A second generation immigrant, living in the UK, finds herself in conflict between the socialized values of the street and those at home. She shares how her institutionalised Western feminism conflicts headlong with her mother’s Indian beliefs. An interesting example of the culture clash faced by many young British citizens, which can lead to some radical decision making.
I am a twenty-two year old British woman and have lived in London all my life. I have known no other home and am proud to be British. My parents, however, are from India. They moved here a couple of years before I was born, in order to provide a better life for their children. I am the eldest of three girls and none of us have ever ventured to The Motherland. As far as I’m concerned, I have grown up in the West, and so my parents should expect no less than for me to be westernized. My parents are Hindu, but I went to Catholic school and so the Hinduism didn’t trickle down to my generation. I eat red meat and am, in fact, an atheist, and to a certain extent my parents have accepted all of this. And so, generally speaking, I live my life as any other young British girl does. This is why I was outraged when a trip to visit my parents in the London suburbs ended in complete disaster. A cataclysm of cultures.
Arriving punctually at four in the afternoon, I was warmly greeted by both mother and father. I hadn’t seen them for a couple of weeks so this visit was overdue by all parties. They sat me down in front of a vast and varied buffet of home-cooked food, followed by warm chai, the cue for our catching-up to begin. It was the usual questions: “How is work going?” “Are they treating you well” “Are you feeding yourself properly?” Then the one to rule them all, “How is your boyfriend?”
Now this would be considered a fairly ‘ordinary’ question had it not been for the hidden agenda – my mother’s hidden agenda to be precise. My boyfriend and I have been together for approximately a year, before him I had been with someone for two years, and, prior to that, another for four years. Needless to say, I am not ready to settle down yet. My mother then asked me when he was going to propose, as her friends had started asking her questions regarding either my ‘English’ boyfriend ‘situation’ or, if they did not know about him, my eligibility concerning their sons. She then casually proceeded to inform me that if there was no proposal on the horizon I needed to remove my relationship status from Facebook. Furthermore, she wanted to introduce me to “good Indian boys” from “good families”, as if they were the only ‘good’ people available to me. She was asking me to date other men behind my boyfriend’s back.
In the beginning I tried to stay cool, swapping awkward glances with my Dad, who had shrunk into the corner of the couch and assumed the position of couch pillow. I looked back at my mother; yes, she was still talking. The sheer amount this woman had to say on MY relationship was staggering. I decided to wait for her to come up for air before entering the ring. The gloves were laced and it was on like Donkey Kong. “This is just not how it is done in this country Mother!” Silence. The floor was mine it seemed. I proceeded to explain that relationships amongst my generation and hybrid-cultures take time. We need to get to know our partner before we can make such a monstrous commitment and that that can take years, plural.
She looked back at me blankly, as if to tell me, “I see you, but I don’t hear you”. I hate that face. I continued to explain that as a recent graduate that has just been employed, just moved out, just beginning to feel independent, and, above all, has settled for an average relationship to add dimension to my life. Unlike Beyonce, I had no intention to put a ring on it. Yes, I am one of those people that is in a relationship that ‘will do for now’, but honestly I am not looking for ‘the one’. I am looking for myself. I also stressed that other girls, my ‘white’ friends, don’t have this kind of pressure. They date until if feels right to get married. I said most of this as calmly as I could, but she simply responded, through her cruel and familiar smile,”You are Indian, now start acting like one.”