“India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”  Mark Twain



Here I’m sharing some of my experience of being an Indian woman living in the UK and how I have coped with cultural views and expectations.


Born in a small village in Punjab to a Sikh family. my destiny was already prescribed due to my gender. Just as it had been for my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother – you get the picture!

It starts here – my dad could read and write but my mum was illiterate. She was of such little value that her birth date wasn’t even recorded anywhere. It was guessed for passport documents. Her worth was in being able to cook, sew clothes, knit, produce babies, especially sons and serve her husband and children.

Females, although life-givers, were (and still are in some parts of India) considered a huge burden on the family due to the dowry system (which still exists despite legislation to the contrary).

The majority, once married off, weren’t allowed to leave if they were being mistreated. They were at the mercy of the in-laws and had to endure whatever treatment was dished out – domestic violence, verbal and emotional abuse, being treated like a domestic servant.

The ones that did leave had the rare support of their someone in their family or were rebellious in nature. My mother was her violent alcoholic husband’s property and at some point, way before I was born, she had a breakdown.

There is no word for depression in my culture. The explanations were filtered through the uneducated fearful lens of superstition and religious views – ‘she must have done bad deeds in a past life and this was her punishment’, that there was a curse on the family, black magic, voodoo – any reason apart from the truth. 

My mother was labelled ‘mad.’ Huge stigma.

Great decision

For two reasons the best move my dad ever made was to the UK when I was aged 6. Firstly,  my mum was admitted to the local psychiatric hospital (no care in the community back in 1969!) and finally away from him – thank goodness. She was subjected to, I don’t know how many, electric shock treatments which made no difference to her condition – then labelled manic depression, these days, bi-polar.

She remained in hospital until her death in 1984 of a brainstem stroke. We would bring her home some weekends and in the school holidays (because I could look after her then) if she was in her calm phase.

Secondly, since his suicide, I have had access to opportunities that in India would have been nigh on impossible.


I had been groomed for an arranged marriage. By age 18 (when I found him hanging) I had been a young carer since age 12 and was doing all the cooking, cleaning (no vacuum cleaner), washing clothes and sheets in the bathtub (no washing machine), ironing (no steam iron), knitting, sewing, doing the grocery shopping and paying the bills.

I had to be good at looking after children so studied Child Development and the Family as one of my subjects at school.

Dad took out his own disappointments and rage on his family – having two sons made no difference to him. He was pleased to have a daughter, he once told me, but that didn’t mean as the youngest I was spoilt. Far from it – his violence knew no bounds.

He went further with his control – he decided (outside of school uniform) what clothes and shoes I (and mum) wore. Hair always oiled and tied up. Nails short, no after school activities. No socialising with friends after school. What I ate and when, when I went to sleep and woke up.

Girls had to be virgins on marriage. He had to show the community, and potential in-laws, how well he had done with my upbringing and domestic skills in spite of mum’s absence.

Post suicide

More stigma and superstition got associated with my family. My dad had done the unthinkable. Depression wasn’t seen as the reason. Other fathers had taken their own lives (or their daughters) if she had been going out with (or eloped) with a boy. Many people in the community assumed I had done wrong and offered me no support.

During my 10 year marriage I felt extremely lonely and isolated – depression, anxiety, inferiority complex, low self esteem, fear of rejection, and abandonment and deep shame prevented me from being able to process my grief (of losing both parents by age 23), express the post-traumatic symptoms I was experiencing for the desire to fit in, appear ‘normal’ and be accepted.

I didn’t want to be considered ‘mad’ like my mum.

Stigma of divorce

Deciding I had had enough of being treated badly in a system that on the outside is considered (by the Western world) to be the idyllic supportive family where everyone looks out for one another , aged 30, I filed for a divorce. I was blamed for the end situation – the male couldn’t possibly be at fault.

As a divorced woman and single parent I was regarded as ‘damaged and used goods’ by Asian men. By the community as a woman of little worth and value if I didn’t have a husband or family behind me. A threat to other married women because I must be after their husband as I didn’t have one of my own. In the view other Asian women I was expected to grin and bear my situation – if they were putting up with their situations I should too. 

Who did I think I was to do different?!


There was very little expectation of me and my children to thrive from my condemning and judgmental community. As I improved my mindset through personal development, not only have I (and my clients) benefited but also my son and daughter.

Life is tough enough anyway that requires courage, determination and resilience to deal with let alone having to face prejudice, rejection and victimisation from your own community.

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I can speak about the impact of suicide or what is required to be true to yourself and how to follow your path.

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