if you're south asian, then you want to read this

How can you balance your dreams and still be the person your family wants you to be?

Growing up in a Pakistani household is a mission. Like for some, you’re expected to take your time and do what you want to but for others you have to mature quicker and follow cultural views. So, when I say SOME, I mean boys. Males. Yes, the opposite of the female gender.

I could wash the dishes and my mum would say they’re decent but if my brother washes them, like once in his LIFETIME, then his dishes would be amazing and clean. What is this injustice?

Being a Muslim Pakistani female teenager isn’t easy. As well as a hijabi in this day and age. It’s hard enough with traditional parents whose mindsets are stuck back in the 1900’s, like my parents. However, when societal views are thrown in your face, it’s all over. Or so it seems.

I could wash the dishes and my mum would say they’re decent but if my brother washes them, like once in his LIFETIME, then his dishes would be amazing and clean. What is this injustice?

We’re constantly being brought down by society with views that try to control our actions. Girls aren’t meant to be sitting at home, cleaning and taking care of households, they should be out exploring, blossoming and changing perspectives. And they are. However, for a young Pakistani girl, it’s a bit different.

I remember when I was younger, I had a dream. A dream that drove me, a dream that lit a burning passion inside me. I was about seven years old, and I played cricket for the first time after seeing my brother and dad playing in the park. I held the wind ball, bright orange with a seam stitched to join the two halves of the ball. I gripped it tight and looked at my dad who encouraged me to throw it like a clock works. ‘Make a circle with your arm and release at 12 o’clock’, he told me. I’ve always had a smarter way of thinking than my siblings, so at that small age, I understood the instructions clearly. 

Although they were simple tips, I used them and felt something shoot to my arms and like that I looked up and the middle stump was missing.

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

It hit bulls’ eye; the stump went flying. I don’t know where it went but I looked up to my dad and his eyes had a light to them, like a sparkle. It seems crazy that I saw something that animated but trust me on this, I did. It was like electricity flowing through my body, I don’t know how to explain this to you, but I felt it. I know I did. ‘Look at your hands’ he said. And I did, confused. ‘You see how this cricket ball fits perfectly in your palm; it shows that you were made to play this game’. These words that left his lips hit me. These words, specifically ‘You were made to play this game’ were the set of words that drove me for several years. Until I was around 15 these words were my inspiration, they drove me. In those years I achieved many awards, trophies, medals and what not but in that time, I forgot the reality of being a Pakistani, especially in Luton.

So, when I turned 15, I was taught to dress more femininely, not in my usual shorts and hoodies. My mum taught me how to serve when guests came over, like making tea. Not English tea, it’s called –well in my house at least- Pakki chaa’. Anyone know what I’m talking about? I don’t know if there’s a word or phrase for this tea but that’s what I’m familiar with. After all these ways to change me to be ‘more cultural’, I saw my dad shift to support my mum’s views.  

I saw a change in my father, something that made sense to me after a year or so. 

Photo by Yasin Yusuf on Unsplash

The realisation kicked in when I reflected one night. Did you see what I did there? I called him father, not dad. Dad was someone who supported me through everything, protected me from my mother’s scoldings for not acting like a typical Pakistani girl. That ‘protection’ changed my perspective for a long time.

Anyways, it was time to apply for college, I applied for Luton Sixth Form College, you probably go there or at least know what I’m talking about. I never cared for ‘what will people say?’ or ‘what are you wearing?’. My parents, being traditional and almost fearful of society’s views, said I was only allowed to go to this college because it was local and that this way there was maybe a less chance of me going astray, in a sense.

Soon,  my dreams  and passion started to fade away  and now I don’t feel that spark when holding a cricket ball, however I’ve learned to grow and do what makes me happy.

I wanted to apply for the sports course, but apparently my ‘playing days were over’ and I needed to focus on studies and the coming years for college and so on. So, I thought to make my parents happy I’d pursue something that the so-called society respects and sees as worthy. I chose something I was good at which was English, not Maths or Science because honestly numbers and enzymes or whatever it is that is considered as scientific content, made absolutely no sense to me. After some reflecting, I decided to choose English Language, English Literature and another course. I started to feel alone, I didn’t fit in, no time for friends and on top of that the virus disrupted everyone’s lives and created a global pandemic. I wonder how many girls have had the same daily problems as I did. How many of you got past it and how many of you are still stuck in this dilemma that’s on repeat non-stop.

Soon,  my dreams  and passion started to fade away  and now I don’t feel that spark when holding a cricket ball, however I’ve learned to grow and do what makes me happy. Cricket isn’t my source of happiness anymore, but happiness can come from a lot of other things. Family makes me happy and if I hadn’t given up my dream for my family, then I would’ve never found happiness. Chase your dreams, live up to your goals, do whatever you want to do. I’m not saying I’m unhappy that I didn’t pursue the sport, I’m saying I’m glad that I didn’t because I’ve matured and learned a lot of things and I would have regretted playing cricket in the long run because if you think about it, the virus has destroyed a lot of things that include careers, like an athlete or a cricketer. Plus, the career doesn’t last long, and women’s cricket isn’t watched as much. Which I absolutely hate, but I can’t force people to watch it.

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

I understand being compared to your cousins is the worst, trust me I’ve been there and done that. Yet I’m still there, still being compared. All you have to do is ignore and work on yourself. There was a point where I thought, why should I care about their happiness, it’s my life so I should be able to pursue whatever I want to pursue. At neither of these points in my life did I consider society, culture, tradition; that was irrelevant to me.

So, all I want to say is you shouldn’t give a crap about ‘what will people say?’. Trust me, it’ll just make you unhappy. You could do everything according to other Asian views and they’ll still find a way to make you look bad. According to some Pakistani views, anything you do is never enough. For example, you could be rich and hardworking, but it will be viewed as drug money and illegal income. And if you don’t have the wealth then you’re labelled poor and irrelevant.  You see how twisted these views are?

I’m not classifying all Pakistanis this way, these are my own experiences which I am relating honestly.

People don’t see the hidden problems in the lives of people like me. So, before you judge a hijabi, a Pakistani, a Muslim or people from other South Asian cultures, don’t look at what we reveal but look for what we hide. Also, can I just say I’m proud to be a Muslim, proud to be Pakistani and proud to be a hijabi. I’m going to make it one day and all these irrelevant views that tried to bring me down will be left behind.

So do what makes your heart and your family happy. Because happiness is true happiness when the ones you love are proud of you.