Life on the Edge: Being a Desi Blogger

If you're not Asian, you may not know what it's like being like me. I'm writing this blog post as a bit of an educatio...

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If you're not Asian, you may not know what it's like being like me.

I'm writing this blog post as a bit of an educational piece, to give some insight as to what it's like to be a Desi woman living in the UK with a non-conventional view on life. I'm by all means not the only one, that's for certain, and our numbers are ever-increasing, but we all face a whole series of challenges in our lives just so that we can exist in a way that we enjoy.

I'm certainly not on a rant here, and this will not be your typical 'Woe is Me' style post where I tell you all how hard my life has been with some kind of X-Factor style backing music and spontaneous bouts of tears. It really is meant just to enlighten, and remind people that everyone faces their own unique struggles, no matter how they look.

To get things started, I'm a Fashion, Beauty and Lifestyle blogger and I love it. I love having a platform to share my style, my vision, my talents and my opinions. I love that there are people out there who read my posts, like my Instagram pictures, engage me on Twitter or Facebook and just generally like the things that I do. It's amazing to me that I have people visit my page from places like Cambodia and Peru - despite how far apart we are, we share something.

But blogging for a Desi woman in the UK isn't straightforward. It's not quite an every day struggle, but you can be blogging, tweeting and Instagramming away for weeks on end without much incident. You'll get yourself on a roll, build up some momentum and then Bang! Something happens. Or to be more precise, someone happens. It's incredibly frustrating that there are so many different types of people, some close, others not, who don't want you to succeed. But who are these people, and why?

FAMILY

I've been fortunate, in that my family are generally quite different and open-minded anyway. But for a lot of Desi women, family are the first real obstacle to being yourself given that you most likely live with them. Everything you do is scrutinised, from the clothes you wear, to the things you do, to the people you meet, to the amount of makeup you put on etc. The list is almost endless. If you're under that much scrutiny, it can be tough to do something different and creative, as you'll feel stifled and controlled.

Of course there are those extreme, and thankfully rare, horror stories of Honour Killings, forced marriages and being made to 'Go back home' to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. This doesn't happen to everyone, but it certainly plays on your mind as a kind of silent, never-uttered threat.You may think your family would never do that, but then doesn't everybody say that? You'll also hear people deny that this sort of thing even happens. It doesn't happen often, but it definitely happens too often to be ignored or dismissed out of hand.

EXTENDED FAMILY

This is where the fun really begins(!) I'm sure you may be aware that within Asian communities there are three currencies: Pounds, Rupees and Pride. At times it's difficult to even work out which is more important, but the pride sees over-competitive extended families butt in to business that just isn't theirs. Like a bolt out of the blue, extended family members will cause you problems, no doubt jealous that you're able to think for yourself. They'll taunt your parents about how disobedient you are, and how you love to show the whole world. They'll spread rumours around the community and 'back home to HQ' and stalk your every move. In any other walk of life, that kind of behaviour would be seen as borderline psychotic. But for Asians, it's just standard.

What's most wonderful about Extended Families is the hypocrisy on display. I have a male cousin who enjoys clubbing in Manchester, going on holiday with his mates to get pissed and also dropped out of Uni. I have an unmarried female cousin in her thirties who spends more than just a little bit too much time following my online presence and spreading rumours about me, my Aunty decided she'd treat her kids very differently, giving some of them priority, leaving one with such low self-esteem she can't do anything by herself - yet their families have the audacity to say that I'm a problem. Wow. Just, wow.

FRIENDS

Friends are supposed to support you through thick and thin, but often Asians are remarkably fickle creatures. Again, I must stress that not all Asians or friends are like this as I have some pretty amazing friends, but you do get the occasional oddball who seem to think it's ok to judge. One of my former friends was a hijabi who would quite literally be embarrassed to be seen with me if I had my arms on display. My arms. Yes. Of course, it was a complete irrelevance that she'd had a string of boyfriends over the past 6 months. But hey.

Then there are those friends who've been treated like princesses by their terrrified parents their entire lives, being given everything they've ever wanted. Since they've never really had any need to think for themselves, they aren't particularly creative, so if they see you doing something they like they'll get a bit jealous and try to copy your every move. When confronted, they'll say you're nothing special and you aren't the only one. Maybe so, but you look exactly like me.

PASSERS BY

Passers by don't really affect bloggers as such, but they affect all Desis in some way or another. I've had some borderline insane comments from random people that just walk by in the street, including the now legendary: "What happened to all the Asian men? Did they die?"

But it isn't just the insults, the verbals or the sleazy, pin-dicked freaks driving by in their penis extensions horning at us for attention. It's the looks. Asians are renowned for their vast array of facial expressions and we're Olympic Champions at giving people dirty looks. If you're Desi, female and different expect all manner of looks from all manner of people. Some will be evil looks, some dirty, some sleazy and some will just plain look down on you, even if they do look like a cross between Quasi Modo and the Elephant Man.

In answer to the most popular question: "What would your mother think?" - She knows, and she loves me just the way I am. Now go play with the traffic.

ONLINE STALKERS

I guess stalkers could really fall into any of the above categories as well, such as the extended family member who makes it his/her business to find every photo of you online and share the 'juicy' ones with as many people as possible in a bid to disgrace your family.

But they could also be complete randomers either from the web or from reality who either take a shine to you or harbour an intense hatred for you. The thing about Asian stalkers is they tend to follow silently for a while before taking some actual action, either approaching you directly, just abusing you online or sharing your pictures around with their friends, who share it with their friends and it all goes around in a big circle before coming back to you or your family members. It's weird, the vast majority of my followers are actually Desi, but then the vast majority of positive interactions come from white people. 

I thought maybe the Asians were passive users, but I checked a few out and they're pretty active. I find it a little odd when they add a comment to one of my photos just to @ one of their friends but even more so when they just say 'LOL'. 

The other thing about Online Stalkers, particularly of the Desi variety, is we have this awkward Asian thing that my mum actually gave this great example of. If you open up a successful shop selling screwdrivers, 5 other people will see how successful you've been and open up their own Screwdriver shop on the same street claiming they've always wanted to sell screwdrivers.

On the online world it's basically the same, except it's much easier to steal the ideas of a random stranger and requires much less effort. I sometimes wonder why very few Desis have made it so big in the blogging world, but then quickly realise it's because we don't do ourselves any favours. Instead of supporting each other, we seem to prefer trying to outdo each other instead, whilst everyone else is moving forwards.

THE WORKPLACE

The workplace is probably the one place you might expect not to experience any of this kind of thing, but unfortunately you'd be wrong. The Desi woman can expect to receive all sorts of comments from pretty much all sorts of people at work, both males, females, fellow Asians, Whites etc.

The people who might give you some grief at work are also smarter than the average hater too, because they know there's a framework of rules and policies in place to stop this exact sort of thing from happening. These people work their way around those roles  by being quite passive aggressive. They'll rarely say anything straight to your face, instead they'll make sly little digs. Small in nature, but many in number as a way to try to break you down. They'll say things like "Oh look, you've got a mark on your skirt" or "What's happened to your face?". Said alone, these things seem fairly innocuous, but built up over time they start to add up.

Of course, only you will ever hear these things, that's the plan. And when these people dish out compliments to others but make a point of not giving you any, regardless of how nice you are to them, you know they've got issues. Not that I go to work for compliments, it just creates a really divisive atmosphere.

The funny thing is though, the people that tend to act that way, often find themselves being disliked by colleagues anyway, despite all of the compliments they tend to dish out. Fortunately, people generally aren't stupid, and can see through such fakery. It's such a shame too, because it just makes Asians look backward and it actually kills me inside that such people create bad impressions that the rest of us have to overcome.

WESTERNERS

These can be westerners in the workplace, on the street or on the internet. Unfortunately in Britain, there are all too many people who can only really make friends with people who are just like them. So when they see a Desi woman who doesn't appear like 'the rest', they think they may be able to identify with me. They think that I could be just like them, that I might like eating various parts of a pig, consuming copious amounts of alcohol at weekends and whatnot.
Initially Westerners will assume you meet the common narrow stereotypes of an Asian woman: you eat curry for breakfast, you have no voice of your own, you love to cook, clean and make babies. Then when they see that you don't really meet those stereotypes, they'll think that you're one of them. The thing is, we're neither. Life isn't always so black and white, we love parts of both cultures and dislike other parts, we are a blend of both. Sadly, it's not always seen that way.

What To Do?

There are a couple of things that irritate me when I talk about these things. Some people give the advice of 'Oh just ignore it'. Yes, ok. You try to deal with all these things and ignoring them all at the same time, see how you get on. Thanks for the advice. Even more irritating are those people who actually deny that any of these things happen . Just because it hasn't happened to you, love, doesn't mean that it doesn't happen at all.  

"Don't tell me my struggle isn't real."

For those of us blessed with thick skin, all of this is just water off a duck's back. There's nothing to fear because you just don't care, and good for you. That's exactly the attitude you should have, because you're a pioneer. You're doing your bit to advance your own culture and humanity in your own little corner of the world. You're taking the best of mutliple cultures and fusing them together to make something better.
For the rest of us though, we need to stick together, we need a great support network and we need to keep going. Those who stand against us seem to have an awful lot of time and energy to waste, so you need to be indefatigable and unrelenting. You need to keep pushing the boundaries and enjoying what it is that you do. Don't give in to those with narrow minds, let your own keep on expanding. There'll be dark moments along the way, but the successes will only ever feel all the better for it, and they'll just keep coming!




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18 comments

  1. We all have things we have to struggle with; on the plus side what doesn't break you, will make you stronger :-)

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  2. An interesting (and for me, educational!) read. I'm fascinating in other cultures and am kind of surprised at some of the things I have learnt & didn't know!! xx

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing this, it was such an educational insight into something that I had no idea went on to such an extreme. Really take my hat off to you for explaining it all so concisely and clearly - and for managing to keep your cool! I am shocked and surprised at so much of it, especially the online stalking from your extended family. I've only just found your blog recently but I think you are absolutely beautiful and have such a unique style. Keep on doing what you're doing gal <3 You are a little gem! xx

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    1. I guess not many people will have an idea, because barely anyone talks about the negatives of having any kind of online presence. I guess they might feel that opening up somehow makes themselves look weak, but opening up actually shows you that there's a lot of people out there who have your back.

      Don't worry, I'm not changing anytime soon!

      Thanks for reading, and your lovely comment :) xx

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  4. This must have been quite a tough post to write. I think it's great that you're choosing to live the life that you want to lead - bare arms and all!! Everyone gets judged, I guess it's just how you deal with it. Exposing the issue like you have is definitely a step in the right direction - well done you! xx

    www.rockonholly.com

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    1. A little tough yes, because no doubt the people who I'm referencing will probably read, hopefully they might feel a little ashamed. I'm just calling out their behaviour, and showing them I'm not really afraid. But on the other hand, there are thousands more who'll have a read and outweigh that negativity! Thanks for the lovely comment and keep reading! xx

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  5. Great post. Thank you for sharing your story :)

    Joana Xx
    www.100thingsilove.com

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  6. Needless to say as a brown girl I can relate to a lot of this. Although I've yet to meet a westerner that was that obnoxiously ignorant. All I have to say is, religious upbringing and they get it as certain sects of Christianity also don't eat pork too for example.

    However a lot of people of the same background at my work place are judgmental bastards. The second one of them realised my long-term partner was white they stopped speaking to me and said shit like 'how could you do that to your parents?'. When in fact my parents know and said person is in a non-serious relationship themselves.

    Relatives discovering my blog was also a problem, hence why I use the alias MishMreow, to keep some kind of anonymity and not have relatives googling my full name leading to anything personal.

    For the most part though, I'm ok, I just distance myself from those who judge and edge myself closer to those who try to understand/educate themselves.

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    1. Oh, I've met my fair share of obnoxious and ignorant westerners. Manchester's a very open and welcoming city, but it also hosts some very unwelcoming areas within it. I found that when Asians in the workplace realise I'm not 'one of them' so to speak, they turn on me pretty fast and I get similiar kind of grief to what you've had. Has it all stopped now then?

      Have relatives ever actually found your blog? I've always wondered what the name was about! My friend with the arms thing never really came across as the judgey type, so it was a bit of a surprise she even said that to me.

      Thanks for reading, and the comment! :) xx

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    2. I think because I live in Birmingham I've yet to bump into any close-minded Westerners, there's such a big desi population. Tbh, I think I may have known more close-minded and ignorant people growing up in Dubai. Workplace drama is fine, I just don't speak to certain people and it suits me fine as I don't want to know such people myself. Luckily there are other Asians that accept me for me.

      And no relatives haven't found the blog (that I know of). I created the Alias because I knew it would be a problem if they did. Which is also why I don't include my full name, don't want people googling my name as it's too unique xD

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  7. I feel like this regressive mentality is partly because desis exist in such insular societies. We're a part of this almost incestuous crowd where everyone knows of or is related to everyone else. It's been exhausting, but that's the beauty of growing up - you get to grow out of and away from the rotten roots.

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  8. I'm sorry you have gone through all this shit :( That sounds like a helluva lot more to deal with than a lot of bloggers, and whilst I'm not surprised at some of it - comments on the street, judgey westerners - I'm pretty shocked by the stalkers. That kind of thing is definitely not ok. Your blog is one of my favourites and there are tons of reasons for that, but part of it is that you write things like this and are honest about things in your life. Which is all the more impressive if you have family members or others digging into it and scrutinising you. So thank you for doing what you do. :)

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  9. I think it's really great Halima that you're choosing to live the life that you want to lead . Nice to read about you dear! Happy Monday <3 Kisses :)

    http://www.rakhshanda-chamberofbeauty.com/

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  10. Go you for choosing to be different!! Read the post and hands down can relate to it. Especially the part about family and friends. One of the reasons I didn't blog for a while at the beginning was because I was so scared of what people would say. Coming from an ethnic minority and blogging is difficult because you have to deal with expectations and opinions.

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  11. So I came here from subreddit AB (and now I'm a fan, cause desi bloggers that're like you are rare ^_^)

    Even though I'm not a blogger, I'm a desi girl who's not the 'ideal Bengali girl", my parents(compared to other Asian parents) aren't strict.

    However I've felt a few of the struggles you've outlined in this post. I've wanted to dye my hair a crazy colour for so long but my parents feel I'll somehow end up a disgrace if I do that. There's a lot of expectations to follow, clothes wise, school wise and Im swinging to the creative side..which makes them feel uneasy.

    I've been wanting to make a blog (I'm 17, have a tumblr account- that doesn't really count) but now I'm not so sure.

    Sorry for such a long reply, I just found this very relatable and already I love your fashion style (the pic at the beginning) thanks ^_^

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  12. I really enjoyed reading this, although I can't imagine it being easy to write, you come across as a really no bullshit type of person, living your life how you wish to. Unfortunately there are still too many ignorant idiots knocking about, sorry you have to experience that
    Thank you for writing this x

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  13. Love this post!
    Can relate to so many of these things you wrote about!
    All the best...it's really hard to be yourself in the desi community and I'm really happy to read your posts!
    <3
    Shreya
    Bric-A-Brac
    http://fashionbaubles.blogspot.com/

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  14. "What happened to all the Asian men? Did they die?" EHEH the rudeness. Why passing people can't just be that pass and be quiet. Most cultures has it's struggles but not many speak upon them easier to just sweep it under the rug and be done with it rather than speak in what's a struggle and disheartening issue.

    Stereotypes, families wanting to live up to standards of their society and children rebelling and being severely punished smh. It's all very sad and hey if you've not got the thick skin..you've definitely had enough to write this and help someone else out to let them know it's OK to stick together and reach out to another and be the support system.

    Well written.

    LimaMonroe xo

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