Category Archives: Blogging

Liebster Blog Award

Thanks to NepaliAustralian for the Liebster Blog Award! I feel very honoured and happy 🙂

Liebster means dearest/favourite in German. The idea of the award is to promote your 5 favourite blogs with less than 200 followers. M at NepaliAustralian has listed the following Rules for the Liebster Award:

  • Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
  • Reveal your 5 top picks for the award and let them know by linking to their blog.
  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the blogosphere – other bloggers.
  • Best of all – have fun and spread all that good blogging karma.

Blogging has really helped me this year. And by far the best thing about blogging has been meeting other bloggers and feeling part of a blogging community. Lately I’ve been spending time on other aspects of my life (like my social life!!) but I can honestly say that during some of the hardest times this year, reading, commenting, posting, debating, emailing, facebooking…all of it helped SO MUCH.

I was going to cheat on this at first and list 10 blogs  – 5 first and then 5 in response to NepaliAustralian’s award. Even narrowing it down to 10 blogs is no easy task! But I’ll resist the urge to cheat, and as one of the Liebster goals is to spotlight up-and-coming blogs, I’d like to award my favourite 5 newer blogs. I have a host of more-established-than-me-blogs which inspired me to start this blog and explore intercultural and interracial relationship issues in the first place. I suspect you guys might know who you are as I’ve been through periods of obsessively commenting on your blogs 🙂 As I haven’t had as much time to comment on newer blogs in recent months, this is a thanks for all the great posts that I enjoy reading so much from more recent bloggers.

In no particular order, my list is:

NepaliAustralian

You have such a diverse range of posts and open heart when it comes to blogging. I love the way you share your experiences of Nepal and Australia, and contrast and explore the two cultures. Some of my favourite posts are the ones about your wedding, Nepali traditions, and that one about Australian slang 🙂

Nepali Jiwan

I really admire your balance of personal experiences with thoughtful reflection to explore issues like caste, gender, marriage, purity, religion, food and everything else about Nepal in a down-to-earth, accessible way. Thanks for sharing your journey, and always look forward to reading more!

Life through a Kaleidoscope

You always have such a great range of topics to blog about! And you do it in a way that’s thoughtful, colourful and fun. It’s inspiring how you openly share your thoughts about relationships, communication, cultural difference and life in general. You should be proud of what you’ve achieved in your blog so far 🙂

Cynically Engineered

I’m so glad I came across your blog CE. It’s great to read about relationships, marriage, gender roles and such from the perspective an intelligent guy. And it’s great to laugh while I read 🙂  Hope to see you active in the blogosphere again soon.

Masala Bou

Your writing resonates with me both emotionally and intellectually. You’re mindful not only of cultural difference, but also of racial and class difference and how they shape interpersonal relationships and personal identity. I sometimes feel like my own relationships with my partner and my parents (and maybe even myself) turn into a microcosm of wider racial and class politics/conflict. It’s incredibly validating to have somebody acknowledge, through thoughtful writing, that these wider social dynamics can and do play a major role in personal dynamics. Blogging is a fantastic platform for exploring political and social issues through your personal journey (rather than through abstract academic concepts) and you do a great job of this! Keep up the good work.

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Filed under Blogging

Getting back into Blogging

The past few months have been crazy, personally and professionally. The heat is still on at work – I’ve been working most weekends and trying to get fieldwork done before the monsoon hits and the roads and crossings close (and thank goodness the first rains hit today because it’s not only the heat that’s building, it’s the humidity too. I’m not joking when I say it’s crazy season!). I actually had a pretty bad accident in a work vehicle a few weeks ago, over a 1000 km from home and 150 km from the nearest community (and police station)…plus my satellite phone was only intermittently picking up signal so I didn’t get to call any help for about an hour, and then waited another hour and a half in the bush for the help to arrive. I was in so much shock and running high on adrenaline, I sat on the the esky (which had smashed through the back window of the car) trying to figure out if I could winch the vehicle upright and continue on my trip (i.e. winch the vehicle by strapping it to the surrounding trees…which were everywhere and which I miraculously missed). Thank goodness I’m a ditzy city girl: I would have messed up the crime scene, and probably copped a major fine.

I didn’t get a single bruise or scratch, not even whiplash from the seatbelt. That’s pretty bloody lucky. I feel like this roll-over should be a profound moment in my life. That’s kinda why I’m blogging about it. Surely writing about something cements it, makes it more profound, gives it more meaning in my life? I dunno…I guess I’ll wait and see how I feel after finishing this… 😉

But even after this near-death experience (the vehicle did roll at high speed, narrowly missed all those trees, and landed on my/the drivers’ side), I’m not overflowing with an new-found zeal for life, or love for my loved ones, or an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for being alive. I do keep repeating to everybody, “I’m so lucky”. I know that, I think that, but why don’t I feel it? This thing feels big, but not big enough to change my behaviour or my perspective, which is kind of what I want to change. Unfortunately and admittedly, I’m reverting to my bad-natured tantrums more often than not now. If my voice had ever materialised into flames that first week after the crash, I would have razed down our entire apartment complex in a matter of minutes. I went to the gym, I went to yoga, I went and paid for a full body massage. And yet 5 minutes later I was screaming my head off about something. Am I a brat for not appreciating how lucky I actually I am?

Oh well. I guess I was never going to change my behaviour simply by writing off a car….

I haven’t had time to blog lately but I also haven’t had the motivation. (Though rest assured I’m still stalking everyone else). I’ve set out with a topic in mind for every other post written on this blog. Today I’m just writing…the aim of this is to account in some way for my absence (even if only to myself). This weekend has been the first in ages when I’ve actually had time, and I felt like drawing and reading novels instead (i.e. instead of writing a profound post, with all my newly acquired life-changing perspective and wisdom). Until things quieten down a bit in a few months, or until I get struck up the spine with the rod of cosmic inspiration (but don’t be scared, that’s unlikely to happen :)), I’m planning to stick to commenting on other people’s posts.

That’s what I wrote when I first started blogging…and guess what? I immediately wrote two posts in two days. I guess the more you write, the more you have to write about.

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Filed under Blogging

Confessions and Questions of a New Blogger

I feel pretty new to the world of blogging, and still find myself having to google and wikipedia unfamiliar terms. Just for laughs, I thought I’d share some of the more obvious terms which baffled me when I first started:

Bangla

How could I not pick the meaning of this one right? It came up in one of the first comments on my blog. I considered answering with the question “what’s bangla?”, but decided I better google it first in case the answer was really obvious and I came across as the most ignorant intercultural blogger in the virtual universe.

Am hoping I have enough virtual street cred now to admit to this without it destroying my rep 🙂 I AM culturally aware, I swear I am!!

Desi

I’ve never heard/seen the word ‘desi’ used outside the online world. Before I started reading Desi-Link blogs, I’d only ever heard the word ‘bidesi/videsi’, which means ‘foreigner’ in my parents’ language. But as it’s not an everyday word, and hardly holds any currency when you’re living in bedesh itself (unless you want to go around calling everything and everyone bedesi), my parents never used this word at home and I heard it for the first time in South Asia. It never occurred to me that it might be linked to the word desi when I first saw desi online. Thank goodness Google is around to tell me what desi means, hey?

Still, even after I knew the meaning of both terms, it took a few months for the link between ‘desi’ and ‘bedesi’ to click, which actually happened very recently (hence this post). I’m comfortable with the knowledge that I’m not the most linguistically talented individual, but c’mon brain…it’s such an obvious connection. (Indeed, despite knowing ‘desi’ and ‘bidesi’, I still had to google ‘pardesi’ when I first came across it a couple of months ago).

Ironically, just like the word ‘bedesi’ (foreigner) seems to have more meaning and use in one’s home country, I get the feeling ‘desi’ is a word used more outside of South Asian than inside it…? Given the region is so linguistically, culturally and religiously diverse (not to mention politically fraught), this pan-subcontinental identity doesn’t really make sense until you’re taken right out of context, and commonalities take on more meaning than differences (at least for some) as you try to make yourself feel at home in bedesh. (…?)

I’m not sure how widely desi is used in Australia. I’ve certainly never heard it used amongst my family or friends. Those friends who do identify strongly with their South Asian heritage are more likely to come out and say “I’m India” or “I’m Fijian-India” (etc.). So I’m curious to know…does anybody actually use this term in conversation in Australia or elsewhere? Or is it a word that tends to be thrown around more online, where we do need shorthands for defining identity, blogging context, subject matter and so on?

ABCD

I never paid much attention to this term, assuming it was a variant of ABC – Australian Born Chinese – when I first saw it. But it kept coming up in the intercultural blogging sphere, even when no ABCs were involved, and imagine my shock when I discovered it stands for Australian (or American) Born Confused Desi. I mean, why are you automatically labelled as confused if your parents are South Asian, but not if your parents are East Asian? or white? I was as confused as any teen growing up, but I never linked it to my parents’ cultural background. Because that’s what growing up and life and existence is all about, for anyone, from anywhere – sorting out who you are. (In fact, some would say this existential and self-reflexive aspect to human existence is what distinguishes us from animals, at least to our knowledge…confusion regarding identity is hardly exclusive to South Asians, it’s a distinguishing factor of our humanity).

That said, I do understand the need to identify with others like you, to find a community for yourself (because we are social beings, and community is central way of finding ourselves), and to have a language which lets you readily share you pain and your joys to somebody who immediately understands, because they too have South Asian parents, what you’re going through.

Again I am curious – does anybody out there actually consider themselves to be an ABCD? Is there something about having South Asian parents that gives a distinctively desi spin on existential confusion?

And a shout-out to a reader -The Ideal Indian Woman?

Until a reader commented on this blog under the name Bharatiya Nari, I’d never heard this phrase. Initally I thought it was your actual name! Then I saw a few unseemly google searches referencing the ‘name’ (nothing unusual – most of the search hits this blog gets are from unseemly search terms), and I realised there was much more meaning to it than I’d first assumed. After a brief stint on Google, I’ve come up with “woman”, “good Indian wife”, even some articles about feminism and hardcore rightwing Hindu mens’ rights stuff. Is ‘woman’ just synonymous with ‘good wife’ in India? Is this phrase/ideal common in most Indian languages? I should probably do my research but I’m gonna be lazy and ask if somebody knows what this phrase means (or at least what it means to you), and why it appears in such wide-ranging subject matter? Your thoughts are much appreciated!

At the end of the day…

I’m hoping I’m not alone in this, and I’d love to know what ‘new’ terms you guys have come across in your blogging adventures (including reading and commenting). There’s this entire vocabulary out there to help frame certain experiences through the lens of culture (especially when it comes to migrant/intercultural/second gen stuff). And as I’ve already said, having a language which helps express your experiences in a shared idiom goes a long way in doubling the joy, halving the pain and feeling less isolated when things seem tough.

I can’t say I will ever own the term desi myself though…it seems to confer this really strong sense of identity which I can’t/don’t/won’t relate to. The phrase South Asian (which I prefer and use in this blog) is just as generalising, but in my mind it points more to heritage than identity, and is less prescriptive and presumptive. At the very least, saying “I have South Asian parents” doesn’t automatically imply that I’m confused!

I am not confused thank you very much…only when it comes to desi words and phrases 😉

13 Comments

Filed under Adolescence, Blogging, Cultural Difference

Parents, Partner and Heartache: Let it Be

So the parental visit…How dramatic hey?

But for all that moaning and groaning, all the emotions and confusion and heartache, there have been some good things that have come out of the last couple of weeks:

1. L and I have had long long chats and he’s learning much more about recognising and handling certain emotions

2. For the most part, I controlled my temper. Yes, I had to in front of my parents, because I was trying to hide the truth. But I guess that’s the point: there are times when I feel so confused and full of rage even I don’t know where it will lead to. The last two week’s prove I do have the ability to control my feelings if needed. So to ‘lose’ control of them, to hurl abuse at L with the excuse that I’m too emotional to control myself, is just that – it’s an excuse, and it’s abuse.

When I wrote my last two posts, I was full of emotion after all those intense conversations with my parents.  It was only a couple of days later that the full impact hit: at the time when we most needed to get my parents on-side, at one of the few opportunities we’re going to have to include them in a positive way in our lives, it all fell apart.

And I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream at L “how could you fuck up so badly” (especially when it was going so well).

But I remembered our talk, I remembered how mortified he is feeling about the whole thing, I remembered to remove myself from a situation where I was obviously loosing my temper. So I went for a drive alone and screamed out everything. And then I realised that it’s probably not the safest thing to be doing, screaming and driving. So I stopped sreaming, calmed myself down, and went home. End of anger.

Just goes to show – my logical side can sometimes rein in my emotional and physical responses. I needed badly to prove this to myself.

3. Blogging as helped! It has helped in expressing my need for support. And in actually getting that support through all your kind responses and suggestions. Thank you 🙂

Now that I’ve admitted I need support, I realise just how much I’ve isolated myself over the last 6 months. I didn’t want to talk to any of my friends, I didn’t want to go out…except for starting a blog and commenting voraciously on other people’s blogs, I practically dug myself into a hole. Now wonder I’ve been feeling so trapped!

I’ve also stopped all the activities that usually give me some emotional relief. I miss my music. I’ve never been particularly good at it, but I sorely miss having a piano in the house to smash out a tune when I’m feeling bad. I miss dancing and laughing and going out with friends for a coffee. I miss drawing and painting and reading my favourite novels.

This will be my challenge for the rest of the year – to start becoming myself again!

We’re obviously in damage control with my parents. I’ve made some attempts at reaching out to my dad, but I can’t report on much success just yet. We’re just going to have to let it be for now, let time ebb away some of the hurt and work some of it’s healing magic.

I’ve always found this song comforting, especially when things feel tough. I like this version from the film ‘Across the Universe’ – it’s so beautiful and dramatic (especially the start!). What I’m going through obviously doesn’t compare to wars and race riots. But it helps to dramatise my feelings write now, in a way that is positive and constructive rather than destructive.

4 Comments

Filed under About, Blogging, Family Acceptance, Music and Dance, Parents

Colonial Fantasy, Sexual Desire and Saving the Exotic Dark Other (aka Why Are You With This Guy?)

One of the most insightful articles I remember reading during undergraduate anthropology was by an English literature scholar examining western fascination with the ‘exotic other’. He described how the white tendency to fetishise and ‘study’ colonised populations was driven not only by the need for expanding markets at the economic level, or the need for greater territory and military prowess at the political level, but also by sexual desire for the exotic at the psychological/unconscious level. Indeed, he suggested that cross-cultural interaction and influence during the colonial moment (which is ongoing in many parts of the world) spreads through a limited number of ways – namely, language and sex (I can’t remember if he included trade). He often referred to colonial anthropologists and geographers who were well respected in their home countries and professional fields, despite of (or because of?) their wide-ranging sexual relations with ‘the natives’. Such sexual desire for ‘the natives’, according to this writer, was underpinned by a sense of adventure and conquering the unknown, and a drive to realise and strengthen one’s own civilised whiteness and identity by saving the exotic other from the dark throes of savagery.

Thankfully, ALL the people he referred to were male and white. In fact, the entire article was about white male sexual desire and how it is indulged through colonial relations and the western missionary/saviour complex.

Phew! thought the starry-eyed humanitarian in me. I’m not white, I’m not male, I don’t have a penis which can hide my brain when it doesn’t want to work, or a libido that can be titillated by a brown-skinned girl in a coconut bra. So my desire to help all those dark people in all those poor villages is not at all related to white colonial sexual fantasy and an unconscious saviour complex, right?

Ummm…wrong, according to my therapist.

To backtrack slightly, L and I are having some pretty major issues right now as he goes through a rough patch. To deal with all of this, I booked myself into a counselling session, because I don’t really know what else to do besides cry tears of frustration and slam all the doors in the house until they disintegrate into cracked splinters. (Oh, and blog).

The therapist took one look at my situation and saw western-wannabe-humanitarian-meets-black-boy-in-distress. She gently explained to me how, sometimes, people with a human services orientation meet somebody ‘interesting’ and initiate a relationship with that person not for who they are, but because of who they represent, because of all the potential in them to change. Or, more accurately, the potential in them to be changed (i.e. be saved). She reminded me that “He is not a project; he is not a member of population you are interested in studying; he is a human being who can only help himself”.

Yup, thanks for reminding me that my partner is a human being.

Forgive my sarcasm. I just can’t help but feel completely misunderstood and patronised. I know she was well-meaning and concerned for my welfare, but implying that I am with somebody for all the wrong reasons and that I am incapable of loving somebody outside of my professional and academic commitments, is hardly conducive to healing. And the more sinister implication that I am with L only to realise an aspect of my own identity (western saviour to this ‘traumatised’ black boy) was absolutely devastating.

(I guess my therapist, if she ever read this, would read a lot into my defensiveness here. But whatever).

I fled that counselling session and am yet to get up the courage to go back. Maybe if she had asked questions about how we met, how long we’ve been together, the nature of our relationship and how we feel about each other, she would have realised that I am acutely aware of this dynamic. It took me almost 3 years to agree to go out with L because I wanted to make sure my feelings were genuine. I would never have been that careful had he been a white guy; I would have plunged into the relationship, ‘given it a shot’, and sorted out the issues later. Yes, I treaded water carefully because of his personal and cultural background, even tolerated things that I would not have tolerated had I been with the guy-next-door. But ‘giving way’ in such a relationship (where there is an imbalance in racial privilege, at least publically) – or even BEING in such a relationship in the first place – does not automatically call into question one’s basic reasons for loving their partner.

These thoughts have arisen in response to a great conversation amongst South Asian intercultural relationship bloggers about balancing their ‘gori’ identity with their partner’s culture. Some, like Sara at A Little Bit of that Too, went through a stage of enthusiastically courting South Asia. Others have never felt the need to embrace their partner’s culture so enthusiastically.

Adding my two cents worth, I commented on a number of posts that I would never overtly embrace the markers of L’s culture, or even directly express interest in the cultural differences between us. If I did, L would think I was just being a middle-class, confused white person who doesn’t truly understand cultural difference at all (and worse still, a try-hard white person because I’m not actually white: trying to be white by trying to be ethnic!). On the back of his interactions with westerners here and in Africa, he very much associates this fascination for ‘other cultures’ with white fantasy and colonial exoticisation (in Australia, it’s certainly true that most people’s perceptions of and questions about Africa are based more on personal ideas/fantasies than on any real knowledge of what life is like over there).  So, if I expressed interest in his culture, for him it would be more about me using it to explore an aspect of my own identity (Eat, Pray, Love style), rather than actually understanding where he’s coming from (even though I LOVE learning about other cultures, and from my perspective it’s about understanding others as well as myself). And in so far that I have the privilege, education and resources to make such dips into another culture to ‘discover myself’ and ‘have a spiritual awakening’, yes, the process is inherently exploitative and tinged with racism. In the extreme version of this argument, embracing Africa would simply be a tool to solidify my own sense of self as an enlightened cosmopolitan westerner (the ‘trying to be white by trying to be ethnic’ thing isn’t a joke).

A lot of this stuff also comes from my own experience of fielding ‘culturally sensitive’ comments and questions from people in Australia who, despite their good intentions, come across as infuriatingly ignorant. But it’s best not to get started on this…

Until now I have felt just a wee bit smug populating the blogosphere with my clever commentary. The “I’m so enlightened and cosmopolitan and suave that I don’t even have to embrace another culture to prove my enlightened-cosmopolitaness” type of smug.

Then I remember how hurt I felt when my own motives for being with L were bluntly questioned. And how angry I felt when we were typecast into a saviour/other script that, at least in my mind, ran with the more extreme points of the exoticism and colonial desire argument; without once acknowledging all the love, frustration, joy and anger that goes on between us as two people, independent of any historical and psychological meta-narrative we may fall into.

Having spent much time at university examining patterns of racism, exoticisation, white fantasy and colonial guilt in western culture and politics, it’s been easy to project these same patterns onto other people’s intercultural relationship experiences, based on this-or-that post which I just happened to read. What’s been harder, I’ve discovered from hurtful personal experience, is to let go of my assumptions and understand people’s experiences from their point of view rather than my own.

39 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Cultural Difference, Interracial Relationships, Race, Racism, Western Privilege