My Story, My Truth: Breaking Taboos for British Asian Women

Many British Asian women are in conflict with parental expectations. Inderjit Stacey’s ‘My Story, My Truth’, advocates for this to change.

Inderjit's reflection in mirror and head in hands

"I felt secluded, unloved, and like I did not belong."

Independence, mental health, and domestic abuse are just a handful of the many challenges facing modern-day British Asian women.

While many Desis consider themselves forward-thinking, communities still regard many controversial subjects as taboo.

Inderjit Stacey exposes this lack of progression in her debut novel My Story, My Truth.

A personal memoir, the 31-year-old shares her story growing up as a British Asian woman.

She begins by stating she had a “strict upbringing, heavily influenced by the Punjabi culture that affected my life”.

This shows the challenging dynamic young Desis can face with their traditional upbringing clashing with influential, western ideologies.

Inderjit’s aim behind My Story, My Truth is to highlight the various subjects still associated with taboo.

Let’s uncover more about how the “taboo-breaker” exposes South Asian communities and why it’s time to open and embrace discussions.

A Generational Clash

My Story, My Truth: Breaking Taboos for British Asian WomenThroughout Inderjit’s account, it’s clear to see the generational clash between herself and her parents, in particular with her mother.

She believes this started from an early age, soon after the birth of her sister, writing:

“The older I got, the more I noticed that Mum and I didn’t have the bond that she had with my sister.”

As one progresses through her story, this lacking bond appears to stem from disagreements around culture.

From hiding university photos and her boyfriend, known as ‘Ex’, from her family, one can see the ‘double life’ that young Desis experiences as they grow older.

In particular, many British Asian women will resonate with her experience of a generational, cultural clash.

Some families will expect their daughters to marry, often young and in an arranged marriage.

Society’s perception of them will also come into play, ensuring the younger generation lives in a ‘respectful’ manner.

This usually means refraining from alcohol, sexual relationships, and more.

Yet these expectations have become increasingly difficult to follow.

In Inderjit’s experiences, this sadly led to her family disowning her. A key moment in the relationship between the 31-year-old and her parents. She recalls:

“Imagine all your family turning their back on you. Not one of them wanted anything to do with you.

“It is like someone erasing you from their lives, like in the movies where you were once in a picture hanging on the wall, your face is now cut out like you never existed.” 

This pivotal moment gradually leads to another series of hardships Inderjit encounters.

The Stigmas facing British Asian Women

My Story, My Truth: Breaking Taboos for British Asian WomenThroughout the writer addresses several stigmas that currently face communities. These revolve around mental health and domestic abuse.

Over recent years, conversations have sprung up on mental illness.

From Bollywood celebrities to real-life accounts, many have raised awareness in Desi societies.

But while there is a great strive in progress, Inderjit says:

“I’ve noticed it’s only people around my age that are starting to talk about it because we are open and accepting of it. We refuse to live in denial.”

Many still view mental illness with disregard – whether that be from a lack of understanding or fear of what society will think.

Yet Inderjit describes how it can become an immense struggle that carries harrowing consequences.

She battled with depression during the first year after disownment. She writes:

“I felt secluded, unloved, and like I did not belong anywhere.

“From experiencing negative emotions, I was slowly feeling like I was life’s biggest disappointment.”

This struggle brings anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.

As one reads about this harrowing period in Inderjit’s life, her words highlight the entrapment and isolation the illness can create.

Combined with disownment and stigma, this is a reality that faces many British Asians.

Inderjit doesn’t shy away from the impact depression has on her life. She openly admits it influenced decisions she regrets, such as staying with Ex. But she believes:

“It is easy to look back and regret the mistakes we made, however, we don’t know any better because we don’t discuss this openly as a community.”

My Story, My Truth reflects greatly on her relationship with Ex and tackles the challenging subject of abuse.

Inderjit shares a shocking encounter with him, revealing her fear and insecurity as she writes:

“I didn’t even want to contemplate that at the age of 22, I had been raped, and by someone who is meant to love me and be a protector.”

Rape and sexual abuse are key issues in British Asian communities, whilst in South Asia, the rape crisis only continues to endanger women.

According to Statista, over 31,000 rapes were reported in India in 2021 alone. This was an increase from 2020. 

Movements such as #MeToo are helping to break barriers, as more woman share their stories.

Of course, one has to wonder how the writing process, particularly recounting these moments, felt – how comfortable was it to share these personal experiences? She tells us:

“When I first wrote the skeleton [of the book] I saw so much emotion and had to take a break because some things I still hadn’t accepted or dealt with in an adult manner.

“The more I worked on the drafts, the more I noticed the tone of the book changed as I was healing myself through this process.”

By revealing her own experiences of domestic abuse, both sexual and physical, and how she eventually left the relationship, Inderjit helps to address these issues in the British Asian sphere.

Childrens’ Ambitions vs. Parents’ Wishes

My Story, My Truth: Breaking Taboos for British Asian WomenThroughout young Desis’ lives, they constantly face the pressures of achieving their parents’ wishes.

Whether that be the ‘perfect’ suitor or job, this constant need to approve can be an interfering force in their children’s lives.

Inderjit certainly had this struggle with her parents, who disapproved of the ambitions she held.

However, there is one constant figure who believes in her dreams: Nan. Differing from her parents, Inderjit’s grandmother is an encouraging and inspirational figure.

She even helps to spark Inderjit’s ideas to go into the henna business:

“Throughout the year [2010], my Nan said doing henna would be better for me as it is artistic and creative, something I would be amazing at.”

This is a far cry from her parents earlier disowning her due to her relationship.

Through Nan’s guidance and influence, Inderjit can escape the battle between her ambitions and her parents’ wishes, with a thriving business and a positive outlook on life.

Unfortunately, many British Asians can still feel trapped in this battle – how are they able to find a balance between the two?

Inderjit offers this advice:

“Love yourself and put yourself first. Sometimes, family doesn’t always have your best interest.

“There is nothing selfish about putting yourself first, and when you do, life is more pleasant.”

“Many people suffer in silence and they shouldn’t. Even though life can be hard, you should still have hope.”

After sharing her experiences, what lies next for Inderjit Stacey? She expressed: 

“I am planning another book, which focuses more on healing and how spiritualism has affected my beliefs and thinking, affecting my actions.”

A true symbol of rising above hardships, Inderjit and her story will inspire others – paving the way for many British Asian women to follow their dreams and ambitions.

Learn more about Inderjit’s story and read My Story, My Truth.

Akanksha is a media graduate, currently pursuing a postgraduate in Journalism. Her passions include current affairs and trends, TV and films, as well as travelling. Her life motto is 'Better an oops than a what if'.

Images courtesy of Instagram.

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