My Thick Accent

Traversing Continents and Cultures: A Dialogue on Resilience, Societal Challenges and Mental Health | Ft. Anne Sureshkumar Ep. 038

July 20, 2023 Gurasis Singh Season 1 Episode 38
My Thick Accent
Traversing Continents and Cultures: A Dialogue on Resilience, Societal Challenges and Mental Health | Ft. Anne Sureshkumar Ep. 038
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever grappled with the clashing of cultures? Ever wondered how geographical transitions can shape a person’s mental and emotional growth? Join us as we chat with our inspiring guest, Anne Sureshkumar, a registered social worker who has lived in Zambia, Nigeria, India, and now Canada. We delve into Anne's riveting journey as she navigates diverse cultures, societal norms, and personal challenges.

Anne's story is one of resilience and determination as she recounts her experiences of restarting her career in the frosty terrains of Canada, there’s an underlying narrative of strength, humility, and familial ties that echo throughout. Her tale of transition from working in a fast-food chain to reestablishing herself in the mental health field is a lesson in perseverance and the relentless pursuit of one's dreams.

But this conversation isn't all rosy tales of personal triumph. Anne and I also tackle some tough social issues head-on. We explore Honor-Based Violence, a significant issue prevalent in many cultures, and the 'Weathering Effect', a term used to describe the impact of persistent experiences of racism on mental and physical health.

So, tune in as we traverse continents and cultures, unearthing stories of struggle, resilience, and triumphant human spirit.

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To contact Anne:

Want to share your story? Or know someone I should invite next on the show? DM us or write to us at Hello@mythickaccent.com


Gurasis:

Hi, this is Gurasis Singh and you're listening to My Thick Accent podcast. In a world where socioeconomic disparities and gender biases persist, I love talking to individuals who serve as a beacon of hope, tirelessly working to dismantle barriers and empower marginalized communities, and my guest today is one such person. She's a registered social worker with a background in public health and counseling. Her areas of expertise include anti-racism work, mental health, domestic violence, intersectionality and identity development. She has presented at various conferences and workshops, both nationally and internationally, on topics such as cross-cultural counseling, social norms, reconstruction and mental health for racialized clients. Recognized for her outstanding contributions, she has been nominated for the prestigious El Bota Inspirational Awards for the, validating her dedication and impact. With an unwavering belief in the transformative power of education, she continues to educate emerging therapists and develop course material on mental health. Join us as we uncover her journey, her unwavering dedication to creating positive change and the valuable insight she brings to the realm of mental health and culturally inclusive practices. Please welcome Anne Suresh Kumar.

Anne:

Hi Gurasis, Thank you for having me and thank you for the beautiful introduction. It's a pleasure to be with you today.

Gurasis:

Of course, pleasure is all mine. Very happy to have you on the podcast, Anne, very excited for this conversation. So my first question to you is which I asked some of my guests that what is that one habit you have adopted that has changed your life?

Anne:

Thank you for that question. It's very thought-provoking. Well, for me I would say Gurasis is over time. I think what I've adopted, and I continue to try to practice and be better at, is setting boundaries and when I say boundaries it could be emotional and physical boundaries with myself, with people, places, and I think it's really served me and it's only getting better with time.

Gurasis:

No, definitely very interesting. That's something which we all should learn to create that boundaries, because sometimes that's not instilled in us growing up in a South Asian household. But I think I have built that a little bit over time. I think I'm still getting on the track to build more and more, but definitely I think we all can learn from that. Okay, so, Anne, you have lived across continents. You told me you're just from India, but after my research I got to know you also lived in Zambia and Nigeria. So tell me a little bit about your formative years and the experience of living in these countries, and tell us all about that.

Anne:

Absolutely, Gurasis. I was actually born in Zambia because my parents were used to work there. So back in the day I want to say maybe early 70s or late 60s, I don't exactly know but my dad left India to work abroad as a teacher. So he was a high school teacher, so he just went to Ethiopia and then, when he was in Zambia, he came back to India and did the normal thing that we do. He came and married my mom and took her back and then they had my brother and they had me. So that's why I was born in Zambia and then, when I was around five years old, we moved to Nigeria and I was there till I was 10.

Anne:

I must say my life in both Zambia and Nigeria was really positive. So when I say positive, I don't think we really felt out of place the culture, the people we just felt right. I don't remember growing up feeling I'm brown or I'm different or any of that, right. So as a child I think I have really positive memories and I did come from a very positive household as well. So life was overall very positive and beautiful. However, when I was 10, my dad passed and that's when we had to go to India, and my mom actually comes from a town called Kudukote, but at that time she chose to live in Chennai, and that's how Chennai became our home. Because for the purpose of education, because back in the day we didn't have English medium schools in the towns so she chose to stay in Chennai and continue to educate my brother and myself. And, yeah, so that's how it was Till I came to Canada 10 years ago.

Gurasis:

So okay, so tell me that that just living across you know geographies kind of impacted your initial days a little bit in any way.

Anne:

Yeah, I think Kuras is because, for example, when, as I told you, until I was 10, I was in Zambia, nigeria, and we did visit India for vacation, but everything that I knew about India was based on what my dad told me and me and my dad had a beautiful relationship. So India was this land that I still feel like I had this romantic relationship with, because you would tell me all these stories about India and all these things. So then I think all that got me thinking very early on in life about people, culture, why we do what we do. I think, as, even as a child, I was always curious to noticing the differences and questioning why. So I think, yeah, all those experiences got me thinking very early on in life.

Gurasis:

Give us like an example of something, the first thing that came to your mind. Maybe as a tiny child or a teenager, you were like why this? If you remember anything, I?

Anne:

do. Actually, I remember coming to India, as I said, I was around 10, maybe 11ish, 12ish and I remember like so, as I said, I came from a beautiful household and a lot of respect to my parents, a lot. And it was very interesting to me to notice that when we started our lives in Chennai, my mom being a young widow she was only around 35 at that time she was kind of secluded from certain things, like if there was something, especially, my mom was not invited. That, like, really got me thinking and I think it kind of fueled this little bit of anger in me as a child and I think I started questioning those things very early on and I guess that explains my career path. But yeah, I always started as much as I loved our culture and everything. I am a great fan of my culture and the way we live our lives but at the same time, right, nothing is perfect and I think I started questioning these things very early on.

Gurasis:

Okay, and is there any a certain tradition or a culture from from India, or just something that you picked from Zambia or Nigeria that you still use in your life here in Canada?

Anne:

That's a good question. Yeah, I think. My life in Zambia, Nigeria and India. I think it's that sense of collectiveness. Right, Because as human beings we were not wired we are not wired to live in isolation. Right. Yet being core dependent is wrong, but we need to recognize that we are interdependent. We all need each other at so many different levels. Yeah, Right, I think when we recognize that it brings this whole sense of awareness and humbleness, and then that in itself will inspire and help you work on the different levels of relationships in your life too, so that you have like a holistic life with positive mental.

Gurasis:

Yeah, so I really believe in the collectiveness of human beings and it's very interesting you talked about interdependency, because I think all my life it was about coming to Canada and in the initial years, like I have to be independent, I have to be independent. But that's what I understood eventually that basically what's necessary to survive and grow and to be successful is to be interdependent. That really helped me and I think I'm continuing to learn that thing and trying to implement that in my life.

Anne:

Exactly, yeah, being interdependent, right, that's the most healthiest thing, and I think it's about that balance. As you said, right Graces sometimes. I think right, an ideal culture would be a culture that we can make between the collective and the individual and create a new one where there is independence, we do respect the individual, but there's also a balance in the fact that an individual cannot live in isolation.

Gurasis:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think we, as immigrants who have come from that culture and living in this new culture, we are the ones who are going to create something in the middle that's going to benefit the future generations. Yeah, absolutely. And tell me, is this something that people don't know about Chennai, that you would like to share, or even something about Zambia or Nigeria that something don't know about?

Anne:

Okay, going back to Zambia and Nigeria, I want to say, like when I came to Canada, something that I noticed that really broke my heart is, like these stereotypes about the way we talk about Africa, first of all Africa. They refer to Africa like a country without right, like the stereotype that Africa is one big country. No, there's so much diversity and so many countries within the African continent and they have their own unique cultures and all those things. And when I noticed people, the African people that I saw here, I noticed that, as I said, I'm always noticing human behavior and trying to understand. I felt that most of the African people here have a little bit of their walls up and that was very different from what I experienced growing up, because they're very welcoming, very loving, and then, if you think about it, it's because they've been hurt and gone through so much because of racism and oppression. And then I started leaning in and reaching out to them and today I have so many friends of African descent. It's the environment that we live here. So I would say, in terms of people from the African continent, they're very loving and welcoming. They have so much to live In terms of our Indian culture.

Anne:

Chennai, I want to say Chennai is a beautiful city. It has one of the most beautiful beaches. Yes, we do have a conservative culture. It's getting better. Yeah, and people in Chennai also are very kind and loving. Yeah, and I'm proud to say that I'm from Chennai. Like it's a city I do love and I think I always will.

Gurasis:

Absolutely, it's beautiful. I do know a few people from Chennai, and obviously I. The funny thing is I never met them in India because I got the opportunity to visit South of India. I literally met them in Canada and they are amazing. They're, like you know, my one of few. Of my closest friends, I would say, are from the south and obviously I think listeners who might be non-indians or even somebody from North India might not be aware that the language majorly, majorly spoken in Chennai is Tamil, right, exactly.

Anne:

Yeah, yeah, and I say I'm a Tamil speaker.

Gurasis:

So tell us about your career choice, a little bit about your education that you did in. India.

Anne:

Yeah, sure, so. So you know, the honest group classes is Growing up like after we came to India, like my mom did our best for us, right, but you did different reasons. I don't think now, when I look at the current generation, I don't know when it was a generational thing, there wasn't much focus on. Rather, I want to say support on what I should be doing, right. So I, and when I look back, I think it was God's plan that the way things have rolled out so. So basically what I'm trying to say great. Well, my highest mark was in economics. I was like, okay, I'll do BA economics, that I always wanted to do BA English literature and become a journalist. But at that time there's not so much encouragement Because it was like that's not, it's gonna be a hard career for a girl. But then I did my BA economics and I did not like it at all.

Anne:

It's like I don't know why I'm doing this and then, but I Somehow powered through it and then in my final year I realized that there was this degree called masters in social work and I got some. This is, I was very innocent and I but that time says, oh, this is about helping people, so okay. And then I enrolled myself in that and I did my MSW and that that was the two best years of my life in terms of Education. I did it at Stella Maris College, university of Madras. They really take the juice out of you, but it was such an empowering experience.

Anne:

And Then after that, as you know, traditionally by the time I was in my early 20s, there was this pressure. Now, when I look back, I don't even know why I fed into it, but that time I was this Beautiful daughter wanting to do the best for my mom and never wanting to be like a burden on her, so I agreed to get married. And then I did get married very early on in life and then I had my son and after that and I was a pretty much a housewife. But I realized that I Mean, I love being a housewife and taking care of in-laws and my son and all those things, but it was still something that was I need to do something and at that time I was not really permitted to work. So then I was like but at least you know, I want to keep learning. So then I went on to do my M fill and guidance in counseling and it was again a huge challenge because not much support From family, but I powered through that.

Anne:

It was at that time. It was not because I wanted to become so-and-so or we take up a career. The career doors really closed. It was more like I enjoyed the process of learning and I want to keep learning. So I finished that and I immediately again enrolled into my PhD and that I chose to do it in woman studies and I was really enjoying it as my son was growing up, like it was, we were learning together. It was a piece go learn kindergarten and that kind of thing. And then it was time to have the second baby as per family's request. I think you understand right the cultural aspect.

Anne:

Yeah, of course then I was pregnant with my daughter and at that time it just became a bit too hard see, without family support towards your education, having to take care of two kids, and then there's no motivation as to why I'm studying so much. Then I looked at my daughter when she was born and I thought, well as again, as someone with this mental health background, I knew that, right, a child needs your attention and me not having support and struggling would not be helpful. So I just came up. I finished 80% of my research at that time, but I chose to give it up and just focus on both my kids and, honestly, classes. I do not regret that I don't have my PhD, but I call my daughter my PhD, so I did my life. Yeah, so that was how things rent in terms of education you know any, you.

Gurasis:

You touched upon some various points and there were two cultural Noms which I think I would like to talk about and highlight, because things are changing and I Want somebody who is listening to it should not buy into those which are not relevant in today's generation, which might be valid maybe 10 years ago or 20 years ago. The first thing you said is definitely, you know, you were not permitted to work Initially. Right, that was the first thing you said. And the second thing was obviously, as put, the Requirement from the family. You wanted to have the first child and the second child, but I wanted to also. Yes, it was. You said there's the best seasons of your life and you enjoyed and you had a great time in there and that was part of her journey and you are what you are because of that experience you have had. Definitely, but tell me, if somebody who is listening and why should they, especially women, for example? They are not, you know, why should they not buy into these societal norms? Tell us about that.

Anne:

Why shouldn't they? Okay, absolutely so, like that's a really deep question. So if we look at India, I would even say, with my own experience, like every time I go back to, in the last 10 years, these been massive change, as you said, in terms of women's empowerment, for men's education, all these things right, yeah. But why shouldn't you buy into it? Because we lived and we continue to live in a patriarchal society, right. So society has been set up Right to benefit the man. And don't get me wrong, I still see that even here in the western world, in South, I'm sorry, north America, right. So I think all the differences are patriarchy has been dismantled a little bit more in the western world, whereas other collective societies we can continue to dismantle it, right. And then I exactly, my story is not a one-size-fits-all. My story does not represent all Indian women.

Anne:

I want to make that right even if I look at my life, the difference between my but like my maternal home and my marital home is a huge difference. It's a different because it's religion. It's different because I come from. I was born into a family where I'm a third generation learner, right, so my grandparents, my grandfather, was a judge and they were all these doctors and lawyers. So the family background is different.

Anne:

But whereas I was married into a family which was business oriented, where education wasn't key, there was more patriarchy, there was this belief that strong men don't allow women to work. Right, and now, even within that family, things have changed with the generation of my son. Right, all they're all these girls, my, the nieces and the family who are now engineers and who work, and and also Today's day and time, if you want to have a family, it just makes sense that two people work, unless you're a million. Yeah, a lot of these things have changed, right. And Again, going back to your question, why should women not buy into it?

Anne:

Because at the end of the day, man or woman, we're all human and I think we all have our purpose in this life and I think no one should let anything get in the way of your purpose in life. If you have a calling, if there's something that's always pushing you to do something, listen to it. I'm not saying, be a rebel, be rebellious and cut ties with your family Not in that way but always pay attention to what is your inner self telling you. And I think I said earlier and I did not have much support or anything, but there's something that has always kept leading me and I've always followed that. I've never left, allowed All these things that were pulling me down to take a full control of my life.

Gurasis:

Hmm, yeah, no, but I think at the same time I just want to mention that if that is something that works for an individual, please feel free to do that. You don't, like you said, you don't have to rebel all the time. Or it really opposed the certain Decisions that are being made for you sometimes and they might be good for you, you never know we just have like kind of gauge whether is it something that's coming naturally to you, is that something you really want to do, or is it something which is like an external force which is asking you to do? That's how I see it, absolutely.

Anne:

Absolutely, and you know, the universe will put all these people in your life who will be those, or sources of encouragement when you feel like, okay, this is okay, I'm just gonna be this. But then there'll be these people who remind you, like, do you remember when you're in, like for me, it's my best friend. She has always been there encouraging me and saying you know you actually have more potential, you know you can really do this.

Gurasis:

So let's just pivot towards your journey to Canada. Tell me how did you decide to come to Canada and how was the process for you like?

Anne:

Again, coming to Canada was not my choice. It was the choice of my children's father. He chose, I think he made the decision 2009, 2010, that he wants to come to Canada and I just followed through With that without again, ignorance is bliss I have. All that I thought was like I was told it'll be a better future for the kids. Obviously, as a very dedicated mother, I thought, okay, it, it would be. And all that. Sometimes, after coming here and here, facing hardships, I thought I used to ask myself, what were you thinking? But anyways, all that I thought at that point is like I had traveled to Europe with my dad and after marriage, as well as a tourist right, and and that was Europe. That was Like this beautiful, you know, like location, people are amazing, it'll be nice and that's all I thought about. But, long story short, it took us three years to emigrate to Canada.

Anne:

I was the main A pick point through the skilled worker program, I, and then finally, we got here in 2013, september, and yeah, it was a big shock for me. I think I'm a very resilient person and I'm pretty good at adapting to change, but what really was very hard is I was not told in immigration that all your experience and all your education will be considered pretty much null and that you would have to start from scratch. I wish they had told us that and being more direct. So I came and the first year, first month, I started applying for all these counseling jobs. So I had started working.

Anne:

So things for me back home changed after a point because my family wanted to immigrate here. Then I was asked for work and I had started working. So I had and I had built some pretty good experience in India before I got here, but I thought I'd qualify as a counselor here and that did not happen. So after a month, again a few people that we got to know that just entered the workforce. So then my first job was at A&W and I do not regret that Grasses, because it was a very humbling experience and it gave me an exposure to the life of foreign temporary workers a lot of people from the Philippines and their lives and all those things.

Anne:

Anyways, then from there, I worked two or three months and I became a companion at a senior's home, and again that job again. If they paid me what I get paid as a counselor, I would do that job because I received so much love. All the seniors would just look forward to me every day, and it was so emotionally fulfilling. And it was very sad, though, to see most of the seniors' lives where their families very rarely visit them they're not like even a weekly visit. So it felt very fulfilling for me to be there for them and support them, and the love was just like. I'm not gonna explain.

Anne:

But then, from there again, I kept applying for jobs. By that time I had lowered the bar very low for me. I was just applying for a clerical job, but I didn't even get that, and then people said you need some kind of Canadian education. So then I went into doing the Diplomaf, Human Services, and again I didn't have to do that, because most of my lecturers were like why are you doing this when you have a master's? But that's where I learned the process to get fully registered, because I came here with no connections, no guidance, nothing, right.

Anne:

So some very kind professors. I learned the process and then I got provisionally registered with the Alberta College of Social Workers and, thank God too, both my masters were or sorry said that it's good enough as one MSW here, but I still had to write the licensing exam and get the 1,200 hours of clinical practice, which I did. Yeah, so four years, so by 2017, is when I got a break. Till then, I was doing different jobs, but slowly. I entered the field of mental health, but I was still very much under-employed, but I worked at different shelters, I worked in addiction, worked in solely mental health organizations, and 2017 is when I joined an organization to be a counselor.

Anne:

Yeah, and then yeah, so it's been a hard journey, but initially I was a bit a bit ranced up at that. In last, Again, I went back to thinking why is this happening? What can we do differently? How can I help other people not face these kinds of problems? What are the gaps here? So yeah, that's been the journey so far.

Gurasis:

Yeah, ania, we will talk definitely more about your work experience here and how you joined the further workforce. Finally, you got into your industry. But I want to circle back on the point where you landed for the first time in 2013. Tell us about your first day. What were your initial impressions or what were your initial emotions?

Anne:

Oh okay. So the first day was pretty good, actually, because we had, from the airport, we came to this house that we were renting and they happened to be Tamilians as well, the owners. So the lady of the house she had made an Indian lunch for us. So we came to the house that we had rented where there was lunch for us, right, homemade Indian foods. That was really good.

Anne:

And then there was this Arya, there was this other family who was a friend of a friend, who helped us actually get this house. So those people, like I call them Anna, anu as an elder, brother and sister-in-law, so they were just like even hearing Tamil. And then that day they took us to. They took me and the kids to the Indian store and the grocery store and get all the essentials, and she had pillows and blankets for us and they were a huge support and I'm always so grateful to them throughout. I would say that, even that whole one year of transitioning, and that's so important for every family, because you, all of a sudden, you're excited and you're finally here, but then there's also this vacuum and the shock and fear and isolation. All these things also do kick in right, and we didn't have any other family here, or no one. So we were blessed to have these two families help us and guide us.

Gurasis:

Yeah, I think it's always, I think wonderful to have some sort of similarity when you come to a new country and getting and I think food is something which definitely is a great factor when you have your food here. I think that serves the purpose. It's like that, tell me. But you did talk about it took you like five years to finally get a job. Sometime in 2017, you got your first job, but before that, you worked at A&W when you applied everywhere, and I think we should also highlight the fact that, if you were discussing earlier in our earlier conversation that, when you mentioned that immigration does tell you that Canada needs social workers, but it takes you longer than expected when you come to Canada. So, but there must be moments anywhere you must have felt frustrated, just like many of us, including myself, or there'd be situations like you said you felt isolated and you felt like do I really belong here? How did you cope up with those sort of feelings? What did you do with that?

Anne:

Yeah, I think what I did was, as I said, my best friend, she also a little bit of work. My best friend, we did our MSW together. Today she's the vice president of Fidelity Bangalore branch. Very smart woman, so yeah, so she has always. So I, though she was an Indian, she's always been different countries, different cities, kind of a friendship. I always had her, not that I was talking to her every day, but when I felt really stressed.

Anne:

I think that's something we all need to do, irrespective of the situation at least one support person who you know you can just call and just let it out, cry, be vulnerable, and then that person just packs you up and they like go, and then you know you feel better. So I definitely did that. Apart from that, I never stopped being curious because I think and I got my motivation from being a mother right, because my children did have a certain lifestyle in India, not that we were extremely wealthy or anything, but I would say I wanna say maybe middle up, a middle class. So for me it was like I want my children to have a good life and they must be a way through this. So what I did is I challenged myself. I said, okay, candice, I don't have Canadian work experience, so I'm gonna get as much experience as I can. There were times when I was doing three jobs, all in the field of mental health, different areas, right. So I worked very hard and I was always curious. I was always humble, gurasas, like when I say humble, I was always like what are the things that I don't know, that I need to know? How can I make myself better to fit into the system? What do I need to learn better? Right, yes, mental health, yes, but mental health is different in India. It's different here, as in the frame of reference, the perspective, how the system works. So I just worked very hard. I think I worked too hard and I yeah, yeah and yes, but it was okay. It was okay.

Anne:

So, and then going back to your question, what did I do? I always had the support of my friend. I was open and honest with my children about this path and journey. I never one thing that I never did and I will never do in my life, gurasas, is project my frustration on anyone else. I will be vulnerable and share it with people. The times where I've cried in front of my kids and be like I don't know how we're gonna make it here. I don't know what I'm doing right. I've been vulnerable with them, but I've never come and yelled at them for something that I'm struggling with. So that in itself has really led to even more strengthening my relationship with my children, and I think you lead by example right. So I've showed my children that you can be strong, you can work hard, but you can also be vulnerable and you can cry, and that's okay. That's human life.

Gurasis:

Yeah, that's a beautiful Lani. I think they're lucky to have a mother like you, then, because I think again, I think it goes back to our parents, because they are the product of their own time and they were asked not to show their vulnerabilities because their parents never showed them that sort of I mean to the point where saying to our child that I love you right, it's not something that commonly said by our parents to us. So that's amazing that you are doing that with your children, and I'm sure that it's gonna instill such emotions in him for which he or she or your children won't be hesitant to express them. They will be open to express those emotions, to the relationships they will build in the coming years of their life, right.

Anne:

That's my hope as well right, yeah, absolutely.

Gurasis:

And you talked about you work too hard. Well, the hard work has definitely paid off doing this incredible work, and definitely I think it has paid off for sure. Another thing we were discussing that like one thing which kept me sane throughout my five years was understanding that why people do what they do. And when you said the same thing you know in our earlier conversation and it connected with me that, oh my God, yes, exactly how I perceive someone's behavior for my own sanity, because you don't know what the person's internal conversation is happening and they might put it out there to somebody else. You definitely, I'm sure, talk to a lot of people, a lot of conversations you have with people, and they open up to you. Tell us that. What can I want you to just emphasize on this and teach us, or tell us my listeners and give me an example, if you have that, how can we learn from this that there's a reason why people do what they do?

Anne:

Absolutely. That's a really insightful question. So why do people do what they do? I would link it back to emotional intelligence. So a person with IQ is very important, for sure, but then what we need and I think it's so important in today's day and time emotional intelligence and very simple words. It's self-awareness of yourself and how your body and like, how your mind and what is your frame of reference. Why do you think what you think? Why do you make the conclusions you make? Whatever that looks like and what is that of the other person. So if I'm going to look at you, Gurasis, even in our interaction here, and I'm consistently judging you based on my frame of reference, I'm not really going to build a relationship with you. That's positive.

Gurasis:

Yeah.

Anne:

Right. So I think that's really important for our own survival. It's not about sometimes people think it's about being nice, or it's about being healthy, and especially in a country like India where there's so much diversity like you're Desi, I'm Desi, you're Indian, I'm Indian, but we have so many differences. Right, absolutely, yeah. So for us to have healthy personal, family working relationships, I think it's very important to sit back Again. Your question reminds me of so.

Anne:

In counseling, I love to work with immigrant families and the different generations within a family. So, even within a family, the parents immigrated here as adults, the kids grew up here. Now, even between that family, now, there's not only generational differences but there's also this cultural kind of a difference, right? So helping the children understand the frame of reference of the parents and the parents understand the frame of reference of the children and help them have healthy expectations healthy and reasonable expectations of each other will lead to meaningful relationships. It's really sad when you see that not happening and then parents feeling disappointed in their children, children feeling disappointed in their parents and, you know, really leading to unhealthy relationships and often break up of the family system. Yeah, so I would say that's why it's really important.

Anne:

Whoever you are, whatever you do always remember remembering right. This is what I think, based on who I am, my own lived experience, my culture, my gender, all these things, and for the other person it could be something entirely different. And there's no right or wrong. There's no one good way of living a life. There could be 10 million good ways of living a good life, as far as we're not on the other.

Gurasis:

Yeah, and I think it happens in terms of understanding our parents thinking as well, right, like, for example, if they are implying a certain habit or like a certain tradition to us. Again, we, as the younger generation, we will try to rebel, like if I talk about patriarchy, like you know, all my life I was thought oh the men, don't cry, be a man, it's the task of the week. You know, all this was instilled in me growing up. Do I really have to blame my parents for all my life? No, I don't have to. I can't do that.

Gurasis:

Like I told before, they are the product of their own time and they're doing it because they were taught that and try to pass on the same thing. But I think when I started learning, living on my own, I understood that, hey, being able to show emotions is not that you're weak, you're actually stronger you, and it's OK to feel emotions, whether it's happy, sad, angry, creative, whatever it is. These are just emotions and they are OK to express and feel. In fact, they only better your relationships. But, at the same time, if the years where I have I have felt a little, you know, less vulnerable to show my emotions, I can't blame my parents. We have to move on to that.

Anne:

It builds empathy for each other. Yes, exactly yeah.

Gurasis:

And and, and you know you also told me earlier that in 2017, when you got to a job with Calgary Counseling Center and you were working as a therapist coach there and you were working and researching on the honor based projects which is where you talked about the honor based violence and and sometimes you are studying that people aren't aware of it or even if they know something is happening, they don't know where to go. So I would like you to please educate my listeners about what is the honor based violence and what is the next steps of something, of any of these things, is happening with them.

Anne:

Absolutely, and so on. A base violence, in very simple words, is where it's a situation where the honor of a family or the honor of a man is is supposedly carried in the body of a woman and the decision she makes Right. So in Canada we have immigrants and refugees coming from all over the world. Now, many of those, the cultures that people are coming from, still believe in that Right now and when. And then you let's say a family where the honor is very much rigid in that way. Now that family, let's say they come here as mom and dad and they have a little girl. Ok, now that little girl goes up here. Now that little girl, by time she's maybe 16, 17,. She is right, she's very much Canadian. She might have her own family values as well.

Anne:

But, for example, something as simple as she may think that dressing a certain ways OK to her, yeah, in her eyes it's respectful, whereas in the parents eyes it could be something like very disgraceful. Right, it can be crossing, like you know, a huge boundary for them and maybe she may start dating people like so many different things. Or she may think that it's in her life. It can be OK to hang out with her friends, maybe even at nine or 10 o'clock. So all these things can cause conflict, and they do, and unfortunately, that's why it's very important to work with immigrant families and the parents. Parents then engage in ways that they, in aggressive ways, to control the child and it goes sometimes to the to the extent of forced marriage and all these things. But we need to know that these things are not done in the open. So, gurasas, you may be my best friend If I believe that again, it goes back to this concept of virginity and relating it with honor.

Anne:

Like if I am so worried that I do have a 19 year old daughter, let's say I am so worried that she is going to lose her virginity and I don't trust her, it may lead me to contact someone back home and take her back home and get her married, like if that's my frame of reference, right? So I'm not saying everyone is doing this. It's like domestic violence, right? Everyone is not in domestic violence, right, but it does happen. So I'm very mindful when I talk about these things because then again, mainstream people tend to think that, oh, all immigrants, all refugees, all people from collective societies. So that's not the case. No, not at all.

Anne:

Right, but then some people definitely do this. Female gentle mutilation is happening. People who believe in that as a right of passage are doing it. They are either doing it under the table or they're taking back girls back home and doing it when they think it should be done. Forced marriage is happening. Yeah, all these different things are happening. We did have a few on-killings in Canada as well, but not of recent, yeah.

Anne:

So when these things happen so that was my role during the two years working with Calgary Police, working with children services, working with the school world, working with different immigrant serving organizations to create awareness and say, hey, hello, this is happening. I'm not here against any culture or religion, but this is mostly about our girls, children. And it does happen to men and boys when they either when they disagree for an arranged marriage, so then it becomes a forced marriage. That's the difference. And marriage can start as an arranged marriage, but then when there's a proposal, it can end up being a forced marriage. Or when a boy or man is identified with a different sexual orientation other than heterosexual, so then it occurs then as well. We have a lot of immigrant and refugee men leaving some of these countries because of the sexual orientation coming to Canada as a safe place. Yeah, so it's happening at different levels. But, however, the sad thing part is I worked on this project for two years and then we lost funding. We reached a stage where we started creating awareness. I had started to see clients, but then we lost funding Again. It's not being prioritized enough. So, to answer your question, what resources do we have? Actually, we do not have any resources here in Calgary. I think there's a little bit more work being done in Ontario because the immigrant diaspora is more bigger there, right In Calgary. We still have a long way to go in Alberta.

Anne:

So right now I would say if something happens, so I do whatever I can do, like whenever possible, I still go to Calgary Police and give them a three-hour training when they are willing to give me the time not even three hours, they give me 90 minutes.

Anne:

So I talk about on-base violence every opportunity. Though it's not my role, I still try my best to create awareness. So I would say, if you're in that kind of a situation where you fear right, you're in a situation where your parents can do something beyond your will or force you into a marriage, call 911, talk to someone. But I would say please explain to the service provider whether it's a cop, whether it's a teacher, whether it's a social worker, that these are certain things you should not do. Like, don't call me in front of my parents, because sometimes mainstream folks, service providers, they mean well but they don't understand the severity of the situation and they can end up doing something that's unhelpful. Right, but I would say talk to a friend, talk to maybe another parent who can support you if you're in such a situation. These definitely ways that we can find a way out of it, because imagine a child who's just 14 or 16 getting married against their will. A child is not emotionally or physically ready for a marriage.

Gurasis:

Yeah, yeah.

Anne:

So these things are happening, kuras, in my two years, I realized that it's really hard-picking. It's just again swept under the rug and there's so much violence around it.

Gurasis:

Well, it's terrible that it's happening, but I want you to tell us that, if any of our listeners I hope not- if any of our listeners or any of their acquaintances is in a similar situation.

Gurasis:

What can they do to help their friend or themselves in that particular situation? When they come across such situations, what can they do then, Without calling 911, without seeking that help? Because even having that courage to pick up the phone, and to pick up from the point of that happening and to the point of picking up the phone if it's point A to B, that journey from A to B is also difficult. So what can one do to go to the point to B? What can one do there?

Anne:

Here's the thing, kuras it can be very hard for a person because this is their family. It's not like someone external is doing this to you. This is your parents, who maybe you're such a disgrace. How can you do this? So in those moments, I want the person to remind themselves that you are not the problem and it's unfortunate that your own family and people you love are saying this to you. But, as you said, that it is a lack of awareness. It's a misplaced sense of honor which you are not responsible for. You are a human life. You have a right to making healthy decisions and a healthy life.

Anne:

So, because many people get caught in this and may even agree to a forced marriage or these kinds of things, or to be shipped back home or whatever the situation may be, so remind yourself that you're not the problem and that there is help out there and life.

Anne:

Yes, this is really hard in a dark place to be in, but if you can somehow get through this, there is help, right. Yes, for example, in Alberta, we don't have a one place or one organization, but then when you do reach out in some way, they will make connections, and I think I want to say around seven or eight years back, there was this girl from a very conservative family who was taken on a flight for a forced marriage and then it just took someone from her community to call 911, connected with an immigrant serving organization and then people in her community and they all got together, collaborated and were able to take this young child off the plane. And today she's doing so well. She's nearly finished her university, she has her own apartment and now she's building her relationships with her family. Because who are you? Guras is without your family? Right, but sometimes that same family may be making a wrong decision on your behalf and you don't have to go by it.

Gurasis:

Yeah, Well, I'm happy for that girl and I hope anybody who might be I hope not once again, but if anybody is I really wish you more power to you guys and please, please, reach out for help if possible. Please reach out. Another thing, you know we were discussing earlier again, which was about you know how there was a story I was sharing that there's a difference between the people who are being an immigrant. There's a difference between people you can see who are genuinely curious about you, or, in my case, the colors of my turban and the people who are completely pulling me down right for just being in this new country. And you said that it's called the weathering effect, right? So tell me, tell me a little bit more about that. Tell us, our listeners, a little bit about that. And what can one do to not fall into that bit?

Anne:

Yeah, so the weathering effect is when you consistently experience racism right, and it's often more subtle, right, it's this consistent feeling that you're an outsider and that you have to adjust yourself, your identity, your words and actions to fit in. So all these things do have an effect on your mental health and your physical health as well, right, over time. Right, there was even research which tells us that Canada brings in immigrants and refugees with better physical and mental health than the average Canadian and after a period of seven years, if you see their physical mental health, it's lower than the average Canadian. Right, but again, right, this is so subtle, it's systemic, there's so many things to it, right. So, again, what can you do? No-transcript, that's again, I think, a very good question.

Anne:

I think the first thing is to acknowledge what you're going through, because many people see, I'm in a field where I am exposed to this and all that, right, like, for example, when I talk to my friends who are in the IT field, who are engineers, doctors, it's not part of their practice, it's not part of their professional world, but they go through the stress without even knowing that they're going through it, right, so you're feeling all these things, but you can't put a finger in it, you can't name it. The first part would be, I think, to get become aware, read more about it, be more aware. Not, don't get me wrong. Sometimes people think, oh, that's being sensitive, you just need to power through these things. No, no, no, it's self-awareness. So then you know what you're going through, so then you can manage it better, right.

Anne:

And sometimes it's also a matter of, when you're facing a microaggression or someone saying something unhelpful, being able to, you know, say something back. So then you feel empowered, which is consistently feeling disempowered. Yeah, exactly, right. And then have your own support systems, have your safe spaces where you can talk about these things, so that you are validated, because often what happens is right. Your mental health goes really down when your experiences keep getting decontextualized. Hmm, like you tell me something. I'm like are you sure, gorazes, really, aren't you being a bit sensitive? If I said that to you, how would that feel?

Gurasis:

Not the best.

Anne:

Right. So have you right. So have your safe people, your safe spaces, safe groups where you can have these conversations at least right to debrief, discuss it, put it into perspective and then you can keep moving on with life. So I think all these things have to be parallel and everyone can't be doing anti-racism work, but at least when you see these things happening, don't be a bystander, speak up, right. That speaking up does not again move in rebellious. It means, like gently challenging the person, like even saying why would you say that? I was saying, like when you said that I don't think that was very helpful, or what did you actually mean by saying that? So we can gently challenge people, but when it happens to us, it happens to other people.

Gurasis:

Yeah, absolutely. That's something I always, you know, promote that it's okay to really question their comment or tell them that why are you saying the things you are saying? To the point where the theme of my podcast once someone told me, you know, four years ago on the phone that oh my God, you have such a thick Indian accent. And my pushback that person was, sir, you also have a thick Canadian accent. And after that that guy didn't say anything, he hung up the call, he just giggled a little and he stopped talking to me. And there was also a point. You also told me that you know it's okay to take a step back when it's too much. What did you mean by that?

Anne:

So, grasis, think of it from the perspective of trauma. Like each individual, our lives, it's not same. It's so unique, it's so different and each person's capacity to tolerate things can be very different, based on what's happened to them and what continues to happen to them. So we can never say, like you know, that person is able to take in more, or that person is more resilient. No, each right.

Anne:

So that's why it goes back to emotional intelligence, being self-aware of how much you can take. When it's too much for you, you just need to step back, like even for me. I do do the anti-racism work and I am very passionate about it, but at times when it gets too much for me, just consistently, it feels like I'm hitting my head against a brick wall when I'm met with so much arrogance, this cultural intelligence, people's denial, there's only so much I can do as one. So being humble and being able to recognize okay, I need a break. Now I'm not here. I cannot change the whole world. Yes, I can give my small part, but I want to do my small part well. And to do my small part well, I need to recognize when I need a break, go back, g-stress, ground myself, heal a little bit more and then get back there.

Gurasis:

Yeah, absolutely, and I also use this phrase that sometimes it's okay to step back when you know the other person has loose screws. There is no way really battling with the person right For sure.

Anne:

for sure yeah.

Gurasis:

So, ani, before we get to the next segment, you know this one thing you said, and I love that when people come and talk to you, they say that I'm so thankful that you can understand me, which is contrary to the experiences they have had before. Tell us a little bit about that. What did you mean?

Anne:

Yeah, that is good, as is in terms, especially more with therapy in the counseling room, when my client, who is either an immigrant or second generation immigrant or first generation immigrant or a mixed race person, basically a person who is non-white, right, and they may be coming for infomerate counseling to manage their anxiety, different things, but it's all. Everything is linked. In your life, nothing is a standalone thing. Yeah, because there's so many factors, right. So then it does. But then what happens?

Anne:

Often when people go in for counseling, right, and they are with the mainstream therapist, the client hesitates to open up that part of their experience, often because of the fear of offending the therapist, right? So then with me, I am not going to ignore that. I'm definitely going to try to explore that area and that piece of their identity. And then they are so thankful that thank you for understanding this, like, I'm so happy that we can have this conversation, which makes me really sad because when I have most of my clients the majority obviously are Caucasian mainstream people I explore all areas of their life. I do not shy away because I'm brown. So if I can do that, I think all therapists should be able to do that and not just the field of mental health. I think, whether you're a pop, you're a teacher, right, you need to push themselves and give whatever service you're giving your client or your customer, it has to be full.

Gurasis:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. You said it so correctly that an immigrant can only understand an immigrant's pain points, especially in context to the upbringing, where we know how an Indian society is, how South Asian society is, and that's not the norm here. Things are different here and if we go to somebody or to go to a therapist, for example, somebody who is a native, they might not have the lived experience. What do you have as a brown person? Right? So you would be the right person to go and talk to, rather than a white person. I'm not saying they will not help you. Of course their job is to help people, but maybe coming to you would be a better way to unfold the reasons, the things that they are going through, right, yeah, okay, anna.

Gurasis:

So now we're in the final segment of the podcast. I call it Beneath the Accent because we are knowing each other beneath the accent. I'm going to ask a couple of questions. You can answer them in one word or a sentence, or house ever you feel like the idea is just to know more about you. So ready, sure. So what advice would you give to Annie, who is in the initial months of landing in Canada? Don't lose hope. So much.

Anne:

Don't get so frustrated. Have more faith in yourself and your potential.

Gurasis:

So what's the best piece of advice someone ever gave you? That what you think matters Is, then, your worst advice someone ever gave you.

Anne:

Yeah, and it's more from a cultural perspective, where it's more this constant indoctrination that as a woman, you always have to put yourself second. That's not being helpful, and I'll tell you why it's not. I am a very dedicated mother and I love my family and all those things, but in this process you don't help women take care of themselves. We don't. Sometimes we don't even know what self care looks like, right, and then, as life goes on, if that's not there, it doesn't lead to positive things. So being able to take care of myself and then take care of everyone else is yeah, it's very important.

Gurasis:

Is there anything you recently bought and you're not regret?

Anne:

Not really, because I'm not a big shopper or anything to be honest, I go to the store early when I need something really badly, so no, no.

Gurasis:

Yeah, so what's the most expensive thing you own?

Anne:

I would say Indian gold jewelry.

Gurasis:

Okay, so what's the most expensive thing you would like to own?

Anne:

I honestly don't think there's anything like that. I'm actually a very simple person, yeah, so there's nothing like that.

Gurasis:

So what's next on your bucket list?

Anne:

Next on my bucket list is to go on a really good vacation with both my kids.

Gurasis:

Sunny, who is your go-to person when you feel stuck?

Anne:

My amazing best friend, Maria, who lives in India, who's just like God and she's my angel, oh wow, awesome.

Gurasis:

Are there any movies you like to watch over and over again?

Anne:

Yeah, a little bit, but just that I can remember now is the sound of music that I used to watch with my dad. It always brings up very good memories for me and there are a lot of Indian movies that I would like to watch again, and I do watch quite a bit movies with my kids.

Gurasis:

If you could have one superpower? I think you already have one, but if you could have another superpower, what would it be?

Anne:

I would want the rest is, in all honesty, to be able to know and judge when I am being to measure my kindness. So often I get stuck in these situations where people misjudge my kindness to be my weakness and then take advantage of me. So I wish for me it's my base, it's who I am to always see the best in people, and I think it's a very good thing. I know it's a good thing, but sometimes it does not help me. So I wish I could be able to do that Okay interesting.

Gurasis:

So describe Canada in one word. What a sentence.

Anne:

Land of opportunity. You just need to believe in yourself. Yeah, yeah, it can be amazing. You just need to create your own narrative of what it is and go for what you want, and you will definitely get it. Yeah, that's why I say it's a land of opportunity.

Gurasis:

And finally, if you could leave me with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Anne:

Oh, my God, grasses, I want to first of all say thank you for doing what you're doing. Please continue to do what you do. I think this is you know. I really respect and admire you because this is something very creative that you're doing. You're reaching out to people and sharing their stories and it's very empowering, like. I listened to a lot of your podcasts and I learned so much. So, yeah, please keep doing what you're doing, but definitely I hope you have a good self care plan for yourself. So take care of yourself, because I would love you to keep doing this. Yeah.

Gurasis:

Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much for your advice, for your kind words. I really, really appreciate that and, on that note, thank you so much, annie, for being on the podcast and adding value to my listeners. Thank you, it's a pleasure.

Anne:

Thank you so much. It was so beautiful talking to you, I felt so much at ease and I could just be my own self. So thank you for creating that beautiful environment. Thank you.

Gurasis:

Thank you. Thanks a lot, hey listener. Thank you for making it to the end. I highly highly appreciate you listening to the podcast. Subscribe to the podcast if you haven't as yet, and please share with your friends or anybody you think would like it. And, like I always say, we encourage you to follow your heart, but also ask. On Instagram, the handle is mythicaxon. You can also leave us a review or write to us at helloatmythicaxoncom. So stay tuned and let's continue knowing each other beneath the accent.

Exploring Cross-Cultural Experiences and Mental Health
Navigating Chennai's Societal Norms and Purpose
Immigration Challenges and Journey to Employment
Struggles in a New Country
Understanding and Addressing Honor Based Violence
The Weathering Effect and Managing Racism
Woman Didn't Know What Self-Care Looked Like