In the heart of cultural richness, South Asian Heritage Month emerges as a vibrant celebration of a legacy that transcends time.
This month invites us to discover the vibrant shades of South Asian art, music, dance, and literature that has flourished within this diverse region.
While some use this month to celebrate their identity, many still yearn to feel connected to their heritage.
The South Asian diaspora is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, a delicate thread that weaves together the hearts of millions scattered across the globe.
Similar tales, happy and sad, were shared by the team of Asian Standard.
Three individuals hailing from various South Asian heritages across the world, sharing their part of the story and culture.
Born and raised in Bradford, United Kingdom, Mehak’s journey of cultural identity has been a poignant reflection of the diaspora experience.
Like many others, Mehak wanted to know to have a more in-depth understanding of her heritage.
‘’My family was from Jehlum, but being born and raised here in the UK really made me lose sight of my cultural identity’’. She says.
Despite the geographical distance, her longing to uncover her roots and understand her heritage is fervent.
At just nineteen years old, Mehak has already navigated the complexities of straddling two worlds.
‘’I’ve only been to Pakistan once in my life and that too when I was very young, so the disconnection from my homeland was very abundant in my life growing up. I felt like Bradford was all I knew and that maybe I wasn’t related to Pakistan at all’, she mentions.
While many people these days are looking for ways to flee their country, Mehak wishes to find out more about her roots and what life could’ve been for her in Pakistan.
Amidst the cultural confluence of modern society, Mehak found solace in the company of fellow British Asians and South Asians.
‘’In school, I used to hang out with British Asians or just South Asians in general. It gave me a sense of belonging, I was grateful for that’’, she claimed.
Yet, the path to self-discovery has not been without its challenges. Mehak recounts moments when she felt alienated for not adhering to traditional South-Asian customs in her day-to-day life
‘’I was looked down on if I weren’t wearing South-Asian attire or when I told people that we only ate desi food occasionally. Why was it my fault? I didn’t ask to be born here…’’, she mentions
While her experiences may resonate with many from the South Asian diaspora, Mehak remains determined to preserve her cultural heritage amidst the ever-changing tides of globalisation.
In the year 2022, Aavish embarked on a life-altering adventure, leaving behind the familiar comforts of his home country to pursue his post-graduation in the United Kingdom.
Moving to a different country, away from his home in Lucknow, with nothing but ambitions and hope, was not an easy journey for him.
‘’The initial few months were tough, to say the least, I had no idea what to do, I was lost’’, he admits.
The distance from his home and loved ones took an emotional toll, leaving him yearning for the warmth of familiarity.
‘’I was skeptical. I felt left out the majority of the time’’, he mentions.
Yet, with time, he found his footing and started to embrace the novel experiences that the UK had to offer.
The academic institution he joined was a hub of individuals from various backgrounds and heritages, and this realisation brought him solace.
“University was full of people from different walks of life, which made me feel better,” he admits with a smile.
As time went by, Aavish felt a sense of familiarity when it was time for Diwali or Holi.
The vibrant display of colours, the loud crackles of fireworks and most importantly, the homemade food, made him reminiscence about his days in Lucknow.
The celebrations took him on a virtual trip back home where he imagined being reunited with his loved ones.
‘’The Indian community here went all out for religious holidays and it made me feel like I was back in Lucknow’’, he beamed.
Today, after a transformative year, Aavish stands grateful for the path he chose to traverse. The trials and tribulations of adapting to a new country have shaped him into a more resilient, open-minded, and culturally enriched individual.
Mahnoor also came to United Kingdom last year in September for postgraduation.
Living her whole life in Pakistan along with her family, she faced separation anxiety during the first few months of transition.
‘’I hadn’t been to a trip alone, so to travel halfway around the world without anyone by my side was terrifying’’, she explains.
A foreign country with little knowledge about your surroundings was a tough way to go.
‘’During the first few weeks of university, I would lose track of where I was and get lost. I remember crying on park benches because I felt so helpless’’, she confesses.
Despite living with her sister and nieces, Mahnoor felt like a stranger most of the time. The freedom that came with it was also limited.
During times like Ramadan and Eid, was when Mahnoor felt most away from home. She would yearn the days she would go out and buy bangles, get henna done with friends and stay up all night cooking feasts for the next day.
‘’The festive culture in general felt very dry to me here. There was little to no concept of dressing and meeting up for Eid, I rarely saw people sacrificing animals for Bakra Eid. It was all very strange to me’’, she says.
Now after living here for a whole year, Mahnoor has finally grown accustomed to the way things work in the UK.
‘’It was hard but I tried to remind myself everyday that this is what it is going to be like now’’, she says.
As time unfolded, Mehak, Aavish and Mahnoor embraced the diverse and heterogeneous society that surrounded them, finding solace in the connections they made with fellow South Asians and beyond.
South Asian Heritage Month stands as a testament to the undying spirit of these three individuals and countless others who yearn to celebrate their roots, bridging the gap between the past and the present as they continue to shape the future of the South Asian legacy.
South Asian Heritage month is running from 18 July to 17 August.
This year’s theme is #StoriesToTell. You can find out more at southasianheritage.org.uk and of course do get in touch with us as we would love to hear your stories.