People

Breaking Out of My Cage

As a kid, I wanted nothing more than to be white.  Since I was a born Hindu, I believed in reincarnation. I hoped that I would be born into a white family in my next life. 

Was it because of white privilege?  I didn’t know what that meant as a kid, but it definitely was a privilege I was seeking.  The privilege of being free. 

I know that Canada is a free country. But what does that mean for a brown girl growing up in an orthodox family?  Absolutely nothing.

My parents are the typical “what will society say” kind of people.  It wasn’t that they didn’t care for my happiness. They just cared for society’s a tad bit more.  I use the present tense because (spoiler alert) they haven’t changed. You know the saying “Old habits die hard”? The habit of worrying about society’s perception of your life is a never ending story.  It’s almost like society owns my life’s shares and has a say in every move I make and every breath I take.  I’d had enough.

As with most Tamil kids growing up in a family as strict as mine, I began saying little lies to get out of the house.  To be fair, I’m sure my parents had done their fair share of lying to their parents too. 

It was one of those lies that got me into huge trouble during my final year of high school.  I’m going to share this anecdote with you only so you don’t make the same stupid mistake I made.

My friends wanted to go to Wonderland as a graduation trip.  I had to lie to my family saying that it was a school trip.  At my school the admin staff would phone home if we missed class.  To avoid this, I had a friend call the school, pretend to be my dad and claim that I wouldn’t be there due to illness. 

Here’s where the plan failed spectacularly. Instead of calling and leaving a message, my friend decided to call once more and made sure he spoke to someone directly.  This raised the suspicion of the office staff, who then decided to call my home directly and confirm I was ill.  Of course, to my family’s knowledge I was on a school trip. The school stated there was no such thing.  Long story short, I got in trouble both at home and with the Vice-Principal.  Lesson learned – do not lie!

If you had asked me back in Grade 12, I would have blamed my parents for this because they were too strict on me.  But I’ve grown to realize that my parents only did what they did because they were worried. 

You have to remember that your parents don’t hate you or intentionally try to rip your happiness away.  They are from a different country, upbringing and environment.  For some people, it just takes time. Others may never understand life abroad.  Communication is a huge concern for a lot of brown parents.  If you could sit your parents down and tell them what you need to make yourself happy, they might understand. 

I won’t give you false hope and say that this will absolutely work, because it still hasn’t with my parents. But it’s definitely worth a shot.  Little by little, you can change their minds. They’ll finally come to realize how little society’s opinions influence your happiness. 

I won’t say that my parents have not changed at all, because they’ve made a huge turnaround from how protective they used to be.  I am allowed to go out without asking for permission now and to me that’s huge.

I now realize that they had to do what they did to protect me from all the evil in this world. And to be honest, I am grateful for the way they raised me.  Obviously, there are many things I hope to change from my upbringing. But it has shaped me into who I am today, and I think I turned out pretty solid.  However, society still plays a factor in my life. One day, I believe we can break that tradition and begin to live life the way we want it.

As a YouTuber, my first step in world domination was to make videos addressing these issues.  One of the popular videos on this topic is called Vicissitude, where a young girl is forced into marriage because society thinks she’s too old to not be married.  First, they meddle with your school grades. Then, it’s “which university?”. As soon as school’s done it’s “when are you getting married?” and after that it’s “when are you popping kids?” 

So when my child grows up and asks me, “why did you decide to have me mom?” I’m going to tell him, “we had to have you, the neighbours were talking!”  As funny as it could be, it’s pathetic.  We should be the ones to decide what and when we want to do things in life. 

Let’s work together in breaking this normal life routine that’s depicted by society and ensure we don’t follow their ways and carry it into our future.  As unrealistic as this may sound, you never know until you try.  As Mahatma Ganhdi said, “it starts with one”.

Related articles:
Why Are Tamil Parents So Embarrassing?
Letter from a Father to my Tamil-Canadian Children
Strangers Under One Roof: A Story of a Tamil Father and Son
8 Things Tamil Mothers Should Teach Their Sons