Breaking The Silence is a book of writing by Asian women put out by Centerprise in 1984. In it various women, identified only by their first name, wrote of their experiences. The work is in English as well as a handwritten in their mother tongue. There’s writing in Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu.
When You Don’t Feel Like A Foreigner
It is never easy being a foreigner in a country; it is even more difficult when you don’t feel like a foreigner.
I am an Asian girl, originally from India, though I was born here in England 18 years ago. I live in relative comfort in an exceptionally nice area of town, with all the amenities and many of the luxuries at my disposal. I enjoy my life here and would find it difficult to imagine living in another country.
I think people in all spheres of life are bound to experience prejudice at one time or another, be it for their race, colour or creed but perhaps we are subject to prejudice in all these areas. I have found that there are two main types of prejudice, the kind that is expressed in loud explicit and often violent tones, and the other a more subtle though no less expressive type. The former I do not experience directly very often and as yet never in its violent form. It is intimidating to have to walk past a group of young ‘skinheads’ and suffer being called names such as ‘smelly paki’ or ‘chocolate drop’ or have to cross the road to avoid a group of older ‘skinheads’. I believe these human beings who look and sound as they do are as much a pest to English people as they are to us Asians.
The second form of prejudice is the type I encounter with my good friends. My best friends are all English and white. Phrases like ‘I don’t think of you as being an Indian, I mean you don’t smell of curry or speak with an Indian accent’. Often they astonish me in their naivety of thinking that all Indian are like that. Another interesting example of prejudice amongst friends is a conversation I had with a boy I was going out with at the time. He simply adored me and I him but he could not accept my being superior to him in any way. We were discussing our ‘O’ level results and although he did not do as well as me he insisted that had he worked harder or even worked at all he would have done better than me. I thought at first that this was because I was a girl, but from later conversations I realised that it was because I was an Indian girl.
Parental care, to all appearances , is much more protective and thus restrictive in Indian homes than English ones. From my own experience I find it extremely annoying especially since my friends are not treated in the same way. My parents insist on knowing where I am when I do out, though not necessarily who I am with, what time I will be home and how I am getting home. Whereas my friends are allowed to walk home after a party, although they must tell their parents at what time they’ll be home. Personally I find this an overprotective part of my parents’ nature, but of course, having spoken to many other Indian girls in my college this constitutes complete freedom in comparison to them. Naturally since most of us are influenced to a high degree by the views of our parents, maybe many of my own ideas are simply extensions of those of my parents and often my own ideas are in conflict with my friends.
Marriage of course is a major topic of conversation for girls of my age, since hopefully, within the next few years we all hope to be married. My friends find my marriage arrangements interesting because they are never sure whether or not a marriage is to be arranged for me. My views on this subject have changed over the years. Until a few years ago I felt arranged marriages to be very unromantic and I couldn’t understand how couples could be content with this arrangement. I then began speaking to girls who considered an arranged marriage to be acceptable, in some cases even desirable, Having increased in years and experience my views have been somewhat tempered. I now believe that, from reading recent statistics, ‘love’ marriages are not more successful than arranged marriages; however, I feel that I should have a complete choice in the man to whom I am to spend the rest of my life with, the chance to make up my own mind about the person I could be happy with, the freedom to decide my future be it right or the wrong choice.
Religion is a subject which many of us have no choice about. If one is born into Hindu, Muslim or Christian households, one is compelled to live by rules and traditions dictated by that religion. Personally I do not believe that religion is in any way a wonderful thing. Blind faith in anything is short-sighted but following traditions when they are not your true beliefs is perhaps worse.
I am an Indian girl in England and the conflicts this causes are sometimes quite frightening but I would rather live in England with all the faults than anywhere else.