Ending 2019

As the year comes to a close and we step into a whole new decade, I wanted to reflect on some happening in life - lessons I've learned and thoughts I've had; what I want to take with me going forward and what I've chosen to let go of, but learn from.

  • A recent falling out with a friend group reminded me of the importance of allowing myself to trust my gut feeling, always. If something feels off, acknowledging it is so necessary! I know my anxiety can often heighten my paranoia but accepting the sense of doubt and lingering questions about my value when I'm around others, isn't something I should push aside. I know now not to dismiss my emotions and feelings for others. I know not to spread myself thin. No one but I can look out for myself.

  • The second half of 2019 was the peak of my self-esteem. Contrary to what those around me might think based on my crude self- deprecating humour, I thought more than 5 times in the past few months that perhaps I wasn't bad looking or that maybe I won't let my weight define me and my self- worth. Although definitely still a work in progress and a server need to compare myself less to others, not take comments or remarks of others personally and to not seek validation, it was refreshing to feel good about myself.

  • The above point was a result of conscious effort I have put in the last few months to revise and repeat to myself the mantras - "Why would I let myself feel that way?", "I have the power to control how I feel and how I react" and "What I think and feel cannot be heard nor judged by those around me. My thoughts are my own and will forever be. The one space I can truly, therefore, I shouldn't fear the freedom of myself". I cannot explain it in any other way but by saying that I simply flicked a switch in my head that lit the fluorescent wall decal piercing through my brain the luminous idea of my power and ability to control me.

  • The frustration I experience of feeling unheard is just the result of not speaking out in the fear of rejection or ridicule. I've had more than plenty of experiences where I have chosen to stay quiet, only to then feel defeated and infuriated with myself when someone more confident in themselves got credit for an idea I could've just as easily expressed. This fear of being laughed at, that stems from past traumas, needs to be left just there, in the past. It's time to allow myself to speak my mind and accept that yes, maybe sometimes a judgment may follow, but that I can only use it to my advantage and build tougher skin. 

I hope going into 2020 and for the rest of the years to come I can continue to grow and reflect on my past using it to my benefit. 2019 was quite an interesting year, not bad in any way, just very different to any before. It was definitely a year of growing and maturing, learning how to let go of the past and how to keep control on my emotions.

Thank you to anyone who read my posts this year and supported my writing, whether it was here or on my Instagram (@aasthameow/ @enchantedclub). I am so grateful that I have this platform to share my works on and the support I get, nothing makes me happier. I hope this year was good to you and that the next is even better. 
I manifest nothing but happiness, growth and good health in 2020, for me and for you. All my love and best wishes, Aastha. 

Perth of the Past

The other day I took Kimchi, on a walk. We always go to the same place, a small park behind my house. Theres usually a few other dogs and their owners there, however we ended up going a bit later than when we'd normally go and so it was empty. The world seemed gloomier in that moment, like it had been through the VSCO app, made to seem eerie. All I could think about was how familiar the colours around me, the emptiness, the way in which the trees swayed so gently as I sat on the swing, seemed and how it was all too reminiscent of the movie Palo Alto.

2-3 years ago I was very into movies. I went through a phase where I'd watch a movie or two a day and they were always quite obscure films. I can't really  describe what I mean without giving a few more examples, so I think 'The Dressmaker', 'Little Children' and 'Like Minds', are a few if you wanted to google them, would sort of circumference my taste. All these movies are set in small isolated towns, where nothing much ever happens. I guess 'indie' is one way to put it, but they always evoked a sense of nostalgia (?) in me. Quiet places that aren't that well known, where nothing much happens and where although you came across the same few people every other day due to proximity, you couldn't really call them friends.
Perhaps watching these movies made me feel as if I could relate to the characters and their ordinary lives as we had somewhat of a similar setting.

Rhinoceros Beetle by Susan Hawthorne, one of best short stories I've come across ever, also illustrates a similar aura in which it's set, one comparable to Palo Alto's, and therefore Perth's, in my mind.

Much of my late teens was spent trying to compare the amount of fun I had, or the amount of crazy stuff I did, to those I saw on screen or to those around me in the way they portrayed themselves on social media. The idea of romanticising your own life, in a way, kept me going. Although, yes it was toxic at times to feel a sense of FOMO based on the lives inaccurately portrayed through staged characters or personas, I convinced myself that I couldn't let my life be a bore. Perhaps this 'coming of age' and 'indie small town' movie genre was the closest I could come to, to see a portrayal of my on screen because it didn't seem unachievable.

Palo Alto was the closest on screen representation to Perth that I had come across, not because of the plot line or the personalities of the characters but because of extraneous factors and bleak similarities in the age of the protagonist and the portrayal of high school through the eyes of someone who didn't see it for what it actually was. The movie dramatised the teenage life with tones of warm overlayed and music that you'd only come across if you specifically searched for nostalgic instrumentals and shuffled through the playlist a few dozen times. It wasn't the movie that reminded me of my past, it was how I perceived myself as a side character in the film as it seemed so easy to do so when the setting was familiar and I had a tendency to find answers in mediums of art that were made with no intentions of doing so.

So when I was sat on those swings on that empty, gloomy day. I made a short list of places and things that made Perth seems Palo Alto-y to me, Pertho Alto perhaps (?)....

Discrimination within discrimination

Not too long ago, I came across an Instagram post of a well-known Australian influencer and travel blogger with over 1.2 million followers on Instagram (who I’ve chosen not to name as she apologised for her actions after discussing it with me). She had posted several pictures of herself in a lehenga, an Indian garment usually worn on formal or ceremonial occasions, and a variety of Indian jewelry, posing in front of famous and historical forts of Jaipur, Rajasthan (which happens to be my birthplace). 

Now see, what irked me about this wasn’t the fact that she had chosen to sport these items of great history, religious and traditional value, as a form of ‘aesthetic’, without shedding the tiniest bit of light on the importance of them, no. 

I suppose it was pushing the line, but even when there was no mention or any informative caption addressing the  jewellery such as the nose ring, usually worn as a symbol of marriage and prestige, honouring Parvathi, the Hindu goddess of marriage, and which according to the Ayurvedic belief is associated with the female reproductive system   or the tikka, typically placed on the bride’s hairline, for the first time on the bride’s wedding day and is an essential element of the solar shringaar (the sixteen traditional bridal adornments) and which signifies the holy union of the male and female, on a spiritual, physical and emotional level, or perhaps even the giant pink monument in the background, for which Jaipur is known and holds centuries of history involving the kings and queens of India; I suppose even then, that wasn’t really what got me. 

What got me was the hypocrisy; the hypocrisy which had become so very evident amongst all this. 

See, personally, I’m the most ‘in touch’ with my Indian roots. I’m not religious and actually, I haven’t even lived in India since I was 12. But my ethnicity and culture still make up an enormous part of who I am, whether I like it or not. Growing up, living in several different parts of the world, and still living in a place where I’m considered a minority due to my skin tone, has shaped me into the person I am today. Now, whether that may be due to the bullying for my brown skin at 13, or because of opportunities I am overlooked for when it is assumed my skills aren’t par with those whose first language is English, is a different discussion, but a relevant one here that drives this anger and frustration. 

What truly got me was how uneducated and ignorant people seemed to be under the influencer’s post. Not a SINGLE comment questioning her actions, whilst at the same time Trisha Paytas’ photo of her box braids was bringing in thousands and thousands of fuming, rage-filled comments, ’ canceling’ her for appropriating black culture and trying to educate her about the history of the hairstyle. 

Similarly, Kim Kardashian’s recent shapewear launch ‘Kimono’ brought in media coverage from tens of thousands of news agencies, influencers, enraged Instagrammers on their stories, twitter trending list etc.; resulting in the name being removed, a change being made; but have you heard or seen anyone talk about Gucci’s turban named ‘Indy Full Turban’? 

The turban is traditionally worn with a religious significance and is an article of faith that millions of Sikhs around the world view as sacred.

The item was first worn by white models during Milan Fashion Week in 2018. Has the coverage for this, in over a year, been anywhere near comparable to the Kardashian’s scandal in the past few weeks? The biggest insult is the fact that Gucci is yet to comment on it. 

It was torture seeing how quick people were to turn a blind eye or be outright oblivious and uninformed about the fact that this influencer had done exactly what would be considered killing her own career if she had done it with literally ANY other culture or tradition. 
Flaunting around in a Native American traditional War Bonnet, posing for a quirky photo at Coachella? You’re absolute goner, might as well get rid of your internet router. 
Dressing up in a Korean traditional Hanbok to take photos in, with your new BTS album? You’re an absolutely trash Koreaboo. 

I come across as resentful and as if I don’t approve of other culture being treated with respect when honestly, I’m just envious. 

I’m jealous and frustrated that other minorities are being talked about, getting the recognition they deserve and the stereotypes around them are being demolished, whereas mine is still being misrepresented and dumbed down to ‘creepy Indian dudes in DM’s’ or simply being cast as the ‘old store clerk uncle’ or ‘the burnt-out math nerd who speaks with an accent’. I feel vulnerable that people aren’t as accepting of who I am, just due to my skin colour. I’m ashamed that there are so much powerful history and so many people of might that deserve recognition for their courage and influence, that aren’t being talked about, that aren’t being celebrated for the heroic forces they are. 

We need to represent the brown community. We need South Asian (YES, Asian. Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Sri Lankan, Afghani, etc. are also ASIANS, they’re literally on the same continent of ASIA) representation in media. We need to cut back on the stereotypes. We need to educate ourselves. 

Because, either ALL of it's ok or NONE of its ok.

Either we choose to get offended over all misrepresentation and disrespect of any and every culture appropriation or we choose to ignore all of it. It is not acceptable to be choosey about which cultures and ethnicities we deem valuable enough to defend and spread awareness of.

We are not going to discriminate within the already existing discrimination.