Tag Archives: london

Where do I belong?

So a lot has been happening in my life over the past few weeks. So much change. I’m yet to figure out if it’s a good or bad thing. But I realised I feel like I’m at some kind of loss. Maybe a crossroad in my life?

I’m at the turning point in my career… looking for the next suitable opportunity. I’m a single, Bangladeshi, muslim girl on the wrong side of 25. I don’t have any significant debt. I don’t have a partner. I’m mortgage free and not trapped in a contract in my London flat. I have nothing tying me down… except this invisible pressure.

Pressure that I’ve put on myself to prove that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Pressure to show people that I’m doing extremely well. Pressure from my parents to save money for my imaginary wedding, find a husband and settle down. Pressure to get serious about religion and become a better muslim. Does this list ever end?

But all I can think about these days is how I want to escape. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life in London. It wasn’t where I was born or grew up, but it’s always felt like home. It’s where I’ve always felt like I belonged. It’s where I’m most comfortable, it’s where I can breathe this fresh (but somewhat polluted) air of freedom.

Yet, I feel like I need a break. For a very long time now, I’ve wanted to have the opportunity to live and work abroad. It’s my dream, it’s all I want in life right now. But I know that’s unrealistic, and it makes me feel sad. I mean, you just have to read my list of pressures above to figure out why.

My parents would go mental and summon me to move back home. They will demand I sort my life out and get married in the next few months. They will treat me like I’m incapable of making my own life decisions. I will regress back to being that angsty teenager, fighting for my rights. In the end, I will be the one losing out, and risk having the freedom I have in London yanked away from me.

It’s so hard to explain this to people outside of the culture. These people will tell me that I shouldn’t be listening to my parents and should do what makes me happy. And that my parents can’t tell me what I can or cannot do. I really wish it was that simple. There will always be consequences and the possibility of them disowning me (if I really pushed it that far). And I know this may sound absurd, but it’s not easy to not care about what your parents think. There’s always this feeling of wanting their approval of the choices you make in life. It’s a losing battle in my case.

I spoke about it with my siblings today, about how I feel like it’s the right time in my life to give living and working abroad a shot… and they just laughed in my face. Like ‘oh here we go again…’, which actually hurt my feelings. They think I’m ridiculous because I work too much and am nowhere near close to finding someone, let alone get married. They think I’m silly for having these hopes and dreams and that I should focus on settling down. I really felt let down; I feel alone.

So why is it, that despite being in a good, commitment free life, I feel like I’m at a loss? Why is the good always overshadowed by this pressure hanging over my head? Why do I care this much about what others think? Why did I ever think that the people who are meant to be my nearest and dearest, would actually care about my feelings?

There’s nothing stopping me from taking a leap, yet I can’t move. I have all of these questions that I can’t seem to find answers to.

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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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Pressures of Marriage

I’m feeling a little bit emotional today so I thought the best way to express this was to write about it.

Being a single Muslim girl of a certain age is tough, and there aren’t many people who know about it. I’ve mentioned in my previous blog post that in the Bangladeshi culture, the expected age bracket for a girl to get married is between 18 – 25, the average being around 21 years old.

Now that I’m well past the average and getting closer to the end of that age bracket, the pressure is on all of a sudden. Don’t get me wrong, the pressure was always there, but the intensity not so much. It’s got to the point where I’m losing sleep at night way too often to be healthy.

It frustrates me because despite me belonging to the generation who speaks up for their rights, my parents and people of their generation are struggling to accept these changes, at no fault of their own to be honest. They have grown up with a different ‘norm’ than me and they also have their own pressures thrust upon them by the society they live in and elders in the generations above them.

But where is that middle ground of understanding? How much effort and heartache must one undertake in order to not only be heard, but be listened to?

If I’m completely honest with you, I’m in a predicament. I feel like I’m ready for marriage, it’s something that I’ve been prepared for and accepted as normal in our culture at my age. But at the same time, in the western world that we live in, you can still be considered as too young to get married at this age. We’re told that we have so much more we can achieve before we get tied down into serious responsibilities. Whether that’s further education, travelling or getting yourself in a good position on the career ladder.

I also know that life can be lonely sometimes without a companion to share it with. I’ve been very fortunate enough for the opportunity to move to London to pursue a career, but that didn’t happen that easily may I add. I struggled a lot to convince my parents to allow me to do this and had to fight for my rights for a better life, but that’s a whole different story.

Now that I’ve been able to enjoy this little bit of freedom and breathing space for just over a year, it’s time to get serious. I am blessed to have a caring family, amazing friends and people around me who have made such a big impact on my life over the last year. And I would not be the person I am today without them. But I also know that at times I feel something lacking in my life and I long to share my love and care for someone else too. 

Let me just tell you now, the search for a partner (for life) is not easy. I know it’s a commonly shared feeling, but it’s 100 times harder when you don’t have that self confidence to put yourself out there and also have to consider a restricting criteria. I just don’t know what to do.

I’ve grown up seeing my dad in the food trade where he hardly had time for his family. And despite my mother being a housewife, she barely ever got to spend any time with him either. He worked 7 days a week to makes ends meet and provide for not only his family here, but also for his brother’s family in Bangladesh. I don’t want to marry someone who is in a similar situation; there are too many people like this out there. That’s not what I call a life.

On the other hand, there are also so many people on restricted Visas living in this country, whether they’re a student or working in a restaurant who are looking to marry to get that red passport. I most definitely do not want to get involved in that situation either. 

But with my parents knowing and living in a community consisting of these types of people, the search for ‘the one’ is made 1000 times harder. They have specifically told me that I can only marry someone who is Bangladeshi Muslim. This limits the pool of people available in ‘the one’ pool.

My criteria for the person I hope to marry is that he is a British born Muslim and educated to university level with a decent enough job which isn’t in the food trade industry. Am I asking for too much?

One of my good older friends who I have known since I was a child sent me such a lovely encouraging message today that it brought a tear to my eye. She said:

“Since I have met you, even when you were that shy little girl, I knew you would go far & even remember telling you this because I see an incredibly strong, beautiful individual full of love & life and whoever has the kismet to share their life with you better hold on tight because you will show him what life is really all about. I know you will do it all and be happier than a lot of people. You have to believe it too.”

Now, if that’s not the most beautiful thing you have ever heard, then I don’t know what is. Once again, I am grateful for such wonderful people in my life who keep me going even when the times are tough. Hopefully one day I will look back at all this heartache and smile at how my life turned around.

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