International Women’s Day – Loshini Bala
I am a fourth generation Malaysian Indian born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysia is made up of three main ethnic groups – Malays, Chinese and Indians. The Indians in Malaysia are mainly South Indians, just like me. We are the minority in Malaysia. Coming from a country with different ethnicities I certainly have learnt about tolerance, respecting each other’s differences, may it be religion or culture and most importantly trying to live harmoniously, which is not always easy, with each other. I grew up going to school with a variety of different ethnic communities and was taught to always be accepting. This is one of the main reasons Malaysians thrive on culture and diversity and we embrace each other so well that we are such great food connoisseurs. We get to savour and enjoy a variety of different cuisines and flavours. Malaysians bond over meals shared and we enjoy all the different food from the various ethnic groups that form our country. Also why we are such good cooks and can cook up dishes from most cultures. Food brings us together. Most importantly we are blessed with a tropical climate all year round, with sunshiny days everyday!
Did I face racism whilst growing up? Yes! In my very own country in fact. As mentioned previously it was not easy for the three main ethnic groups to blend in and live harmoniously. We still have our ups and downs till to date but we live through it. Differing cultures and religions spark many racial arguments, even the battle of colourism and to the creators that we choose to worship. Religion has always been a trump card in the political scene in Malaysia. As a minority I do feel marginalised in many ways.
This does not mean I do not love my country but there are many challenges I face being a minority. Fairness and equality isn’t always present. Hence why I decided to make the UK my new home. I wanted to give both my daughters a British education and a better life with fairer opportunities. I must say, they have adapted so well into British culture. As Asians we always look up to the standards and quality of a British education. They say British education is platinum class!
My move here was not a smooth one, in all honesty. I did not know anyone except for a few teachers in the school. Also moving in your mid forties when you already have a comfortable and secure life is no easy task. Life took a turn for me, loneliness set in and it was so depressing. The moment my girls left for school everyday I would feel so lost and alone. Then my husband proposed that I set up a business as a way to gain new friends. And That’s what I did. I set up a small business called Truly Batique selling handmade artisans bags made by impoverished women communities in East Malaysia. I made many friends through my business journey and I also faced many prejudiced rejections. Being the positive person I am and where I have come from these insinuations do not dull my spirit. In fact they make me stronger and build my character. I was once told by a store owner in Upton Upon Severn that she only buys products and supports British businesses and that my bags do not suit her shop. So what am I then? Am I not a British business? Why would she assume I’m not a British business? Is it because I don’t have a British accent? Is it because I am not “white”? It disgusts and shocks me that in this current era we still have shallow minded people in a diverse first-world country. I immediately thought of my children as a mother – will my kids have to go through a similar experience too? The thought that I moved to this country because of them – so that they can have great opportunities and strive in this country to do great things. Is colour all people see? My business was set up in the UK so it makes it a British business. Britain is a multicultural society made up of many ethnicities and religions. British does not mean white. These multiracial communities make Britain Britain.
Furthermore, there’s facing day to day assumptions, stereotypes, looks or even uncomfortable questions and phrases. This is the discrete racism I face. It’s not always blatantly obvious but it’s there. Similarly, I did a Christmas market in 2021 in a small town in Worcestershire, where I did not sell a single item because everyone who passed by my stall either looked me head to foot or didn’t even bother looking at me. Not even a single smile that night reciprocated . Even my bags weren’t acknowledged nor was my business given a chance. I guess some people have never seen a brown woman before, even more so one that wears a red dot between her eyebrows!
I frequently get asked by people what does the red dot symbolise? I told them it’s a part of my religion – Hinduism. Most women of my faith do wear a dot between their eyebrows. Typically it’s called a ‘bindi’ in Hindi or in Tamil we say ‘pottu’. In Hinduism we believe it to be the opening and the awakening of the third eye so God can see into your soul during prayer.
It isn’t fair
No one said moving to a new country let alone a small town and making a life there is going to be a bed of roses. Life in general is hard work. As the famous sentiment states: life isn’t always fair. As we continue to shape and improve society’s ways, we must always embrace equity and pass it on to our next generation – the future. As a woman of colour I haven’t always faced fairness.
Racism isn’t fair.
Prejudicing someone because of the colour of their skin isn’t fair.
Discrimination isn’t fair.
Stereotypes aren’t fair.
Assumptions aren’t fair.
Embrace Equity and Equality
But as a positive and uplifting woman I always like to see the happy end of the rainbow and not cloud my mind with negative perceptions about communities at large. No doubt I am a proud fourth generation Malaysian Indian woman. I don’t always agree with the British ways especially since I am a mother of two young girls who have adapted and embraced British culture. I find myself an outcast as I don’t always understand their views. I am a confident open minded woman whose thoughts are liberalised but it’s harder to see their point of view and how Britain has impacted them. Nevertheless I persevere and keep reminding them of their culture and religion and how they need to embrace it. I always tell them to never forget their roots so if they decide to have children they can do the same.
On a more positive note, Britain has honestly embraced me with open arms. Negative racial behaviour and insinuations aside, I feel so at home here now after three and a half years. I love my town. Yes it hasn’t always been easy but that’s a part of life. I have made some truly wonderful friends. People are mostly nice and friendly. I have formed strong bonds with some. A lot of positivity and clarity comes from having a strong mind as a woman. The universe will feel your confidence and charm and you will attract like minded people who respect you for who you are, whether you are brown, purple or blue – you will prosper. The world is always blooming and hopefully we can come together as one to make it a better place, embarking on shaping the future to embrace equity and equality.
Director of Operations
Shining Victory Consulting Limited
Creating opportunities through networking, events and peer support for female business owners and company directors in Worcestershire.
Surround yourself with a positive, supportive and inspiring network.