I’m sprinting in my high-heeled boots, purple Mack and a ridiculously heavy suitcase for a two-night stay, as I try and catch my first train back from Birmingham to London. The station is way too big for my liking and hundreds of pushy people kindly nudge my many bags off my shoulders. Nearly re-enacting a Mr Bean sketch and falling flat on my face on the stairs, I watch as the train doors casually close in front of me.
I missed it! And it’s a miracle with my sense of direction that I managed to find New Street Station at all! In a right panic, with yet no money in my student bank account and no ticket back to London or to my flat, I was stranded, and called my Dad.
“This problem wouldn’t even happen if you lived at home…”
I am normally a very reliable and independent person, and I wanted to prove to my family I could live out at University in a city away from London; this event however, in my first week of university, didn’t do me any justice.
Many of my female Punjabi friends live at home as they are not ‘allowed’ to study away from family. Simultaneously, many of my female Punjabi friends were reluctantly allowed to live away from home and left their worried families behind. But why is it such a big deal for Punjabi girls to live away at university? Is there a similar problem with Punjabi boys?
I think it’s safe to say parents worry about their children regardless of their ethnicity. As we move forward in life and the opportunity to live away at university arises, our parents worries multiply a hundred times more! Uh oh… now our parents are worrying about how we will be able to make lovely round rotis on an electric cooker, if we know how to use a washing machine and whether we can make new friends on our own. Let them worry, it’s only natural. Because girls have as much right to experience university away from home as boys do, right? So why do parents worry more about girls?
University allows you to experience the world in a way that you can’t when living at home; you make new interesting friends, learn to cook for yourself, join societies and learn new skills, check out the night-life and become more independent, all preparing you for the real world post-university. My family were not completely happy about me living in Birmingham for three years, even though most of my family lived away at University themselves. Their main concerns were money, food and what type of young woman I would become, being surrounded by the many opportunities to lets say, make a bad reputation for myself. A bad reputation reflects on your family and as we Punjabis somehow know each other one way or another, news spreads quickly. A bad reputation could jeopardise your future in more ways than one.
Before living away, your family knew most of what you were up to because you lived with them at home. At university a simple phone call does not reassure them that you are completely safe and happy, so they will always continue to worry. Personally, my grandmother worries if I’ve finished all the Indian food she packed for me and whether or not I have used the frozen chillies and garlic! From talking to many of my female Punjabi friends who live away and at home, unanimously they expressed that their families worried that they might be pressured to drink alcohol and take drugs. Let’s be frank: the media does not encourage our families to worry less about the possibility that we might be drugged on a night out and taken advantage of. We are our families’ daughters and as much as it frustrates us to hear, it seems Punjabis see us females as inferior to males. Therefore our families worry less about their sons as they feel they are strong enough to look after themselves in this dangerous world. Is this true?
Absolutely not! Punjabi boys experience university the same as Punjabi girls and they too are just as vulnerable on night outs. They are pressured just the same and could create bad reputations, again, just the same as girls. This stereotype has no need to exist in this modern twenty-first century society we live in. Yet it still thrives. If we divulge into this topic, it would require its own article! So we will save this discussion for another time.
We love our parents, and they love us. They have had to look after us for at least eighteen years before we spread our wings and flew into the exciting but dangerous world of university. So it is only natural that they feel that we become too independent for their liking, to an extent that we do not need their help and guidance any more. Particularly with us Punjabi girls, our society has an unconscious sexist view of girls becoming too independent. It may be argued that for Punjabi boys this behaviour is the norm, however it is unheard of for a Punjabi girl to become her own liberated-self. This stereotype also needs to be non-existent. Society is changing, and it is about time our culture changes with it.
There are many things to be aware of at university; your parents are thinking about sex, drugs, alcohol, the crowd of people you hang around with, whether you can cook and clean for yourself, the dangers of night-life and budgeting money. But for many Punjabi families, the relationship between parent and daughter comes down to trust. Can they trust you to live away from your family, in a city far way from home, especially if university would be your first experience of living away? Can they trust you to keep a congenial reputation? And can they trust you to come back with a degree, even when you’re having a blast at university? These questions should be aimed at both males and females, and it’s time the stereotypes in our culture cease to exist.