There’s more to life than morphine

Small moments landscape

It was in those early few days of returning home from the hospital, and going about the slow business of recovering that it dawned on me.

I’m still here. I keep waking up, day after day. I keep living.

That’s not something that happens by accident. We’re not here to be dead weight, just tread water until one day we’re gone. There’s a purpose to it all.

 

Starting over

That’s a very dramatic way to welcome you back to my blog. It’s been with a heavy heart that I’ve been unable to write over these last few months. I’ve been suffering from a severe form of an illness that took my life apart piece by piece. I stopped working, stopped exercising, stopped socialising. I ceased to be all the people that I’ve cherished being- wife, mum, daughter, friend, writer. I sat in my house for seven months waiting for the pain to stop. Waiting to live again.

“In four weeks you’ll feel better”

“The operation will give you back some quality of life”

Well, two operations, many drugs and seven months later, I’m still on the road to recovery, and there’s a fair distance to go.

But I’ve made a decision. I’m not going to wait any more. I’m getting on with my life. Because in life- in all of our lives, there are no quick fixes to our dramas. Problems surround us.

Broken marriages

Bodies that don’t work as they should

Children living in squalid conditions in refugee camps

Governments bankrupt of money and sense

Cancer

 

Make a different kind of list

But you know where the hope lies? It lies in the many little things that fill our lives. The small moments. No, there are no quick fixes, and we certainly need to find answers to the bigger problems. Cancer ain’t going away. There’s no short term solution to the migrant crisis. As for me, well I face the prospect of yet more pain and more drugs until I can be free of this illness.

The recent operation I had, and the weeks that followed it have taught me to live in the smaller moments. As a good friend of mine says “Today is ok. I can do today.”

In the hospital there was morphine to dull the pain- thank God for it. In life, what dulls the pain?

God’s embrace

My husband’s unconditional love

My daughter

That my parents are still alive

Friends who just ‘know’

Writing that unlocks my soul

Losing myself in a delicious night’s sleep

The first taste of the cheesecake

 

Next steps

That’s my list. Now make yours. As the saying goes, one day, we’ll look back on life and realise that it was the little moments that really mattered and made our lives what they are.

I hope you’ll join me as I begin again. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to post while I’m recovering but I aim to try. You can expect to see much of what you guys have told me you love about my blog: my take on cross-cultural life, opinion pieces on current affairs, media reviews. There’ll be new stuff too, because I’ve changed in the time I’ve been away.

It’s a kind of watch-this-space type scenario.

In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Start writing your list….(and feel free to share it below.)

 

P.s. It’s good to be back! x

 

If you’re new here, why not stay and look around? Here’s some of my most popular posts to get you started:

Rape is not just India’s problem

No Country for White Men

An Interview with Gurinder Chada

 

Celebrating 1000 Followers!

When you start a blog you really don’t know if anyone’s going to read it. It begins life as something you do for yourself and you hope people will join you along the way. Now, as I celebrate two years of British Asian Woman and specifically, 1000 followers (yippee, thank you guys SO much for following!) I’ve been thinking a lot about how to mark these two milestones, particularly my awesome 1000 followers. I thought about writing the obligatory piece on highlights & low lights. But that felt a bit self-indulgent and rather like writing a thesis on my own blog. Dull, dull, dull.

Instead I’ve decided to write about the two biggest things that have come out of British Asian Woman over the last two years: the Thing I’m Most Grateful for and the Thing I’m the Proudest Of.

So let’s see.

The Thing I’m Most Grateful For

Well it’s two things really.

British Asian Woman has been a real sounding board for me. As pretentious as this sounds, it is my world: it’s literally the things I think about every day. Like current affairs. We look at what’s happening around us and often cannot relate or make sense of it, even when they’re the big issues that we should be aware of.

For example, when 200 Nigerian girls were kidnapped earlier this year, the whole world got tweeting #bringbackourgirls. I use Twitter a lot, but even I thought “what good is that going to do?” Can hashtag activism really make any difference? And when the Government started the British values debate, right off the back of an investigation into extremism in our schools, I immediately wanted to know how British Asians can respond and where we fit into that discussion. Researching, thinking about, processing and eventually writing about these things have really helped me to understand and find some answers- and that’s point number one of the thing(s )I’m most grateful for.

Identity is a big deal to me, mainly because as a first generation, South Asian expat who has lived in Britain all her life, who is now in a mixed race marriage and raising a mixed race child, there are a lot of factors to work with. I always used to think of myself as a coconut- you know, brown on the outside, white on the inside. Growing up, I identified more with the ‘British’ part of who I am. I even felt a little sheepish about calling my blog “British Asian Woman” like I was extolling myself as some kind of archetypal Asian person, when deep down I knew I didn’t fit that mould. But slowly, over time in writing I’ve come to see that there is diversity everywhere- including within the Asian community.

So when I wrote “What kind of Asian are you?” it was kind of like my putting to bed all those guilty, mixed up feelings and thoughts on identity. I was, and am finally able to say to other Asians “not Asian enough for you? Oh well, you hold onto your stereotypes while I celebrate my heritage.” Or to the British people who look at me wondering if I speak English or “is she like us?” I laugh and know I don’t need to act white to make them accept me. I can just be myself, and that’s incredibly freeing.

So the (other) Thing I’m Most Grateful for is that writing this blog has been like a cathartic working out of my often mixed up thoughts on identity and issues. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to tackle some of the big things that I’ve struggled with, and all the while my readers have patiently let me rant,  muse, and ponder (and still continue to read!) until….I reach that light bulb moment and I know I’m done with it- I’ve found the answer I was looking for.

 

The Thing I’m Proudest Of

Finding answers and solutions to problems has been an interesting development that has come out of my writing.

When I wrote “The only brown face at the school gates” I would never have thought someone who Googled “the school mums all ignore me” would find me; (WordPress offers some analytics tools that allows me to see who finds my site and through what search terms they put in) I really hope that person found some practical help in the tips that I offered for making friends with the other school mums- the school playground is a scary and isolating place- for parents.

Time and again, so many of you have thanked me for writing on subjects like rape, child abuse, what it’s like to parent a mixed race child, British Asian identity. As I said before, when you blog you don’t even know if people are reading, so be thanked and told through comments and tweets that “you’ve nailed it” on a certain topic is so rewarding. Probably the best comment I ever received was:

“You write about the things we all think about, but just never know how to put down onto paper”

Wow.

When I wrote my first post on the rape culture in India, which is to date my most successful due to getting Freshly Pressed two years ago, I never thought of the massive response I’d get. The most moving comment I received was:

“You obviously are concerned about everyone receiving the respect they are due. You are not just interested in your own fame and fortune. That’s refreshing.”

That comment blew me away and I spent a lot of time thinking about it- it was never my intention to be some kind of advocate for issues or disadvantaged groups or people. But it’s happened that way and a new focus of British Asian Woman going forward will be to do just that and importantly, find solutions.

You’ll see a series that I’m doing on Asian women in the workplace, a practical angle on how we can as Asian women can channel workplace disadvantage and discrimination for positive change as just one example of this.

This series came out of collaborating with Asian Women Mean Business, a fab group of like- minded British Asian women. I’m really proud to have worked with them and some great people over the last two years: the fabulous MasalaMommas, Indian Connect and Red Magazine. I love the partnership aspect that blogging allows, and hopefully creates more interesting content to reach a wider group of women- women who are perhaps struggling with the same issues I am.

I’m excited about the future of British Asian Woman and the potential it has to be a platform that continues to help people and ask provocative questions.

THANK YOU all for following, reading, commenting and being a part of my journey. See you along the way.

British Asian Woman x

Is ‘British Asian’ a mixed race identity?

My blog has been woefully neglected over the last couple of months. The truth is that I’ve been struggling to relate with my British Asian audience, and indeed my British Asian- self. Since starting up this blog, I’ve come to realise that I am myself not a typical British Asian at all. I don’t watch Bollywood films, listen to Hindi music or much Bhangra. I don’t tweet in Punjabi or go to big family functions over the weekend.

But then I asked myself: are these things what define one as being British Asian these days?

What about the fact that I was born in the Indian subcontinent, was raised by Asian parents, identify with other Asians, love Indian food, clothes and culture, am passionate about Asian issues and the British Asian community?

But then there are days when I feel so disgusted with the double standards of our community. The pressure to conform, the expectations of our parents that stem from their desire to maintain some link to the mother-land and keep up appearances with relatives back home. Sometimes I love how freeing  it is to also be a bit British. By marrying out of the community, I have none of the drama that comes with Asian in-laws, I am free to raise my daughter as I wish. I am free to make my own decisions about whether I work, cut my hair, attend functions or not. (All of these do come with stick that I get from my own parents, but deep down they know that as a married woman, they no longer have that kind of control over me.)

Oh but the conundrum is that some days, when I’m with my English friends, I feel like an on-looker, even an intruder. Did you know I ate my first Yorkshire pudding when I was in my 20’s? I was raised on rice and curries for goodness sake! There is so much about being British (or English) that is often completely alien to me.

I guess being of two cultures will always mean that you identify with both but never solely with either one. You get the delicious experience of dipping in and out of both, which often makes you feel like you belong to neither but gives you the advantage of taking or leaving the bits you do and don’t like.

My daughter is mixed race. When she was little I worried that it would be hard for her to understand her identity and the fact that she belongs to two different cultures. But it seems that I myself have had some experience in this- all my life in fact. So maybe I can give her a helping hand with it all…..

Do you belong to two (or even more) cultures? Are you in a mixed race marriage? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Read my response to this post “What Kind of Asian are You?”

Let’s talk ladies…

It’s funny that in this day and age of social media, where everyone is connected to each other via Twitter and Facebook, there are very few connections amongst British Asian women, digitally speaking; and especially amongst us mums. I mean, sure you know the women in your local area, the mums at the toddler group or other mums at your gurdwara, church or mosque. But what do we each really know about the other British Asian mums living hundreds of miles away from us?

For example, as a mum based in the South of England, I don’t know anything about what life is like for a British Asian mum in say Bradford or Leeds. (And yet I know the in’s and out’s of lives of celebrities and other famous people because of the media.)

When I was doing research for this site, I was absolutely amazed that there were no blogs out there about ‘mums like me’.  I trawled the internet to find something really relevant to me. What I found were countless blogs about every other walk of life of motherhood, except ours.

And so Britishasianmum.com was born. This is a site dedicated to the lives of second generation Asian women in Britain today, who have married here and are now raising the next generation of British Asians.  It doesn’t matter what religion you are, or which country in the Indian subcontinent you descend from, I hope that you’ll find something of interest here. It’ll be a mix of current affairs, social issues, inspirational pieces and some stories of my own life and experiences. If you don’t find what you are looking for here, I urge you to contact me at britishasianmum@yahoo.co.uk and tell me what you’d like to see; or better yet, I invite you to be a guest blogger here. I welcome your stories and thoughts, and life experiences. At the end of each of blog, there will usually be either a question to get you thinking and encourage debate, or a kind of call to response inviting your views and comments.

And if you don’t agree with my opinions, if I offend you, why not take it out on your keyboard by sending me your response- set me straight!?

Either way, let’s get talking. Let’s get a dialogue going amongst our community of British Asian mums.

Happy reading!

British Asian Mum x