Born and brought up in Australia – but 100% Pakistani at heart.
Don’t get me wrong though, — 11 year old me would never pridefully admit that.
Australia has come a far way in accepting and respecting cultures. It has one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world. FACT: 40% of the Australian population is made up of immigrants. However there is a somewhat societal pressure to conform to looking a certain way in public – a “westernized appearance” in public places. Even in school, when it was ‘multicultural day’, and everyone was encouraged to wear their traditional clothing, but only a small minority of people actually wore their traditional clothing because they were too afraid of what ‘people would think’. I actually don’t blame them for thinking that way, because i’ve heard some people say nasty things to people who do choose to embrace their culture. They always somehow get labeled as ‘import’ or ‘fresh off the boat’.
But the thing is, it wasn’t always the Caucasian people who made fun of ‘embraced culture’. I’ll give you an example, an indian girl was once wearing a sari at my school for multicultural day, however it was actually the “desi crowd” that made fun of her, despite the fact they come from the same culture. MAYBE they did it as a way of re-validating their thoughts and reinforcing their ‘western values’. — (still not okay though). Let me familiarize you with a word I’ve heard many times. “FOB” – a popularly used word amongst many people in society, specifically the South Asian community meaning “fresh off the boat.” When anyone ever does something that is slightly out of the ‘ordinary’ and begins embracing their culture their usually categorized as a ‘fob’ or an ‘import’. Just because their proud of their culture? Really? That’s pretty pathetic.
“F.O.B. has actually become a synonym for being uncool — That girl who only listens to Indian music is “fobby.” So is that boy who brings paratha to school.
The word F.O.B. has become lost in translation.”
Alright. I have to be honest. I’m no angel. This mindset was sort of contagious – i began to feel conditioned to also think like that. So whenever i would see something unusual or out of the normal, such as someone wearing salwar kameez to school mufti days, i would sort of categorize them under that category as well. When people at my school made fun of that one Indian girl who came to school with oil in her hair, well…. I did too. I know — even im ashamed. But no one is perfect and the past is the past, and as long as we learn from it, it shouldn’t define us. As long as you learn from your mistakes.
Stop trying to fit into the ‘norm’.
What’s so fun in being like everyone else and ‘fitting in’ anyway?
Well its not really A ‘story time’ – i’ve been through this instance on multiple occasions. The scenario usually plays out like this – I’m dressed in my pakistani clothing to go to a family gathering, and one of my parents decide to have a pitt stop on the way, to the shop. Now EVERY time i was put in this situation, i completely refused to get out of the car because i was so afraid about what people would think, and i was scared i would bump into someone i knew from school. Even when my family would try forcing me to get out, there was NO way i would.
So what made me change?
I’ll be honest. Accepting your culture is easy. Embracing it, can be an obstacle. If theres one thing ive learnt, its that embracing your culture is an ongoing process. Although im completely proud of my cultural roots and im not afraid to embrace it. I do still go through some instances where i choose to not embrace it. BUT that is completely fine. Because some progress is better than no progress at all.
I will now happily turn up to my favorite Bollywood songs in front of my non-desi friends. I will happily post Instagram photos with me in my bling bling lehenga and i will happily go out to public places with mehndi on my hands, instead of trying to scrub it off *sign* – which is what i used to do in primary school.
‘We need culture. This whole world is filled with cultures, but if we can’t learn to accept it and make it a part of who we are than these cultures will surely die out. And do we really want to be the generation that loses the culture? We are who we are because of these traditions, religions, and arts. Why are we ashamed of the one thing that makes us who we are? We should be thankful, we should embrace it, and we should let it be a part of who we will be.”
If being a F.O.B means preferring rasmalai over icecream and bringing biryani to school instead of fairybread, then so be it — I am a F.O.B., and im proud of it! xx