Life In The South Asian Diaspora

I have a really strong connection with my Asian roots, it's taken a long time, but I've been totally at ease with who I am and ...

Halima Khan Manchester Upcycled Sari

I have a really strong connection with my Asian roots, it's taken a long time, but I've been totally at ease with who I am and where I'm from for a few years now. I grew up in an Asian household obviously, and we always had Indian TV or Bollywood films on in the background, and actually, by the time I went to school, I could only speak the tongue of my mother.

I was one of those foreigners the Daily Mail hates so much, that doesn't even speak English and wastes valuable teaching time. I went to a mostly white school though, and I kind of picked it up that way, much in the same way that a few years later I kind of picked up Gujurati due to living in the middle of a huge Gujarati community. It was only when I went to school that I realised I was different.

South Asian Diaspora

In my teens, I started to embrace that though. Picture the scene: 14 year old Asian girl, with a dupatta (loose head scarf), wearing baggy jeans and chains, listening to Limp Bizkit and various other goth/emo type bands. Thankfully I can't find any photographic evidence, but I can assure you it happened.

Of course by then I'd already became a grand master. All asians by the time they're teenagers have already developed multiple personalities, and I'm not necessarily talking about mental health. In order to assimilate or 'integrate' with British society, we need to act a certain way, because let's be honest here, British society cannot handle the 'South Asian way'. But then, if you were to go home and talk like you do to white people, you won't fit in there either.

Upcycled Sari OOTD

David Attenborough and other biology types say that Humans are the most successful mammals on the planet, because we've adapted to every climate on every continent and taken over. But to go one further, I'd suggest that Asian teenagers are the most successful mammals on the planet. It's almost like we traverse between alternate universes, as we converse with our parents, with other Asians, to then conversing with white people, our friends or colleagues.

You may be thinking, well we all have to adapt our speech to fit the audience and scenario. You wouldn't talk to your mate Fred the same way you speak to your teacher. Fully agree. But then you don't develop a separate personality within yourself to speak to your teacher, you have multiple sides to the one personality. Being part of a diaspora, means having multiple sides to multiple personalities.

Upcycled Indian Sari

But I think this outfit sums me up, and perhaps even the future of the diaspora. I'm going through the process of merging my two personalities into one. The outfit is an upcycled saree, cut and stitched with a bit of a western look and feel to it. You could take the analogy that I'm upcycling myself, taking the best bits of my Indian heritage, the best bits of being raised in Britain, and blending them together.

Upcycled Silver Sari

I often wonder, in this white man's world, whether Asians born and bred over here in the west are hindered by the fact that we have to waste so much energy being two entirely different people. Perhaps the ones that make a success of themselves are those who pick one and stick with it - it means that you'll fit in with one and not the other, but maybe that's better than not quite fitting in with either.

Synthwave Sari

Hopefully as we move from second and third generation immigrants to fourth and fifth generation, the diaspora can learn to take the best of both worlds, and combine them together, instead of keeping them apart to suit different audiences. It's up to us to blaze that trail, and make it easier for the next generation.

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4 comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post and hearing your perspective, on feeling out of place and trying to mold yourself into what you “should” be in different situations. That was deep girl. Keep up the Amazing work

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  2. Loved this and it's so true. People have to do this, we're expected to or we're called out. I can imagine it being a tough one, which direction to go, what to merge. But, I think you're a perfect representation of not only yourself but your culture. It's beautiful! x

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  3. I LOVE your outfit in the photos! You look gorgeous in it :) x

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  4. Really liked getting an insight to your life, it's things I would never really consider as I've never had to. I grew up in rural Ireland, I never met anyone other than a white person until my teens! It's so good to get these little insights to expand the shared knowledge, I always feel awkward asking people as I've a tendency to put my foot in it - probably because I overthink it and then fuck it up! On a side note, you look bloody fabulous!

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