Frustrations of being a British Born Indian Bengali

 

Born and brought up in the UK, I feel privileged to experience life in such a diverse country where different religions, cultures and beliefs are respected. That said, the Indian culture that I have experienced here is inevitably different compared to if I’d been brought up in India.

Visiting India every year, I have come across some misconceptions that people seem to have of the British Born which I will share below.

1. That non-resident Asians (may think they) are somehow ‘better’ than the resident Asians.

My mashi (maternal aunt) once told me a story of an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) woman at the gym that felt she was ‘entitled’ to be on a piece of gym equipment for longer than the suggested time….just because she lived abroad…..!!

And before you ask, no she wasn’t famous and EVEN if she was, it would still not be acceptable.

Yes, this is a true story.

Yes, it baffles me too.

Yes, it makes me ashamed and I apologise on behalf of all NRIs to any Resident Indians that may have experienced this outrageous behaviour.

No, we are NOT better.

We are ALL equal.

NRIs ARE OF course going to differ.

2nd, 3rd and subsequent generations born and brought up away from the country of heritage, WILL obviously be different from their corresponding cousins brought up in the homeland.

That is a given, due to differences in culture and society, yet there is NOT and should NOT ever be a distinction between who is ‘better’.

2.       Just because we’re non-resident, we are apparently incapable of venturing out alone or being independent.

There is a wonderful scene in the award-winning film, The Namesake, directed by Mira Nair, adapted from Jhumpa Lahiri’s book, of Gogol trying to go for a run in the chaotic streets of Kolkata. His Indian family become so worried that Sahib babu (Sahib – means ‘foreigner’ Babu – affectionate name for a boy/son/friend) cannot handle these unfamiliar surroundings, that they send out their servant to follow him.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the concern of my elders; any country holds risk and potential dangers if one is not alert and aware of their surroundings. However, to wrap us up in cotton wool in some false hope that these troubles will disappear, is in my opinion worse. Shielding us from the harshness of life is understandable when one is young, yet as we grow older, it is imperative that we, as tomorrow’s adults, learn how to best deal with hardships, how to be independent and responsible simultaneously and how to be the peace in times of chaos rather than continue a cycle of not avoiding the real issues entirely.

Have faith that we are culturally aware and responsible enough to make educated choices in today’s world and that even if you don’t, we still have faith in humanity, despite the many times you remind us that ‘din kal kharap’ (times are bad, in this day and age’).

3.       The misconception that we are all uncultured and uninterested in our heritage. 

There have been too many times to count where distant relatives and family friends have assumed I could not speak Bengali and have asked my mother questions about me, whilst I have been sitting there in front of them like an inanimate object! Others have started talking English to me and seem taken aback when I in fact reply in Bengali.

By no means am I completely fluent (I am still working on being able to write the script) yet I do take pride in knowing the language, taking an interest in the culture; whether it be visiting India every year or being sucked into watching the Indian soaps that my mother watches religiously!

Even the little things:

Turning up to school on a Monday morning with a right hand full of ‘yellow’ finger nails because Sunday was spent eating curry heavily laden with turmeric with my fingers, being admonished frequently for not oiling my hair enough or having all our appliances still in their protective plastic covers!

These little things make up my bigger picture, and denying them would remove a huge part of my British Indian Bengali identity. I appreciate that other people may disagree but for me personally, I am proud to say these make up who I am.

Disclaimer:

All views are my own. One may find they can relate to certain or all aspects of this post which is what I intended by sharing it. It does not however represent the views of ALL British Born Indian Bengalis, or British Born Asians for that matter. I am merely 1, and there are many of us around so attempting to characterise all musings would be difficult.

I’m open to adding more to this list so please feel free to comment below, subscribe on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and get in touch!

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The Art of Fashion

The Asian Destination has joined forces with Feed You Fashion to calm your Fashion Week withdrawal symptoms. This fashion webzine aims to “inspire, update and parley”. Stylish and sophisticated, Feed You Fashion is definitely a site worth following.

In this guest post Lucy, founder of Feed You Fashion, reveals the Indian cultural influence behind two beautiful S/S’14 collections.

THE ART OF FASHION

Let’s assume for a second that all designers lived under one roof – a big brother house situation, if you will! Sure, based on new conversation their designs would begin as deductions from curious encounters but with time, and a lack of interaction with the outside world, such enthusiasm and spirit would falter. This is purely because fashion breathes through creativity. Innovation is accumulated through experiences and the ways in which these experiences are interpreted are based on our culture.

Fashion Week is a prime example of such diversity, an assortment of backgrounds and cultures, which is what allows designers to create such contrasting fashions.If you look close enough, these origins seep through the seams.

It’s September. It’s time to welcome a flood of fashion, as we take on this month dedicated to our sartorial needs.

HAUTE SEAT

New York Fashion Week has previously introduced us to two Indian designers – Naeema Khan and Bibhu Mohapatra. Khan launched his label in 2003 and Mohapatra, having resigned as Design Director of J. Mendel in 2008, went on to launch his own brand under his name. The latter’s designs showing fewer connections to his Indian roots, which may be due to his years spent at the French fashion house.

The S/S ’14 woman of Naeem Khan is all about elegant femininity.

image

Hemlines happily follow few rules, ranging from floor skimming to thigh skimming and setting a liberating example for shape. The common denominator being a cinched waistline to gracefully celebrate the female form. The Khan woman is a romantic, yet proves she does not fear the borders of her comfort zone as reserved silhouettes are made daring by descending necklines, thigh high slits, chiffon and open backs.

Perhaps most notable of the collection is the patterning; if garments are not lavished from seam to seam in elaborate prints, then such designs creep across dresses from various angles. The print heavily reminiscent of traditional Indian henna – the intricate patterning typically used during Hindu weddings and festivals.

The story is in the print.

Naeem Khan S/S ’14

Image Source: Vogue

For Bibhu Mohapatra, the S/S ’14 woman is much more angular with an air of modernist chic surrounding her.

Bibhu Mohapatra S/S'14

3D flowers act as the cherry on this sartorial cake, either creating shoulder armour, fanning across waistlines or concealing cardigans. Where buds and sequins did not appear, mini peplums and micro pleats were on hand to make up for the missing texture. Not to mention, the thick dress straps, which left little shoulder or décolletage visible in order to cement their presence. The Mohapatra woman is sophisticated and concise, teaming her pencil thin skirts to her leather jackets.

The delicate hues and feminine patterning of the collection hint at romanticism, however every angle reeks of opposition.

Bibhu Mohapatra S/S ’14

Image Source: Vogue

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