Abida Mian's Blog

An outlier that's living, learning and being myself…

Archive for Psychology

Quora Question: What surprised you today?

Reading this article in the newspaper:


WTF? What did I just read. This was published in an in-flight magazine by a Chinese airline.

Having moved from growing up in the middle of nowhere as the only ethnic minority family to London was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve now lived here for many years, and I absolutely love the cultural diversity, that’s one of the reasons you should definitely visit this vibrant city.

If I want to taste authentic Caribbean cuisine, I’ll head out to Brixton, and East London for Indian/Pakistani cuisine and clothes shops full of exquisite saris and lenghas. I won’t find that in the area where I live, and definitely not back in the village I grew up in!

With regards to travelling alone at night, I do agree it’s important for all women (not just tourists) to be vigilant of their surroundings. Often, if I’m not far from home, I will walk back late at night, but I will only take the main road (no shortcuts through side streets), or alternatively get a licenced cab back home whichever part of London I find myself in. It’s illegal to carry pepper spray, but I strongly recommend keeping a rape alarm in your bag on a night out. The greatest danger here is the binge drinking culture, when out with close female friends, on occasion they tend to get annihilated, making them vulnerable to predators, as a non-drinker, I make sure the taxi drops them off safely home first, me last, even if I’m closer. Don’t forget that bad things happen during the day too. Look at that poor Google employee who went for a jog in the woods in broad daylight on a Sunday a few miles from her parents home in Princeton, only to be murdered, stripped naked and her body burned.

My advice isn’t exclusively for just London, I think it applies to anywhere in the world, including China! I personally don’t know of any woman who needs to be told of the dangers of travelling alone late at night. Surely it’s just common sense? Whilst it’s not right, sadly there’s no guarantee any place is 100% safe, even the affluent areas, that’s just life!

Air China, please don’t incite racial prejudice. I’ve never felt uncomfortable or threatened around any race in London. In fact, I’m proud to have made close friends from different ethnic backgrounds. My father was Indian, mother Pakistani, and close friend Ghanan, all well-educated, respectful and kind people. Those words I read are extremely ignorant and offensive. Grow up, and stop stereotyping! The editor of this magazine and the writer should hold their head in shame and resign.

The only place I wouldn’t visit are those populated with ugly intolerant minds like yours. I absolutely abhor this side of human nature.

Kind regards,

Abi

Quora Question: What is your religion and why?

Abida (Arabic: ‫عابدہ‬ ‎‎) Islamic name meaning one who worships.

The journey to find my own truth has not been an easy one, and has raised many questions along the way. Are children born into a religion? Should we raise children in one’s religious tradition, or is that taking away the right to religious freedom?

Background: the daughter of Muslim immigrants, I grew up as the only ethnic minority child (apart from my brothers) in a tight knit White community.

The story begins: is morality inherent or learned?

As a child, I would often venture into my dad’s study filled with awe at all the books on the shelves spanning many genres from science and maths to geography and history. I noted though the top shelf had a collection of books on one man. I often wondered who the guy in the simple white cloth was.

One day, I had one of my friends over to play. As my friend left, I found that some of my Barbie clothes had gone missing. I immediately ran to my dad, and told him that I was angry that my friend had stole from me. My dad told me to come sit on the sofa and watch one of his favourite films, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (my dad was born in India, he was a young child during the partition, so this film was extremely poignant for him).

To this very day, there is one scene that I vividly recall. Gandhi was on hunger strike, and a Hindu man comes to him to confess the murder of a Muslim child, which he commits after his own son is murdered. The Hindu man begs for forgiveness, as he’s convinced he’s going to hell. Gandhi advises him to adopt a Muslim child and raise him as a Muslim. The moral was that the true test of redemption was to learn to love his ‘enemy’, and that did not have to mean forsaking his own religion, but to lose his hatred and become an understanding, tolerant Hindu. Wow, although I was young, I was blown away by the powerful message.

During the film, from the corner of my eye, I could see tears falling from my dad’s cheeks. Me: “What’s wrong, daddy?” Him: Beti (daughter), I was born in India and spent some of my childhood there. Being Muslim, we had to abandon our home and make the journey to the newly formed Pakistan. For days, we went without food, there were dead bodies lying along our path. Somehow my parents got separated from my grandparents and I, so I wasn’t sure if they were dead or alive.” He then looks at his finger which was crooked. “Daddy, what happened to your finger?” “I used to climb up trees with my childhood friend who was a Sikh, one day I fell, it just reminds me of him when I look at it.” Gasping for air, he says, “I found out that he was beaten to death by adult Muslims. I was horrified, an innocent young boy, he had no quarrel with anyone. I couldn’t reconcile it in my mind. Innocent men/women/children of all faiths being murdered or suffering, all I wanted was for it to end and to have a home again. I took a departure from my faith, realising that I didn’t need to pray five times a day to be a good Muslim, it was how I lived my life that mattered.”

The scene where Gandhi gets shot brings tears to my eyes. “What did you think of Gandhi, Beti?” “I love him, daddy, he was a good man.” “Me too, he said.” Grabbing my shoulders, he said, “I wanted you to watch the film to learn compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness. You must never have bitterness in your heart. Your friend is sad we must help her.” Me: “But she stole from me, isn’t that wrong?” Him: “We must understand what makes people do things. Her daddy has left.” Me: “Where’s he gone? When’s he coming back?” Him: I don’t think he’s coming back.” So off I went packing things to give to my friend. My dad passes me and asks what I’m doing. “I want to make my friend happy, what’s mine is hers,” I said.

The partition changed my dad’s view of the world. He believed in integration. His philosophy was that you respect the traditions and culture of the country that you live in. We celebrated Christmas and Easter like every other kid. Presents, sending cards, eating traditional Christmas dinner. In fact, my most precious memory was one Christmas when my dad bought me an awesome Barbie house and built it from scratch.

One of our neighbours was a Jehovah’s Witness. She would often come to our house and bring us a copy of a magazine called the watchtower. My dad would make me sit and listen to her. “Dad, she’s trying to convert us,” I said. “Does it matter, Beti? She does a lot of good things for the community, that’s all that matters.”

Learning tolerance & developing your own mind:

As I grew older, I was intrigued to learn more about Gandhi. His writing reflected someone that was unquestionably intellectually gifted, a deep thinker, humble, fair, just. In my eyes, he was nothing short of remarkable.

The early teenage years came, where I often asked “why”?, and I never stopped.

One day, my father called me to come sit with him. I could see the anger in his face. “What’s wrong dad?” “Abida, this is the first time I’ve had to discipline you. I was disappointed to learn that you removed yourself from school morning assembly and prayers. Why?” “Dad, I see no value in it, I only need my Maths & Physics books.” He gets up. “I did not raise you to be disrespectful, go to your room and come out when you realise why I’m angry.”

Astounded by his reaction, I ran to my bedroom and slammed the door. Why am I being punished?, he cannot tell me how to live my life. Then after some alone time I realised I was in the wrong. I came out of my room and approached my father. “I’m sorry,” dad. “Beti, you are being taught in a Christian school, singing and praying doesn’t make you Christian, it does, however, teach us tolerance, we must understand what’s important to others even if it’s not to us. You will apologise to your teachers and go back.”

Then that awkward question came. “Abida, do you believe in God?” I knew what he was alluding to, he was wondering how I identified myself. “Dad, I have my own mind, and cannot accept your truth, because faith must come from the heart, to know mine, I have to look at all truths, otherwise it would be hypocrisy. Where is the evidence for the existence of God?”

“Abida, faith cannot be deduced, it can only be felt. You’re close minded. I love the beauty of Mathematics. I came top in my country, gained a scholarship to the UK, top in my graduation year, hold a PhD, so you’re perplexed why I can accept both science and religious faith, but it needn’t be a contradiction. Whilst it’s true that science provides a set of tools that helps us to understand the many unknowns, there is also more to the world than science can see.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been times in my life (particularly so during the partition) I’ve questioned my faith, which can only be expected, given that faith requires some intangible element. But my open heart and mind still make me believe in allah.”

He puts his hand on my heart. “Abida, if you do not have faith, then you must be guided by your moral compass. You’re never superior to others, never inferior (remember Gandhi & the untouchables), be fair, value your integrity, always help those that are poor. Follow that, while seeking your own truth.”

My moral compass was set.

Curiosity:

As a teenager, I had many questions, and was curious to learn what my dad’s opinions were as a Muslim.

This time, I asked my dad to sit on the sofa with me. “Dad, I’m going to be direct with you, answer these questions honestly.”

1. What is your opinion on the hijab?

Me: “When you took me to Pakistan as a child, an elderly man told you I should be wearing one. With the innocence of my youth, naturally I questioned why I had to wear one and neither you or the elderly man did. Your answer was that we had to respect the country we were visiting much like how we respect the traditions back home, which I would understand if we all had to wear one. Therefore, at 11, I felt your answer was incomplete.”

Him: “Abida, I’m indifferent to whether a female wears a headscarf or not. If a woman is religious and identifies the hijab with being a Muslim, and wears one of their own volition, then I see that as no different to how a nun dresses. As a child, you raised a valid point on being singled out for your gender, it isn’t for others to tell you what you should or shouldn’t wear, and if they do, they should follow suit. I’m a Muslim.”

“I hasten to add that in my family, it’s me that is oppressed. Look at this hideous orange jumper your mother knitted, two sizes too small, one arm longer than the other. This is what men do for love.”

2. What is your opinion on forced marriages?

There has been a lot of press on young British teenage girls from Pakistani families being sent back without finishing their education?

Him: “Firstly, forced marriages are forbidden in Islam. This is more a South Asian cultural issue, particularly amongst those from rural villages who are uneducated. You must understand that we view the world and judge others based upon our own perspective. I was brought up in a village, and it was commonplace to marry young, for them it is normal. If you’re alluding to whether I think females are there to just get married and have children, you’re wrong. I have a lot of respect for women, my mother had an exceptional work ethic. I strongly believe in education, and girls should go to university first, work for a bit then marry. As a father, my responsibility is to protect my children. If you married young with no education, and you were subject to domestic abuse, would I want you to stay and suffer? Education allows independence, particularly when women also suffer the stigma of divorce within that culture. Don’t forget who taught you Mathematics from an early age. There should be more women in the physical sciences and engineering. Women can do anything men can do. I’m a Muslim.”

“Abida, it’s important not to be prejudice. No Muslim is the same. Faith is not the enemy. Human beings are responsible for their actions. Without morality there is no religion.”

Mosque:

The first time I stepped into a mosque was for my father’s funeral. I dressed modestly wearing a hijab. As I was approaching, I noticed in the distance teenage boys verbally abusing (chanting go back home) women stepping out of the mosque.

As I entered, I walked passed my brothers. Their eyes bloodshot, faces pale from having to wash our dad’s dead body. I entered the women’s pray room. I saw the coffin at the front, the top was made of glass. I peered down, and all I saw was the shell of a man I didn’t recognise, horrified further by seeing that his tracheotomy tube had not been removed.

I was given a prayer mat, Quran and beads. I kneeled down on the floor. At that point my mother was in her own world next to the coffin, family was at the back of the room. I was right at the front alone.

I had absolutely no idea of what to do. Then came whispering from a group of women who were staring at me. They were speaking in Punjabi. “She doesn’t know what’s she’s doing. She’s very fair, I’m guessing she’s European,” they said. I kept a dignified silence, but inside I wanted to tell them not to judge me, my heart was already broken. I glanced at the closed doors, wishing I wasn’t segregated from my brothers.

The way I saw it was I had two options. Move to the back of the room away from prying eyes, or to sit it out. My moral compass pointed towards persevering, I just focused on copying the actions and words of the woman sat next to me. Then my mother joined in sometime after. At the end, I considered just ignoring those women as I left, but I realised that in life, I will always meet people that will judge me, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re “bad” people, just that they have a different perspective. They would suffer a far greater judgement than me, constantly at the receiving end of islamophobic bigots for the way they dressed, that I believe is wrong. So, I stopped, said, “shukria, khuda hafiz” (translated: thank you, may God be your guardian). Their eyes popped, they weren’t expecting me to speak 🙂 One woman put her hand on my shoulder as I left. “Islam welcomes everyone,” she said.

In complete contrast, my brothers found all the men in their room to be very supportive, teaching them what to do.

I wasn’t allowed to be at the burial, something that didn’t make sense to me. That’s when the realisation hit, only those that understand can be true believers.

My truth:

A few years later, I find myself at another funeral, this time at a church. After the burial everyone makes their way out, but I stay and sit on a bench. A hand pressed against my shoulder. I look up and it’s the priest with his warm smile and friendly eyes. “You look puzzled,” he said. Me: “I’m trying to make sense of the world.” Him: “you might be there for sometime then.” We both laughed. Him: “Perhaps I can help.” Me: “I’m not religious.” Him: Who says you have to be? come into the church.”

“Father. I’m trying to find my truth. There are questions that I need answers to. One minute you’re here, next minute you’re gone. Why do we go through life experiencing happiness, sadness, anger, disappointment, hate, hurt, only for it to all end with such finality?

The people in my life that I love have their own faith (Islam, Christianity, Hinduism) or none (Atheism). I practice Ramadan because I like the meaning behind it, I love Christmas as a time to be with family & friends, I like the concept of karma and reincarnation.”

The priest: “do you believe in God?” “When I see children suffering, extremism, inequality, immigrants being dehumanised by the media/politicians, racial and religious hatred, my mind says no. Then I look at the mathematical beauty of nature, and my heart says yes. I guess anything is possible in the realm of conjecture.”

Who knows what truth is right? Anyone’s viewpoint is just as valid as anyone else’s viewpoint. We all have our own truth even if we cannot know with exact certainty what that truth is.

Whilst I don’t understand the rituals of religion, for me, it’s the inner voice of conscience “my moral compass” that continues to guide me.

My “teachers” are two men who had beautiful hearts, one Muslim (my dad) and one Hindu (Gandhi), divided by their faith, united by their moral compass. As my life continues to unfold, they keep me on the right path to truth. Perhaps we’re not that different after all…

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Protected: Quora: What is a controversial topic that isn’t openly discussed amongst those of Indian & Pakistani heritage?

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Quora Question: The only woman I’ve ever fell for doesn’t want me. How can I make her feel like I do?

I’ve been crazy about this woman for years, we went on a few dates, but then she became distant and I had to push to get her to see me. Now she says I shouldn’t put my life on hold, as she’s not ready for anything. I don’t like any other woman. I tried turning up at her work, her home, but she gets really awkward. Do women like persistence?

Dear Anonymous,

Whoa there, you turned up at her work and home unannounced, do you think this is normal behaviour?

Now I’ve scolded you for that, let’s get to the crux of your dilemma. I’m going to let you into a secret women won’t tell you. If she really likes a guy, she will continue to go on dates with him, period. If after a few, you don’t hear from her, it’s means she’s not particularly interested in pursuing things further. Women find being direct hard, because they don’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings, so they withdraw and hope they pick up on the signals.

It seems some men confuse this ‘take a hint’ lack of interest signal as ‘she wants me to chase her’

It’s possible that if you pursue intently enough, she may fall for you, but be warned, the attraction element maybe missing, and it becomes a one-sided relationship.

Kudos to her for being straight with you after a couple of dates. Rather than string you along further, she told you to not wait for her

Being pushy and not respecting her decision is one thing, but stalking her at work & where she lives is damn right disgraceful. Pull your socks up, and listen up dude, stop thinking you know what’s best for her. She knows her own mind, and wants to move on, you’re not right for her. It’s a hard part of life realising that the people we fall for don’t always feel the same way. You can’t control or make feelings happen for her. 

You’re contradicting yourself by saying that no other woman makes you feel the way she does. If that were true, then shoe on the other foot, if a woman liked you, but you had no desire to forge a future together, it would be OK for her to harass you without your consent?

Someone has to tell you straight for fear that you will get yourself into a lot of trouble. There’s a fine line between showing keenness and becoming obcessed. Do you want her to get a restraining order, because that’s where you’re heading sunshine. 

Take my advice, as a woman who’s had to deal with men like you, including ex’s I haven’t seen in many years, who think it’s ok to keep my number and send me random messages. This is what you do:

  • Delete her number and any other contact info from your phone
  • Delete any past email correspondence between you
  • Keep your mind preoccupied, so you don’t ‘online stalk her’ by looking at her social media accounts
  • Never turn up to a woman’s place of work or residence unannounced
  • Take time out and pursue interests 
  • Don’t whine or mope around, deal with it and start dating again

Contrary to this widely held delusional belief that there’s only one person you’ll ever fall for, the reality is that it’s simply bull s***!

My dad re-married my mum after having his heart broken, and he admitted he was extremely lucky to find such a warm loving person. My brother broke up with his ex of five years, but went on to marry the only woman that I considered a complete package for him. There are other people out there…

For God’s sake, have an ounce of self-respect. If you really love someone, you will sacrifice your own happiness for theirs, even if it means they are with someone else. Life’s too short to chase after something that only exists in your mind and not theirs…

Best wishes,

Abi 

Quora Question: How attractive would you rate your physical traits, on a scale of 1 to 10?

And please provide reasoning as well. I’m curious about what people find attractive about themselves and how it affects their confidence. (Please try to add photos of yourself because it is much preferable to just text.)

My answer:

I wouldn’t have answered this question of my own volition, but it was an A2A from the beautiful Aimon. As the saying goes, there always has to be one who doesn’t follow the rules. Here’s my take on what I value (not rate) about my physical traits:

It’s been a bit of a journey to get to a point where I’ve learnt a lot about what it is about me that makes me feel attractive.

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From an early age, I was overshadowed by my mother’s beauty. My friends would always comment on how stunning she was. I would watch her in awe, but my father was strict on education, he didn’t want me to be preoccupied with looks.

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I grew up as the only ethnic minority (Pakistani immigrant parents) child in school. I stood out like a sore thumb. The first memory of knowing I was different was in primary school when my friend asked me why I wasn’t White like everyone else. I remember tears falling when we had to describe each other’s eye colour, mine were the only ones that were referred to as black.

My dad had to console me. It was from there he was able to educate me on why I was different, and there was nothing to be feared.

The teenage years were difficult ones. I was a reclusive child, while the girls at school talked makeup and boys, I was reading books on pure Mathematics and Physics. Being the top student was more important than how I looked to the outside world.

Then the rebellious years came where I was trying to find my identity. I remember as a teen finding a Playboy magazine under my brothers bed one day. I looked nothing like any of those women in the pictures, Carmen Electra was unbelievably curvy. I was olive skinned, tall, flat chested and lanky. I’d try and stuff myself with chocolate to put on weight, but I always weighed the same. Frustratingly, I was envied by the anorexics, that I took as an insult and it made me hate my skinny frame even more.

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I went through a phase of being interested in the exterior, and started to notice people reacting to me differently. I’d walk into the pub and the whole room would go silent. In a rural village in the middle of nowhere, they never saw a non White girl looking very Westernised before.

I may look confident in that picture, but it was all a front. I attracted the wrong kind of men. My ex boyfriend wanted to book me in for breast augmentation. He saw me as a doll that needed fixing. He was “rating” the physical traits of a woman that were important to him, those I didn’t possess, which was to the detriment of my self-esteem.

I was crazy about him, to the extent where I allowed him to control every aspect of my life. But then I was to watch someone suffer the indignities of a terminal illness, witness them die beneath my very eyes.

I took time out and did charity work with children. It was mentally challenging to look at young children who were disfigured, but they were also my source of strength. I admired their spirit, their exterior may have changed, but they were still the same person inside. I was able to walk away from my ex boyfriend.

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Now this is the woman I’ve become and accepted.

It’s ironic that after all the years I battled through the insecurities of being different, now those are the physical traits I’m grateful for. Olive skin has helped in the ageing process, being naturally slim means I can enjoy food without the guilt, breast health over shallow concerns of being flat chested. Ultimately, comparing myself to others and then giving myself a rating based on that “ideal” perception of beauty is futile, as my exterior is what I’ve been born with and cannot change. I have my imperfections for sure, but in the grand scheme of life it’s unimportant (not for my ex but for me at least). I’m finally comfortable in my own skin.

The above forms the basis of my answer. While the “1–10 rating system” is more notably a male activity, females are guilty of using this entirely subjective point based system too (there is plenty of variance in male/female opinion).

It would be remiss of me if I did not concede that it’s simply human nature for us to want to be considered attractive. We can all say what we want about universal ideals of beauty, but in the end it’s all a matter of taste. Without question, we all have opinions and standards, and a way of categorising it. I just prefer to not reduce people to mere numbers…

For the record, it’s the way my lips smile that I value. I get a heck of a lot of free Pret coffees thanks to that 😉

Thanks Aimon for the A2A.

Best wishes,

Abi x

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Quora Question: What do you fear the most? 

I imagine most people fear death – pain/suffering, non existence. It is human nature to want to understand and make sense of the world around us, but death can never be fully understood by anyone. It’s the greatest unknown.

But that’s not mine. There’s something worse than that:

“The fear of losing my mind is my greatest fear”

There was an elderly married couple I knew through work. They’d come and see me every month for the past eight years. She was from Belgium, him British. Always well dressed, old school money, lived in Knightsbridge. The wife wore the trousers, super smart (spoke several languages), meticulous, her memory was superb. Although we were from different worlds, she was never snooty. Refreshingly, very down to earth, direct at times, but I admired her head strong nature.

Over time we became close, she would always ask about my family, worry that I was looking too thin, and would tell me that I looked beautiful when I didn’t try too hard. I found her to be very caring. Despite her privileged life, there was great sadness in her heart. As her confidence in me grew, she told me that she had a son but they hadn’t spoken in years, he lived abroad with his wife and children. The quarrel was over money, he stole a substantial amount from them, and scarpered. She tried to reach out to him, but she felt that they were missing the mother-son relationship, because he was raised by a nanny.

The nicest thing she ever said to me was that she wished I was her daughter. A couple of months after my dad died, her husband died too. At the time, I was grieving, I didn’t see it, but in hindsight the signs were there, her mind was gradually deteriorating. Her behaviour was odd, she started to miss things that she would never have done before. She’d open her bag lots of times, take things out then put back in. There was a lot of cash in her bag, when I asked her why she carried thousands of pounds, her answer was that she lost trust in the bank. I feared her getting mugged.

At first, I assumed she had dementia, but it progressed to paranoia when she thought that everybody in her life was trying to kill her. That included her neighbours, her doctor, my colleagues, the only person she trusted bizarrely was me. I listened to her and became increasingly disturbed. How could someone who was one of the brightest women I’d ever met change so drastically?

Everyone dismissed her as a crazy woman, but I had known the ‘real’ her for years. I didn’t like her being referred to as such. Alarm bells rang when I could see bruises on her frail skeletal body. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten. After seeing her I had tears running down my cheeks, people told me to not get affected, because she was old (late 70’s) and it was just a part of life that she would die.

I didn’t sleep well that night. Her husband had gone, her son abandoned her, and she had no other family she spoke of. She was all alone. It played heavily on my conscience, how could I turn my back on her? Just because she was old didn’t mean she shouldn’t be allowed dignity and respect like everyone else. I took the next day off work, and went to see her. Her paranoia was so bad that she thought the people that were trying to kill her bugged her mobile & landline.

I waited for sometime before she eventually answered the door to me. Over the next couple of weeks, I would help with her shopping, take her for coffee. I was convinced if I tried hard enough, I could get through to her, somewhere deep down, she would talk to me in the way she once did. Sadly, she kept talking about things that made no sense. There was a brief moment when she recalled my nephew’s age. Her memory was still there locked away deep inside.

I pleaded with her to get a carer or go to a private care home, although she valued her independence, stubborningly so, it was clear she wasn’t well enough to look after herself. If she had an accident, I wasn’t there to check on her. The thought of her suffering in silence scared me. I was to betray her wishes, but it wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be to get someone sectioned. I tried but to no avail.

She died not long after. It was heartbreaking to watch her decline into someone almost unrecognisable. I confided in no one that I went to check on her. I take some comfort in knowing that although she may have felt alone in her mind, there was someone that shed tears in her memory…

Love you Nella.

RIP

Abi xxx

You see without my mind, I have lost my self-identity, losing connection with everyone & everything around me. That for me means ‘Abi’ has already gone.

Quora Question: How is Indian Dating different from that practised in the West? What are the starkest dissimilarities?

This is from the perspective of a British woman born to immigrant (Southeast Asian) parents.

How does Indian dating differ from the West?

Parental influence:

Without question, this plays heavily on our conscience when dating.

In Southeast Asian cultures, the family is an individual’s religious, economic, political, and social core. Parents are a big influence on our lives. You only have to look on Quora and there are a plethora of young people with dating woes:

  • My parents won’t accept me dating someone from another caste
  • I’m a Hindu in love with a Muslim
  • I’ve got a PhD but he/she isn’t educated

Let’s be honest, we all worry about whether our parents will accept the person we fall in love with. There’s an enormous pressure we face balancing wanting our own happiness with acceptance from our parents, to the extent that it can tear us apart.

For those of us that are born/brought up in the West to immigrant parents, this East/West culture conflict is harder to reconcile, and makes dating us more complex.

Respect for our family is of the upmost importance to us. There is a great fear of disobeying them, and a lot of complications and heartache if you do. My best friend (British born from a strict Hindu family) dated an English guy for a few years. She cried because her parents told her they would never accept him, but despite this he persevered and won them around. He was clever enough to know to never antagonise or disrespect her parents. Eventually they got married in a Hindu ceremony, and I admit to shedding a few tears when I saw her mother kiss his forehead. All those years of hanging on in there paid off 🙂

My brother married an English woman initially to my parents dismay, but they love her like their own daughter. Both my brother and best friend were lucky that their parents came around in the end, sadly that’s not the case for all, with those that are strict disowning their children. The consequence of not being able to fall in love with someone of your own choice is heartbreaking. This is not common in the West, there’s freedom pretty much to date whomever you like.

We’re traditional:

My boss (Caucasian) said it straight. “Abi, you’re lucky, any guy that’s interested in you is more likely to be a serious dater, because of your ethnicity. Guys looking for one night stands wouldn’t even consider you.” On the whole, I think that’s a fair statement. The men I attract tend to be cultured, well-educated, older; they assume we’re more family orientated/respectable.

Asian girls tend to take dating more seriously. I admit, even on the first date, if I don’t consider him longterm/marriage material, there won’t be a second one. There are exceptions to every rule (due to strict upbringing, rather than openness in western dating, some girls/boys go wild/cheat). I could sleep around if I wanted to, but it holds no interest to me, despite how open western society is, personally, I’m more conservative, sex is special. There is a big stigma attached with being pregnant and unmarried, to our parents it’s brings shame on the family. In the West, co-habitation and being a single parent is becoming increasingly common. In our culture, it’s frowned upon to live together as a couple unmarried. My brother once had a girlfriend for 5 years, in the West this is normal, my parents thought it was weird, and was always asking, “when are you getting married?”

Perhaps we come across as ‘prudish’. Being older, I’m not ashamed, in this day and age, having self-respect seems to be a rarity. In the UK, we are bombarded with trashy programmes where women demean themselves by having sex on TV, and celebs who constantly take naked selfies, then have the audacity to complain when they’re not taken seriously, or someone has leaked their sex tape. It’s not classy, and not an example I want setting to my future daughter. You know the world has gone mad when you can be convicted for revenge porn, thankfully, you won’t find me taking naked photos and videos of myself 🙂

For us, marriage and children is our goal. We don’t see it as “just some piece of paper” However, unlike the previous generations, we are pursuing higher education, and are more progressive, juggling careers with family (similarities to the West).

Religion:

Marrying someone of the same religion or caste is important to most families to maintain their cultural traditions & identity. When a couple come from different religious backgrounds: Muslim & Hindu, either they’re not allowed to marry outright, or it’s such an issue that one has to convert. Loyalty is paramount. One must never bring dishonor or disgrace to the family. In the traditional Southasian family, parents define the law and the children are expected to abide by their requests and demands. Failure to do so results in disownment.

In the West, men & women won’t have such restrictions imposed on them. They’re highly independent in contrast, and don’t fear parental approval like us. They will marry who they want, a partner’s cultural & religious background isn’t a dealbreaker.

Meeting the family:

Bear in mind, I grew up in a small town where everyone was White. School friends would date a guy, and they’d be quickly introduced to their parents, sleep overs in their parents house, go on holidays. Relationships in the West are open. Asians are more reserved, we will introduce someone only when we’re serious/ready to marry, particularly girls. This is hard for non-Asians to understand, with only men that are in love with us able to accept that they aren’t fully part of our lives until we’re sure they’re the one. A man will know I’m serious, the day I introduce him to my older brother (father deceased).

Arranged Marriages:

I have a few British born Asian friends that had arranged marriages, but it’s nothing like that of my parents era. My mum & dad knew each other’s families, but they didn’t even date, they got married first. I know it sounds crazy, but nevertheless, they had a successful, loving marriage.

These days, a lot of parents realise that doesn’t work for the modern generation, and they will allow the couple to date for a period and get to know each other. I agree with this, personally, I would need a minimum of a year/two before committing to marriage.

My overall thoughts:

I have a lot of respect for Asian culture: loyalty, primary obligation (caring for elderly), importance of education. Someone that shares the same core values will end up being my lifelong partner.

There are downsides; Southeast Asian parents are significantly more controlling, restrictive and protective of their children than Anglo parents. The one thing that I would like to see change is tolerance and acceptance of one’s sexuality. I have a good friend (Asian/Hindu) who has been shunned by his family for being gay. They haven’t spoken to him in years. You should never be made to feel afraid for being who you are. That makes me sad. In general, the West are more understanding that one’s sexual preference is something we can’t change, nor should we want to.

Thank you, Arka, for the A2A.

Kind regards,

Abi