Arman Sidhu is 17 years old and is currently a student at the University of Manitoba. I have known Arman since we were 11 and had the opportunity to be by her side almost every day for those 7 years. I have always admired Arman for how proud she was about her culture and how she has grown more comfortable talking about it the older she has gotten and the more I have gotten to know her.
Q1.What was it like growing up as an Indian person in Winnipeg?
A: “I didn’t feel different, like I didn’t get stares or anything growing up. I don’t know if that’s just cause of my skin colour because I am lighter then um, other brown people, but there was nothing major that I noticed growing up. I went to a school with just white people. I went to a private Christian school, so it obviously consisted of many, many white people and so people could obviously distinguish between who was what. I was the only one, so in that case it was different. And then when you hang around so many white people, it’s like why am I so different and like when you’re a kid, you don’t want to be told that you’re different. But other than that, I didn’t get any bullying when I was growing up, but it was always in the back of my head, like oh I’m different.”
Q2. Would you say that other Indian people growing up get bullied?
A: “Um, ya. A particular friend of mine wears a turban so he always tells me how hard it was for him to grow up. It’s just stares wherever he goes, it’s always someone looking at him and looking at his appearance. If we were on a bus or something and a white man walked on its not big deal, but if he was to walk on he knows he would get looks. And he’s seen it happen to other people who have turbans so he has had a difficult time. He also did get bullied growing up and I don’t know if it was a personal thing or more something towards his race.”
Q3. Would you say your friend gets more stares now or when he was younger?
A:”I don’t know about that, but he notices it more now growing up.”
Q4. Did you ever sensor what you were going to say because you thought people wouldn’t really understand? Ex. if you were going to say what you did on the weekend and it was something to do with your culture did you have to simplify it?
A: “Ya, you always had to bring it down a bit like if you were going to talk about a wedding or something. For me I don’t know why it was so embarrassing to talk about the traditions that we did growing up but now it’s like I want to tell everyone because I think it’s so amazing and it’s so different then everything else. But as a kid you just want to be similar, you don’t want to be different, so it’s kind of hard. And then when you’re an adult you want everything to be different and unique but as a kid you don’t want to hear that. So ya I guess I did sensor most things, like if I was going to tell a story, it would most likely be a lie. Like if we ever went to the Gurdwara, which is our temple, we would just say that we went to the temple or Indian church. So it’s like we always have to say it just so other people can understand.”
Q5. Do you think this created obstacles for you growing up whether it was in Elementary school or your teen years?
A: “It didn’t really create obstacles, like I think being brown has been such an amazing thing for me, because what we went to volleyball nationals together and I was the only brown person there or maybe there was 1 or 2 other brown girls. But it’s kind of nice representing something and its kind of nice standing up for something just because we are a minority. It’s good to stand out in the things that you do, and I like standing out now. I think it hasn’t created obstacles for me, but has taken me further.”
Q6. How was your upbringing different then your parents?
A: “Okay so my parents grew up in India, so they’re immigrants. Their upbringing was much more of a strict thing and it was much more of an, umm it was a lot harder because all of the schools over there. They think in order to teach a kid, they need to have physical punishment and so then coming here, they teach us this kind of stuff. If it was physical punishment it was very little of it and it was a very natural thing, but they got it all the time so that’s why so many Indian parents bring it to their kids who are living here in Canada now. But umm it was just like they probably, I don’t know, they both grew up playing sports and my brother and I grew up in sports. They’re upbringing was obviously different because of the country that they were in, they had shitty health care, it’s just a corrupt country. There’s no good with India, no offence, but it’s really bad there. I don’t know, here it’s just safer. If I want to go out, I’m allowed to go out. My mom couldn’t go out growing up because of the rape and kidnapping that was so frequent there. So she wasn’t really allowed to go out and if she was, her brothers or her cousins had to go with her cause she couldn’t just go out alone. I also think that my parents were healthier there, the thing is, in India its hard work. It’s not just given to you; you really have to earn it. And when you come to a country like this, where its wealthier obviously you have to work for what you get, but like its kind of given to you too. Like my parents really had to work for what they had. So if anything, I think they had it tougher growing up then I did.”
Q7. When your parents came here they basically had to start over, how has this changed your work ethic? Has it made you more work driven?
A: “Ya definitely, when you see your parents struggling to make money, going bill to bill, paycheck to paycheck and its super hard for them. You’re just sitting there and your like what can I do to help? And whenever they answer that question, it’s kind of like study hard, do something that we couldn’t do with our lives. So it makes us, me, more motivated. You just want to give back to them. Also you want to have a successful life. Education there is totally different from Canada so they couldn’t even update their jobs in time. Everything was so different when they moved here. I’m not doing this for myself anymore, I’m doing it for my parents, because I want to give back to them.”
Q8. If you could tell your parents one thing for moving to Canada for you and your brother, what would you say to them?
A: “Is there anything you could really say to them? They had such good jobs in India, which were government jobs which means they couldn’t get fired. It was a three-hour job that they would go to everyday and get paid so much just cause of their work background, school background and sports background. They gave it all up to live paycheck to paycheck… So is there any words for that? Probably not, probably just thank you. Plus, actions speak louder than words, so if I ever become successful, that’ll do enough for them.”
Q9. What is one misconception that you think there is about your culture that you would like to set straight?
A: “Let’s see, I feel like people joke around a lot, so I don’t really take it too hard, but I know some people that do. I think that’s when they get called terrorists, or that they smell like curry, we barely even eat that dish so when did that become the most famous one? And then with terrorism it’s just like who wants to be called a terrorist? And there was that whole twitter thing going on with this guy who was playing basketball and people started calling him a terrorist, it’s always fun and games until someone gets hurt. I don’t take it too seriously just because I know it’s from a joking stance but if someone was to say it in a serious way, ya it would be hurtful. It’s just like why are we terrorists, what did we do? Just because we’re a different colour?”
Q10. What is one thing that you wish you could share about your culture and that you wish other people could experience?
A: “It just so much fun, there’s so many different elements to it. We have our own clothing our own different types of music. Music is so different because we basically have our own instruments where as other cultures, they do have different music but they usually resort to the regular instruments that there are. So it’s really cool that we are so different and unique. There’s just so many colours and everything, like with our clothing and our traditions, our weddings. Our weddings aren’t just one day, they’re six days long. If there’s anything about our culture that I could share or to sum it up into one word, it would just be fun. It’s fun being Punjabi and Indian.”