Proud to Be Me
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
Proud to Be MeGrowing up in a cultural mélange.
India is a wonderful country, yet I wasn’t destined to live there. Although my parents are ethnically Indian, originating from Hyderabad Sindh, I was born in the beautiful country of Singapore.
My paternal grandfather was a textile merchant who owned a family business in Sri Lanka, importing and exporting European, Indian, and Chinese textiles throughout the world. Because of the nature of our company, my father was required to travel around before finally settling down in what was the British colony of Hong Kong when I was just two years old.
My origins immersed me in three cultures and languages simultaneously. Hong Kong, a vibrant and bustling metropolis, is a city predominantly populated by Chinese, so I learned to speak Cantonese with the local people. My parents sent both my brother, Anoop, and me to British schools, where the teaching was in English, and most of my schoolmates were British expatriates. At home, however, my family spoke our native Sindhi language and practiced the Hindu way of life.
My father was a tall, handsome man, who commanded respect from his family. Although I knew he loved us, his manner was strict, and he expected us to conform to his rules. I was afraid of him, and as a child, I made sure that I never crossed him. In contrast, my mother was always kindly toward both my brother and myself, and I never feared sharing my feelings with her.
I absolutely adored Anoop, and we’ve been very close our whole lives, even though he’s five years older than I am. For a child, this is a substantial age gap, so we rarely played together, nor did we ever squabble. Instead, I looked up to him, and he was very protective of me. I felt very safe when he was around, and knew that I could speak to him about anything. He has always been a stronger male influence in my life than my father.
As traditional Hindus, my parents had an arranged marriage, and they hoped to someday set up suitable matches for Anoop and me when we were old enough. Also, traditionally, a woman would be required to be subservient to her husband and to the men of the household.
Such gender inequality is rife in my culture. As a young child, however, I didn’t question these values and took for granted that this is the way things were supposed to be. My first uncomfortable experience with this disparity came at the tender age of six when I overheard a conversation between another lady and my mother.
“Were you disappointed that your second child was a girl when she was born?” this woman asked in our Indian dialect.
I felt a sense of anxiety rise within me as I awaited the response.
“No, of course not. I love my daughter!” my mother replied, much to my relief.
“But girls are a problem, especially when they grow up,” the woman said. “With girls, you have to make sure they don’t get spoiled, otherwise they won’t get a good husband. And the amount of the dowry that’s required to get a daughter married only gets higher with each passing year!”
“You can’t predict the future. Every child, whether girl or boy, brings with them their own fate,” I recall my mother replying wisely.
“Well, I’m happy that I have two sons!” the woman said proudly. Even my young mind was able to detect the sense of achievement she felt as she made that statement.
Later, when my mother and I were alone together, I asked, “Mama, is it true that girls are a problem?”
“No, of course not, Beta darling,” she responded. (Beta is an affectionate term for “my child” in our dialect.)
My mother pulled me close and gave me a hug, and at that moment, I recall thinking, I never want to be a problem to my parents just because I’m a girl. I don’t want them to ever wish I were born a boy.