general 9 to 5. And I know they want the best for me, but they don’t understand why I ‘choose’ to sacrifice sleep, especially for those who may not appreciate my hard work.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, it got to a stage where I felt like I couldn’t complain or have a moan about my situation anymore. People think the answer is to find a way out. They’ll say things like ‘why don’t you look for another job that’s more 9 to 5 and less stressful?’. Again, I know they mean well, but if that’s their answer, I’m not interested. This is when the mask comes on. Unfortunately, this has meant I’ve had to do this in front of a few friends too. Overtime, I naturally started to put the mask on in front of everyone. People ask me how I’m doing, and I only talk about the good and exciting stuff because I don’t want to go into it.

However, I’m just tired now. I’ve always had to be like this with my family since the day I moved out, because if my parents got a whiff of struggle or weakness, it could be used against me at a later date. They may even see this as an opportunity to take back some control of my life, and there’s no way I’m letting that happen. But when you do this in front of friends, they understandably think that everything is okay.

I’ve always been the listener and advice giver in my friendship circle. I had to mature very fast growing up, so I’ve always observed everyone around me and learnt from their life choices; even if I hadn’t been through those situations myself. People tell me that they feel comforted by my words and advice, and show real appreciation, which felt pretty damn good… until it didn’t.

A handful of my good friends, those who happen to be a few years younger than me, are going through things that I’ve been through myself or have a good understanding of. They turn to me for advice, which brings them comfort. When they said they felt happier after talking to me, or felt enlightened in some way (sorry, I’m not trying to sound big headed here – these are literally their words), I used to thrive off this. And after a while, I realised it was happening more and more. And then I was going through all of my own crap, but I didn’t feel like I could talk to them about it, especially as they looked up to me. It lead to me pretending that everything is great with me and I am always here for them. But the truth was, I was getting more and more stressed out.

It was the same group of ‘repeat offenders’, and in a way, I felt a sense of responsibility towards them. Overtime, I became their mother-like figure (again, their words) and so I went above and beyond to hear them out, work with them to find solutions, and put an action plan together, with me doing the final checks and prepping them to tackle the issues they faced. I have invested a lot of time and effort into them, at the expense of my own happiness and wellbeing. I get this from my mum; she puts peoples wants and needs before hers. Sometimes we couldn’t understand why she would go out of her way to do something for someone who’s not even close to her, but she loves it. And I realised it’s the same thrill that I get from helping others.

But the truth is, it started to effect me negatively. I ended up taking on other people’s stress, on top of my own, and that’s really not healthy. It also lead to me not looking forward to catching up with certain individuals, and in the end, feeling a sense of resentment. And I hate myself for feeling this way, because it’s not their fault. They have no idea what’s going on with me, because I’m the one that kept it to myself. But I found that I started to dislike talking to people in general, and just didn’t keep in touch with my friends as often, and then slowly started to pull away from being the usual me. Some people noticed and checked in on me, whilst others were busy with their own lives. It’s only when my best friend told me that I need to stop prioritising other people’s problem over mine, that’s when I realised this was a problem. Up until that point, I was a ball of mess on the inside and couldn’t understand why.

I don’t know how I ended up like this, it just happened gradually until it became all consuming. Just having that one conversation where I confessed how I’d truly been feeling, changed everything. She made me see what I was doing to myself and how other people’s problems aren’t my problems. I know it seems obvious, but when you’re in it, you can’t see it. It just made me wonder why I had done this for so long and pretended to be okay? I personally feel like it’s slightly a cultural thing… pride. You only show your best side. But what has this cost me?

In my last post, I spoke about how much pressure I felt after being called a role model. I wasn’t doing that well, so I didn’t feel like I deserved that title. So now I understand why I felt this way.

This has unintentionally turned into a long post, but my question to you is, why do we (or you) pretend that everything is okay? Why do we show-off even when we don’t have the means to? I’m curious to know if you relate to this topic.

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Role Model

I heard some words today that really touched my heart and I didn’t know how to process it. It’s not every day that you hear someone say that you’re their role model. I was quite taken aback and not quite sure what to say or do.

I have a young, impressionable relative, who has a heart of gold. At a very young age, she’s had to mature very fast and become a support for her family. Her and her siblings have been through things that no kid should ever have to experience, yet they have made it out of this awful situation, stronger than ever, and are continuing to live their life really well. And most importantly, growing up to be great human beings. I really admire these kids. Not only that, on top of the pressure of school and college, they’re pursuing hobbies, teaching themselves skills and putting themselves out there. These kids are truly a force to be reckoned with and are actually a huge inspiration to me. They are half my age and already are these amazing, kind and thoughtful people, even after going through so much. I often think, if they can achieve all of this despite everything they’ve been through, then I have to try to be at least half as good as them, which spurs me to keep going. Honestly, I can’t praise them enough.

So when I heard about this particular conversation from someone, I automatically choked up. It’s very easy for people to say things they don’t mean these days, whether it’s good or bad. But when you know they genuinely mean it, you feel quite wonderful… and a little bit scared.

This kid told her mum that she looks up to me. She said that the fact that I work hard for what I’m passionate about, and despite being a ‘brown asian girl’, I moved away from home to pursue a career and do what makes me happy; she really admires me. Her and her siblings are looking forward to the day I get married, because I’m a really good person. I’m her role model…

I mean, how can I not get emotional after hearing that?

I went through many tough hurdles in my life a few years ago when I was searching for my happiness. I had to break away from cultural norms and fight for my rights. And then over the years I’ve had many ups and downs, but you kind of get busy with life and end up losing that sense of purpose. And now as I get closer to another milestone, I am anticipating tough times ahead – the pressure of marriage. So I often reflect on my life and wonder, what have I achieved? Have I been making the right choices? Am I a good person? Am I happy?

To then hear these kind words… I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was incredibly lovely to hear that there are people out there who think I’m doing a good job in life. But to be 100% honest with you, I really don’t think I’ve been doing that well. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you will know that I’ve been struggling quite a bit with so many insecurities. Not forgetting the pressure that a family naturally puts on an unmarried ‘girl of age’; I’ve felt suffocated at times. The thought of being this beautiful kid’s role model just scares me. I feel a pressure to live up to this title, yet I know I am lacking in so many ways. I don’t see myself as ‘successful’, I just feel like I’m bumbling through life.

If only this wasn’t an anonymous blog, I would share this post with her too. She is the one that people should be admiring, not the other way round. I truly believe that kids these days are so much smarter and more empathetic than my peers and I were at her age. They see the world in a different way and I admire that sparkle in their eyes. I need to get me some of that!

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Other people’s pain

I read a really disturbing, but true, story about a Bangladeshi girl who was domestically abused by her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. It was on another level. She was brave enough to share her story with the world, but even braver to show the face behind it. No matter how many words I write in this post, nothing will express how shocking her experience was.

When I watched an interview she’d done for TV, I couldn’t fathom how such a beautiful, strong and confident woman had gone through all of that. She explained that she had been brought up to be a strong woman all her life, so hearing how she reacted uncharacteristically to everything that happened after marriage, just didn’t make any sense to me. She just lost herself.

But when you really think about it, unless you’ve been through it, you have no idea what goes through someone’s mind when in a situation like that. From what I can understand, you love someone with all your heart and soul, and thought they loved you too. Then all of a sudden they get violent and abusive and lash out, then quickly realising this could get ugly, they apologise in a way that seems so genuine… only to go and repeat it over and over again. You then have a million and one thoughts running through your head, whilst feeling like your world has stopped at the same time. You don’t want to admit the reality of the situation to yourself and make excuses, for both the abuser and abusee.

The sad thing about this is that I believe that culture and the society we live in play a huge part in this. She probably couldn’t help but think of the dreaded ‘what would people say’ if she had then left her husband and when these ‘people’ found out, what impact that would have on her and her family’s lives. Not wanting people to know that she’d had a failed marriage, not wanting to have to start from the bottom again. Feeling like the world is collapsing around her.

This is only how I imagine she felt. I haven’t been through it myself, so I would never be able to understand it fully. But there are parts that I can see as clear as day, because we belong to the same culture, which I despise sometimes.

The pressure of keeping up appearences in front of people who do and don’t matter is immense in the Bangladeshi culture. You can’t show that you’re suffering, so you have to keep on, keeping on. You need your loved ones to think that you’re doing well, and you need outsiders to think that you’re living the life! The burden of this pressure is so heavy, that you end up losing yourself. In that instance, it’s so easy to forget who you are, what you wanted to achieve in life and what makes you truly happy. You’re made to feel like you are worthless.

Now, I’m talking about a different aspect of my personal life, but this is something I could relate to and it pained me to read. Halfway through her story, I had to stop and take a breather. It was just too much to bare. How could one person tolerate that much abuse on a daily basis? How is it possible for these evil, conniving, disgusting people to exist in this world and call themselves human beings, let alone muslims?

Everything that is wrong with this culture’s expectations on marriage is in this story. From the ridiculous expectations on her to be the perfect wife, to them mentally and physically abusing her and thinking that it’s their right to do so. None of it should have happened, but it did, because the culture (and religion to a certain extent) allowed it.

Just a few weeks ago, I watched a BBC documentary about a Pakistani Muslim woman who was exploring the expectations put on muslim women when it came to marriage and independance. And I wasn’t shocked to find that I could relate to practically everything she said; from how she felt the pressures to be a good daughter and not let her parents down, to wanting to do what makes her happy whilst being respectful of her religion. It was evident that parents enforce the rules of culture quite heavily, to the point that it overtakes the importance of religion. But this isn’t anything new, this is something I talk about all the time.

Thinking back to the domestic abuse story, at first I was adament that I would not have handled the situation like that if it were me. I’m a strong, independent woman who knows enough to realise my own worth and the respect I deserve. But it made me think… didn’t this Bengali girl also think this about herself before she got married?

Regardless, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have let it get this far, but I also understand and appreciate that everyone is different. I think another thing to bare in mind is the fact that she was still fairly young when she was going through this ordeal, so probably wasn’t as worldy as she is now. I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t stand for this behaviour, but I also appreciate the fact that I seem to be quite a few years older than her, so it’s only natural to become wiser with (old) age. You see and hear all sorts – you learn from other people’s stories and pain.

I really respect her for speaking out and sharing her pain with strangers, because it helps people, who are suffering in silence, realise that there is hope out there. And I genuinely wish that people who are going through tough times, gain the strength to reach out and not suffer alone. It can take just one call, message or email to turn your life around. You can read her story on her blog.

When I started this blog a few years ago, I didn’t expect a single person to read it. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone about it or share it on any social media platforms. But miraculously, people came across it, and not only that, they took the time and effort to reach out to me and tell me that I’m not alone. They even shared their stories with me, which made me feel truly touched and I was definitely taken aback. I never intended for this to be a regular blog (as you can tell), only just an outlet for me to share my thoughts when I felt like I couldn’t talk to the people around me. I’m blessed to have such great people in my life, but even then, I felt alone. And writing a blog post to ‘nobody’ was the only way I felt I could let out my inner thoughts and insecurities.

I’m still shocked when people send me messages, especially when they say that reading something that I had written on a whim had helped them; I just don’t know how to react. It made me appreciate the power of communication. If my ramblings could help you come out of a unpleasant situation, then I am more grateful to you than you are to me, because YOU found me. You have already done more than I did when I was suffering, so I just want to say a big thank you to all of my readers. I’m sorry I’m not a good enough blogger, but I’m grateful to you for making my life shine a little brighter.

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Life update: summer has passed and winter has arrived

The summer has passed and winter has arrived… and I haven’t updated this blog in nearly a year! What have I been doing with my life? I have to admit, I went through some dark times earlier this year. I can’t really say 2017 has been a good year for me, but it’s certainly looking up, so I’ll try to keep this in mind whenever I feel down thinking about the past.

I’ve actually written several posts, which are saved in my drafts and probably won’t get published. It’s weird reading them back when so much has changed, except for one thing. I’m still nowhere near the point of getting married, nor have I started looking.

I don’t feel stressed about it like I did before though, but it’s obviously something that’s always at the back of my mind. Over the last year, several relatives and family friends have got married. I had to attend two weddings as they were of my cousins, otherwise no one would’ve seen me anywhere near one of those celebrations. I tried to dodge and run away from any relatives who had that inquisitive look in their eyes when approaching me. I knew exactly what they wanted to talk about. In other words, what they wanted to grill me about. I learnt my lesson at the first wedding where a relative, quite bluntly and harshly, asked me, ‘Aren’t you ashamed?’.

‘Ashamed of what?’ you ask…? Oh, just the fact that the kid getting married is 5 years younger and that I had the audacity to show my old, unmarried face, without looking embarrassed. I know… just wow. I really didn’t see this direct blow coming. I just turned around and said no I’m not, and that if it’s a problem, then I won’t bother turning up to the next one. That left me with a horrible feeling that night.

Just like I’ve explained in previous posts, I’m not against marriage. In fact, I want to get married. But I had to sort out other aspects of my life first before even thinking about it. This is how I process things and deal with life. Everyone works differently. It’s not even like I tried and failed – I just haven’t been looking. And yes, I know I’m getting old and that I should get a move on. But you know what? I have stopped caring what other people think.

Although, I know I constantly contradict myself. I see everyone around me getting married, buying houses, having babies. And then here I am – nothing has changed. But I’m happy (mostly). I am living a good life right now. And I don’t even mean a crazy one. My life is just as simple (read: boring) as most people’s. It consists of 80% work, 10% ‘fun’, 5% spending time with family and the final 5%, hiding from the world. Most of my time and energy goes into work, because a girl’s got to work to live!

But with a blink of an eye, I’m already nearing the big dreaded milestone and now I’m like… shit.

How did this even happen? One minute ago, I was fresh faced, young and naive. I moved to the city to follow my dreams, thinking it would be just like the movies. Instead, I bumbled through life and here we are, many years later. My best friend always helps me put things into perspective though. It’s easy to sit here and dwell on all the lost opportunities and cry over the fact that I haven’t achieved anything. But then she snaps me out of it (she’d slap me if she could) and reminds me of all the things that I HAVE achieved and how much I’ve gained from that. Everybody needs a best friend like that – someone who can bring you back down to earth and reality.

Anyway, the takeaway from this story is that nothing has changed, but a lot has changed. I’m working towards being happy and content with myself first, before looking for a partner in crime.

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