By Shivani Joshi
by Genie Espinosa
- a member of the highest Hindu caste, originally that of the priesthood.
- each of the hereditary classes of Hindu society, distinguished by relative degrees of ritual purity or pollution and of social status.
- a female child.
Growing up all three things determined my life. Being a Brahmin; someone from the highest caste, I was taught how to be the perfect Hindu Brahmin girl. Knowing you’re in the highest caste as a child seems like you’re a part of something exciting, until you realize the weight that is put on your shoulders. Being a Brahmin girl means being able to carry out prayers and traditions, especially and specifically after you’re married.
“Brahmin girls don’t do this”
My entire life was dictated by this phrase, but what did it really mean? Growing up in a Hindu Punjabi Brahmin family meant that our family was rich with traditions, culture and religion. I grew up speaking pure Punjabi, and I learnt how to read and write Hindi. As a kid, I played sports, art was a big hobby and I even learnt the bansuri, piano and saxophone. I was allowed to do all this because I was growing up in a western world where it was normal to do all these activities, but as soon as I got home, my life changed, and I was back to growing up similar to how my cousins grew up in India.
I was never allowed to go to sleepovers and when asked if I could, given the example that Sita, who was once kidnapped by Ravana, wasn’t allowed to come back home after that and instead returned to the Earth. At such a young age my mind wandered to how something like that would be that basis of how I would be brought up. It was odd because none of the other girls I went to school with had parents like that.
My brother- who is only 3 years older than me, could stay anywhere he wanted and go anywhere he wanted. All because he was a boy. Any desi girl growing up with a male sibling knows what it’s like to fight for the same kind of privilege and inevitably being denied it. Anytime I was denied something he was allowed to do I would challenge it in hope that my family would reconsider. But time after time I was denied the same rights as him.
“But time after time I was denied the same rights as him.”
In the past few years I’ve been questioning my mum as to why she treats me and my brother differently. Her answer was simple, and something everyone has heard before.
“You can’t trust boys nowadays!”
And my reply to her was brave.
“But my brother is also a boy.”
She had no words when she realised the mistake. Parents will treat their daughters differently to save them from boys, even if they are also bringing sons up. The desi community needs to allow their daughters to grow with the same freedom their as their sons.
“The desi community needs to allow their daughters to grow with the same freedom their as their sons.”
They need to realize that daughters are just as significant as boys.
Talking about my marriage was extremely common at home. As soon as I hit the age of being able to cook/clean, my daddi (grandma) would always emphasize how important it was I learn the skills in becoming a good wife and daughter-in-law. Knowing I would one day be married was never an issue for me but knowing it would be arranged to another Hindu Punjabi Brahmin was the problem. For my grandma, her one aim in life was to get me married into another prestigious family of the same stature. My brother however was not told the same. He was told he could marry whoever he liked no matter what race, colour or religion. I’m not sure how true that was but if only they had told me the same I would have been more opening into learning skills that would help me in the future.
From my own personal experience only two interracial marriages have happened in my family. Both two different generations, my great aunt, and my bhua (dad’s cousin). Both women, who broke the stigma around marrying within the race, religion and caste.
My bhua and I grew up very similarly. The only girl of their small family. Growing up I realised our lives were very parallel, but the only difference was that she had earned her freedom by working extremely hard to get what she wanted. If she wanted to go somewhere she was allowed, because she had earned the right to do so. This gave me some hope when growing up that if I worked hard enough, I would be allowed to do as I pleased. Her marrying somebody who was completely different from our family gave me the hope and the courage that if one day I was to find that one person who I loved, regardless of caste, religion or race, I could use her as an example.
So, in a nutshell my childhood life was always decided by my elders because of my caste. As someone who doesn’t particularly believe in the caste system I still respect my family and the rules and traditions were put in place. But this hasn’t stopped me from doing what I want as I’ve gotten older. I’ve broken many personal barriers and done things a lot of brown girls dream of doing.
I have even found someone who I love.
Without the help of my family.
MEET THE WRITER:
Shivani Joshi is a 19 year old from Manchester, England who loves everything from Sciences to the Arts. She loves sharing her self-confidence on her social media to inspire others into loving themselves.
Her piece is about showing that even if you grow up with strict traditions, you don’t have to be bound to them and you can still gain your own freedom in small little ways.
Follow Shivani on instagram: @merishaan_