Sharing things

Transcript for 2.5 SJ and Mona

Transcript for Sharing things episode 2.5 SJ and Mona

Amalie: Hi, I'm Amalie. I'm a current student and I'm the host of Sharing things. Sharing things is a conversation between two people who have just met but who share a connection to the University. We start with a meaningful object that they've brought to the studio and we take it from there.

In this episode you will meet Mona Siddiqui and SJ Sandhu. Mona is a Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University and SJ is a second-year medicine student and one of the hosts of the ‘Medic Matters’ podcast. Let's see where this takes us.

[Sharing things theme music]

SJ: No-one's going to message me anyway [laughs].

Amalie: [Laughs] that’s self-deprecating.

SJ: Yeah I'll turn that on silent.

Amalie: Alright, so hello and welcome to Sharing things. So the first question that we usually start with is: What have you brought to the studio and why?

Mona: Do you want to start?

SJ: Ah yeah sure, so erm what I brought with me today was a necklace that I've had for a little while now and the pendant of the necklace is the symbol of Sikhism, which is my faith. So well it's technically not the symbol of Sikhism but it's kind of been adopted like the cross for Christianity and things like this, so there's actually -- what strikes me about the pendant is that each part of it has a specific meaning to remind a Sikh of his faith so it's quite a recognisable symbol.

I don't know if you guys have seen it before, so I can just describe because obviously people can't see. This is podcast after all.

Amalie: [Laughs] Yeah.

SJ: So in the middle there's a double-edged sword and around the double edged sword is a sort of circle and then surrounding those are two curved edged swords and it's funny because all four components of the pendant are weapons, which I think is pretty cool, which is sort of the warrior race kind of. So the double-edged sword is almost a reminder of sort of divine sovereignty over you know the power of life and death and the circle around it is called a chakram - a word that has sort of been used by many faiths especially in South Asia. I think it's used for different things.

It's actually a weapon, it's kind of like a flying Frisbee of death. So what the Sikh warriors would do is in the late 16th century -- they'd get it and with like pinpoint accuracy, 50 yards away, be able to fling this really sharp thing but what it means in the pendant on my necklace is a reminder of God as an eternal being and there's no beginning or end to a circle and then you have the two curved swords on the outside [sound of bottle being knocked over and laughter].  

Yeah I know it's quite ground-breaking stuff. The first time I heard about it I threw my bottle off the table as well I was like "What do you mean a flying hula hoop..." No, no and then the erm the curved swords on the outside signify, I think it's, spiritual and political sovereignty so that reminds the Sikh that he has less so political in today's times more to the people around him so sort of societal things that he has to uphold and of course spiritually as well. I just think it's aesthetically it's really, really pretty.

Amalie: Yeah it's really nice.

SJ: I quite like the way it looks and then obviously you can break down each part of it and you kind of look at that and I look at it I'm quite proud to be Sikh and it reminds me of sort of the person I am and yeah... There's a reason I'm not wearing it now it's because it's broken because I was wearing it in a club [laughs].

I was wearing it a club and like mum and dad if you're listening I swear I don't go clubbing that much but this is why. I was clubbing and there was a girl sort of boogieing away as...

Mona: That's divine retribution, you know that?

SJ: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. God was telling me something, yeah. And she was dancing, dancing, dancing and she flies past me.

Mona: You have to do a lot to make up for that.

SJ: I mean the curved sword got stuck in her hair [laughs]. She was flying passed me and it got stuck in her hair and I just got yanked like something out of like a Scooby Doo cartoon and it just ripped off my neck and I was crawling around on the floor and now I can't really wear it because when I accidentally chew on it I'm like I know this is been on the floor of a club. But it still has, you know, strong meanings to me.

Maybe I shouldn't touch as much for hygiene reasons but yeah no I've brought it in because it's a big part of my identity being Sikh and especially in coming up to Edinburgh and things like this where this is not too many Sikh people as there are back home because I'm from London and it's sort of nice to have a little reminder and carry that around with me.

Amalie: Do you usually wear it? Like every day?

SJ: So erm so before the incident [laughs] yeah I used to wear it a lot so when I take it off -- I'm quite forgetful -- I forget to put it back on but it's more that I usually carry it with me somewhere on my person or if not it'll be sort of safely in my room away from the hair of anyone in a club.

But yeah no I try and remember it, if not carry it.

Amalie: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Erm you mentioned your experience of being a Sikh in Edinburgh. Obviously the pendant is quite a visual representation of religion so is this important for you and how was the experience of that in Edinburgh?

SJ: Yeah I think if you speak to most Sikh's who have still kept their hair -- obviously people can't see me I have a full head of hair and I have a wild unkempt beard and it's going a little bit ginger but... It's super important to me and it's like a thing that when I was younger especially in -- it's just sort of little things like I don't know if you know on the Wii you could make Mii characters and no matter how hard I tried I would never be able to find a me character that looked like me and that type of thing and if I was watching TV and there'd be a Singh -- we call him Mr Singh -- with a turban on the TV.

I remember in Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix I think there's a Sikh guy walking in the background and we were watching it with my family and we paused it and we were like "Oh my God mum, mum look it's a Mr Singh, it's a Mr Singh!" and it's kind of like there's a fair amount of us but not really that well represented sort of in Western culture and I think that does lead to some instances of lack of understanding or lack of education you know.

I was on the train with my brother and there was a little kid sort of tugged at his dad's sleeve uh on the underground and was like "Daddy why’s that man got a tennis ball underneath his head?" and instead of sort of educating his kid, his dad sort of laughed and was like "I dunno maybe he's going to go play tennis with his friends or something" instead of like educating.

So there's this sort of -- I could talk for hours and hours about instances where there's kind of been like -- you're made aware of how you look but for me when I think about this pendant because it was brought about by the tenth Guru when the castle was formed and the castle was made to protect those who were oppressed and if you were to see a Sikh with a turban and a beard you were, you were you know, meant to feel safe because that was someone that could protect you, someone that was sort of on your side and I feel like something that I think, you know, people who I would never understand saying hello to me in Punjabi, who maybe would not know to do that if I didn't have my hair or I didn't look the way I look.

It sort of -- it kind of warms my heart a little bit and it's nice especially in a place in Edinburgh where there's not too many of us, you see one and you do the signal -- there's a thing [laughs].

I don't know I'm rambling on here. I'm sorry but absolutely set me off.

There's a video that me and my older brother watched and it's called "The Secret Singh Nod" and what it is is this almost like this little code that Sikh people have with each other that if you see a guy with a turban on or a Sikh woman, you can usually tell if they wear the bangle, you sort of give a little nod and you keep walking and I'll be walking with my friends they'll be like "Do you know that person?" and I'm like "Spiritually, spiritually I know that person" [laughs].

Amalie: In here [laughs].

SJ: Yeah, yeah in here and I know you've been through but yeah no it's nice to be part of a community even if it's sort of spread all around the world and quite far from where the community actually is sort of in Punjab but yeah I'm really proud to be Sikh so that's all kind of why I brought my necklace in today.

Amalie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I like that a lot.

[Sharing things theme music].

Amalie: Shall we talk about your object?

Mona: I have brought in a perfume atomizer and this has been with me for-- ever since I was an undergraduate and I did Arabic and French as my undergraduate degree and when I was in Paris I bought this for my mum. This was my luxury present for her. It cost me at that time- we're going back to the eighties now -- £25 which was a lot of money. Even though I had a student grant, £25 seemed a lot of money. But she always wore perfume so for me it was something special to give to her.

I don't think she ever used the atomizer, it just would be on her dressing table but I think in some ways it-- I kept it when she died and she died 24 years ago. I kept it not because I bought it for her, I kept it because it reminds me of all that she was or could have been.

A little bit of luxury, a little bit of erm something beyond her world. She did love perfume but French atomizer bought in Paris was something that I wanted her to experience, but she never did, so for me the atomizer represents all the past but all that could have been in somebody's life.

SJ: Wow. So is your mom someone that was sort of really, really special to you?

Mona: Very much so. I think for most people, especially in our cultures, mothers are so central to the way we think and where we are brought up and the values we inherit but because she died so suddenly -- she was only 63 and she died very suddenly -- it took a long time to get over the fact that even though I had a full life -- I was married, I had a great job, I had two boys at the time -- that part of me was now missing so you know that was a long time ago but I kept this and everywhere I moved this is just stayed with me.

I never use it but when I was asked to bring in I thought you know... Initially I thought my whole world has been about education, I'll bring my eldest son's first blazer which I've kept but then I thought no let me bring something that makes me think a little bit as to why have I kept this.

Amalie: Yeah.

Mona: So I brought this in. It's small, it's kind of grey violet-y. I don't know who uses atomizers anymore, you hardly see them but so it's almost a relic of the past but it's very special.

Amalie: I really like the look of it. It looks quite rustic and it has one of those like erm -- you don't see that often these days -- those like squishy things.

Mona: Yeah you see them in kind of Hollywood black and white films where actresses would spray but now you know everyone just carries bottles and I don't even know. I mean Coco Chanel once said a woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future.

Amalie: Oh wow [laughs].

Mona: I agree with her. I'm such a feminist I agree with her. But I think perfume and smell is just so important. And I think we underestimate the power of smell both as memory but also the way we feel about our lives and the way you went to somebody's house the first thing you notice is the smell, you enter a hotel room the first thing I notice is smell, does it smell clean.

So for me it's become something, you know, the environment -- the physical space where I am, the smells of that place as I've got older have become more and more important.

SJ: I always kind of feel like the first thing you forget about someone is what they sound like but the last thing you forget is what they smelt like.

And it's kind of like everyone has their individual smell and it's kind of related to accents, if that makes sense, because you're not really aware of your own accent but they sort of impact other people in so many different ways and like they tell a lot about you from just instantly and I feel like...

Mona: Yes absolutely and we judge people straight away on their accents and actually on their smell as well.

SJ: Yeah, yeah.

Amalie: Yeah.

Mona: I mean she -- that was her luxury anyways. You know whenever it was a celebration or a Mother's Day, the one thing I would buy her would be perfume because I knew she would wear perfume.

Amalie: Yeah.

Mona: And then all her clothing was drenched with perfume smells so even when she died for ages all the clothes in her wardrobe smelled of her perfumes.

Amalie: So you still remember how she smells.

Mona: Yeah I still remember and she always liked rich perfumes. She didn't like floral smells, it had to be rich. And rich perfumes like Paco Rabanne and all these kind of perfumes, they were really expensive but I remember saving up to buy her that because I knew that's the only thing she really wanted and that was just a little bit of luxury in her life.

Even though when I say that I don't mean in the sense that-- you know we were a middle class, well-educated family but the kind of luxury we take for granted now in a world where luxury is very much a part of our consumer culture where everybody's told that you can have a bit of luxury, you know, thirty or forty years ago it wasn't that accessible.

Amalie: On the topic of smells I had a friend tell me the other day that like I have such a specific smell. I think that she does too. But it's like everything about you smells the same like your room and my family home smells the same but then I take that with me apparently wherever I go.

Mona: So I cook a lot and I am so conscious that there are no clothes in the kitchen, ever! You can't get that smell out and cooking smell is never a good smell. It doesn't matter how good the food is, it's never a good smell but also recently I've taken up going to the gym and I've got a personal trainer so I'm even more conscious of how everybody smells.

You go into the gym and it's just smells of sweat and leather and, you know, machines. But the personal trainers have to be really clean smelling, you know, because they're so up and close to you and they're touching you, they're manoeuvring you, they're telling you how to do things and I'm so conscious of bodily smells. I'm so conscious of, my God, after half an hour I'll be stinking so I need to wear something that smells good.

So smell is kind of everywhere for me at the moment. Good smells.

Amalie: I want to ask what is your favourite smell, if you have one?

SJ: Favourite smell? That's such a difficult question.

Amalie: [Laughs] It is. It is.

SJ: Just kind of -- the smell that you -- hmm. I want to say mum's cooking but my mum's cooking does kind of stink. So I'm not really sure I associate it with good things.

Mona: I think smells that smell clean are really important.

SJ: Is it weird if I go for petrol?

Amalie: [Gasp] I was about to say the same thing, it's a weirdly good smell.

Mona: It's fine when you're pregnant that you like those smells but not when you're not pregnant [laughs].

Amalie: I also really like the smell of nail polish.

SJ: Oh my God I was just about to say that! I used to go upstairs because I've got one sister, two brothers and my sister's a lot older and I used to go upstairs to my sister's room when I was like little and this is probably why I'm the way I am now. And I used to just slowly open, really quietly, just open her nail polish and just have a little sniff.

Mona: And you know you'll be high all your life.

[All laugh].

SJ: And my mum would come upstairs and I'm sure she was probably a little bit happier that I was sniffing the nail varnish, not putting it on.

Mona: Than sniffing something else. [Laughs] Not putting it on, yeah.

SJ: Because was quite traditional family but yeah I used to go upstairs and then my mum come upstairs and be like "Why does it stink of nail polish 'cause your sister's not been home for three days?" and I'd just be sitting in a corner of her room just having like sensual experience - high as a kite.

Amalie: High on fumes.

SJ: Yeah. Do you not think a petrol perfume?

Mona: No.

SJ: Do you not think that would sell?

Mona: Really you should just stop there.

[All laugh].

Mona: It'll be the end of your medical career if you carry on.

SJ: 'Cause apparently isn't there a thing about how like bread shops or like Subway will waft out the smell of fresh bread.

Mona: Well you know when I was-- before I moved to this house we were selling our older house in Glasgow and at that time House Doctor was one of those programmes on television where she basically told you the things you need to do to sell your house the first day and I was selling my house and I did exactly... Declutter, make it look like the person who is coming in can live there and also the smell of bread or coffee.

Amalie: Oh.

Mona: And I did put coffee on the pan on the cooker so the whole house smelled either of beautiful candles or coffee. Those are inviting smells.

SJ: Yeah.

Mona: And bread, fresh bread is an inviting smell.

Amalie: So interesting. I think my favourite smell -- just my dad's cologne, you know?

Mona: Reminds you of your dad.

Amalie: Yeah, yeah. Well you know when you walk past someone and you're like "whoa" and maybe I know that person because you smell them before you see them.

Mona: Yeah it's just the smell, it's not so much the smell, it's actually what the memory with that smell.

SJ: That's kind of the same with a lot of things though, d'you not feel like? It's not really -- say if someone says something that you've heard before, something like a little phrase that maybe you or your mom or your dad or your auntie used to say and you hear that and it's not really actually what they've said it's kind of the feelings and emotions that you felt when they said that that comes back up.

Mona: Yeah.

SJ: I guess smells not so much for me but maybe sort of words and phrases and accents like I think I sort of listen to how people talk and what they say and if I hear sort of similarities it kind of take me -- it'll take me back to home and stuff.

Mona: Yes absolutely. Well it's different 'cause you're you know, you're still a young person with parents and a family home.

When you create your own home things change a little bit and then you decide what is it that you want to take from your own family life and then how do you modify and change that with the family that you are now creating.

Then as you get older you realise a lot of the things that -- you kind of go full circle and there are a lot of the things that you thought you'd left behind you're actually now bringing again into your own life.

Erm so sometimes I'm very conscious that these are the things I didn't like about my home life, I don't want those and these are the things I did. But you know I'm making a very conscious decision what it is that I liked, what I want to pass on and what I don't want to pass on.

Amalie: Yeah. If you don't mind me asking, and you obviously don't have to answer this if...

Mona: No, no go ahead.

Amalie: But do you have an example of something that you did like and something you didn't like as much?

Mona: You know that South Asian cultures are very hierarchical in some ways and parental authority is very much respected. There's a kind of great love and respect for parents but at the same time there's an awareness as you get older. You know even as you jokingly said "Mum and Dad I'm not clubbing".

SJ: Yeah [laughs].

Mona: That you know your parents are always watching you wherever you are, even if they're not watching you feel.

SJ: Yeah.

Mona: And it's not really so much guilt but you just feel oh what would my parents say if they saw me. And I think that one of the things that was quite important to me was when I was raising my own boys that something that my parents, for all the love they showed, it was just not that generation that they wouldn't say sorry about things. Like we would always be wrong but they were never wrong.

And I'm sure a lot of parents, a lot of families can identify with that but sometimes they were wrong and I just don't think it was a culture where parents were ever told that you occasionally could say sorry as well, you might be wrong.

And it was one of those things I made a decision very early on in my life that if I had children if I did wrong I would go to their room, not leave them to sulk or cry for days on end, I would actually say "I'm sorry, you know, let's just move on" because I think one of the things we underestimate is how parental words can affect you for much longer than you realise.

It's with you all the time if your parents are angry or if they're happy that's with you as well so I never wanted the kids to be in a room crying or sad or thinking "Oh you know I've fallen out with my mum or I've fallen out with my dad". I wanted it to be over and done with a soon as possible so we could move on and I didn't want them to feel alone, ever. So yeah that was one of the things I was very conscious of from the very beginning.

SJ: I think that's quite inspiring for me to hear because obviously as you're talking I'm sort of reliving certain things that I was doing as a child, kind of like things that my parents would say to me obviously in jest or even sort of they wouldn't realise -- like my dad would always say to me "You're a jack of all trades but master of none".

I realise now that I kind of carry that around with me -- I play six, seven, eight sports, I write music, I write poems, I do all these kind of things but I've never really felt like I've excelled at one thing.

Mona: Mastered anything, yeah.

SJ: And I've kind of carried that and in all the instances where you don't feel like you've done anything wrong and your parents have said something to you and then they ask you a question and you're like "Well, no" and they're like are you answering back and you're like "Wait a minute, time out, you've asked me a question" [laughs].

Mona: They don't want an answer. When did you learn not to answer?

SJ: I learned a lot quicker than my older brother. I'd go upstairs and I'd throw a tantrum -- I don't know if you ever did this this thing where you get sent to your room and you throw a tantrum and you'd pick up something in your room and you get it really aggressively like you're about to throw it down and then you put it down really softly because you're like "If my dad hears me I'm in big trouble". So I would get my lamp on the bedside table and I'd lift it up like I was going to smash it then I'd get really close to the table and I'd put it down softly and I'd be like “ahh!".

Mona: It's all that nail polish you've been sniffing. You need to master that anger.

[All laugh].

SJ: Yeah I know. I think I've mellowed out a lot since those days. I've got kind of -- high and dry now but yeah no it's quite inspiring for me to hear. Obviously I'm 19 like I'm -- not...

Mona: Yeah of course and you're going to go through a lot of that.

SJ: Yeah and I'm nowhere near the starting a family part of my life but I think it's something that I'm going to be quite aware of.

Mona: I think it's just so -- you know my parents came in the late sixties, they were of that generation that never even thought... I mean you know I often said to my boys "Can you just imagine if one day I said to you we're all moving to Australia without telling you anything?" but that's what they did, we just all moved. And that's fine. They did what they did for whatever reason but I think that sense of what the West really brings is freedom - intellectual, social and that's something that a lot of South Asian parents struggle with because they want you to enjoy life, they want you to do well, but that comes with a certain social intellectual freedoms.

So I always said to the boys, "There's no way I can raise you in a certain way and then say well that's enough freedom, now you're doing things my way." It he just doesn't work like that. Once you've tasted that, you want to live your own life, you want to live with risk, you want to take your own decisions and I think as long as there's a closeness and an openness between parents and their kids, let the children grow up, let them do things the way they want.

What you don't want is your child to resent you for not allowing them opportunities. Yes there's a little respect, there's a little bit of compromise on both sides but what you don't want is "I really wanted to do this and you made me do this", that I think would just crush me and I think it would crush them.

SJ: Yeah. I think I'm really lucky in that aspect that my parents -- they weren't always like this but they're sort of softened up a little bit in that aspect in they've kind of given me that space.

Mona: That's good.

SJ: I think if I someone said to me ten years ago you're going to be at uni, 400 miles away from home or however much is it, and you're going to be living by yourself, I'd be like no way my parents are going to be having that. But now I'm here and they've kind of softened up but it is, it is such a big part.

And I think you do get that internalisation of "I don't want to let them down" because I remember my dad would always tell me about my granddad who came to the country in the sixties -- he was working as a bus driver and my dad was like he came with £5 in his pocket and look where we are now like four kids, my sister's done uni, is working now, my brother's at uni and it's kind of like look what we've built from when your granddad came over and he had £5 in his pocket. It's kind of like they sacrificed so much for us.

Mona: And for them -- we're in a university environment -- education was everything I think for a lot of, a lot of parents who come from the south, from the Indian sub-continent. Education is your leeway to everything in life. All the opportunities that you want in life. It doesn't matter in a way what you study - if you are educated that's always going to be your salvation.

So you know when I was at school and people were saying "Oh what are you going to do when you leave school at sixteen?" - Nobody ever asked me that question because it was never a choice. I was going to do A Levels and go to university. I mean it wasn't like I could even think of getting a job or anything- university was the pathway and that maybe was also a class thing, that middle class parents expect their kids to go to university but I think education is hugely important.

Amalie: Yeah. How is it then coming to university?

SJ: I've always been, compared to my brother and sister, a bit more wanting to get out the house, wanting to explore.

Mona: Are they doing -- did they do medicine as well?

SJ: My older brother did medicine but my sister did economics.

Mona: And where did he do medicine?

SJ: So he's still doing medicine at UCL.

Mona: OK.

SJ: So he lives at home studying medicine.

Mona: Right.

SJ: But even when I was little I was always kind of like "Oh I'm going to go study in America and I'm leaving the house" and like my friends always tell me stories about how when someone would come to the door, I'd just open it and walk out with them and just be -- I was quite like a free spirit in that way so it was important for me to find my freedom or find my space and I've revelled in it and found, found out things about myself that I don't think necessarily I would have found out living at home with the luxuries of home and it is...

Mona: It cocoons you away from life as well.

SJ: Definitely and I felt like compared to my -- not saying anything against my brother but I feel like I've learned a lot about myself in the two years that I've been at uni than he has in the five years that he's...

Mona: He's been living at home.

SJ: He's been living at home 'cause there's certain things you have to deal with for yourself.

Mona: Absolutely.

SJ: How you manage your own time.

Mona: I think the most important thing is -- so I have three boys, the eldest did maths at Imperial, he's now working in London, he wanted to go to Imperial.

The second one is actually hopefully graduating this year from medicine and the youngest one has just started at Edinburgh in Computing but they're all living away.

I think the hardest thing you learn is not the silly stuff like, you know, how to clean and cook and wash and stuff - they knew that from home. It's relationships - how you manage relationships, whether it's with friends, you know, people in authority, how you learn to grow as a person and if you've always got parents who are managing your relationships for you, you never learn.

So I think for me, having seen especially the middle one in the five, six years he's been at Edinburgh, how he's changed from always being a very popular kid at school to then suddenly coming to Edinburgh where there are lots of popular kids and lots of head boys, how he sees himself within that. The dynamics of that has been a real experience for him but it's made him who he is today and unless you struggle a little bit in life, you don't learn.

SJ: I think that's something that we talk about actually in our podcast that we're doing - I'm a second-year medic so me and a group of other medics are doing-- we talk about how different it is being the top of your school. You know I was deputy house captain, prefect, captain of the first team.

All these types of things -- just dropping bombs...

Mona: [Laughs] It's normal for Asian people.

[All laugh].

SJ: It just was like -- but sitting around the table there was only four of us doing the podcast, the guy next to me was like "I was, you know, deputy head boy and I was head of this, head of that" and it's kind of like coming to uni full of people like that, how do you manage not being the big fish anymore and that's, that's the same with life I feel like in general.

Mona: Absolutely. You never really leave the school playground. All of life is just a different form a school playground, it's a matter of survival and then, you know, you learn what is cool and what isn't cool.

So I don't think we should ever underestimate how important it is to give people a sense of self-worth however young they are because that stays with you all the time.

SJ: And I think that's -- even back to the start when I was talking about my necklace and my pendant and the identity of Sikhism and having that self-worth and knowing who you are and being comfortable enough in the playground and being able to deal with the teasing in the playground, as a metaphor and literally in the playground, shapes you as a person.

Even though I'm only nineteen, I do feel like I found a lot about myself because of the way I look and you say you have to go through certain things to grow as a person.

I feel like you experience things on the playground or at school or down the street or whatever and that either you either run from it -- so a lot of boys, Sikh boys and girls have cut their hair and things like this because they want to mask their identity and they don't feel comfortable and that's completely understandable.

For me I kind of walked into it, grabbed it with two hands and was like "This is who I am, this is what I'm going to be like and this is the person I'm going to be" and if that's really important finding your identity.

Mona: Do you ever feel that you weren't in Edinburgh? Not because of the medical school but just because there are so few Sikhs here and you would stand out because you are visibly Sikh. Do you ever feel "I wish I was somewhere where it was easier to be a Sikh"?

SJ: A few times when I go back home I realise and I see -- my best from back home is Sikh and we have so much in common because we've had such a similar's like you know instantly if you see a Sikh person that you have 60, 70 per cent…

Mona: You don't have to start from ABC.

SJ: Yeah exactly there's so much that you understand about each other. And even that's the same with even sort of people from South Asian backgrounds and especially Indian backgrounds, like you share so much of an upbringing because it's -- culturally there's so many influences in how you're brought up and the way you are when you're young.

Mona: Absolutely.

SJ: But I think me as I said before I've always been kind of a free spirit. I don't really -- not really fussed about things like that anymore.

Mona: That's good. I think it's not till you have to take ownership of your faith, so you leave home or you decide "Well, what am I going to do with this faith"?

Not the faith that is within you and that is your connection to God but the faith that's visible, the faith that stands you out. But you decide then this is what's important to me, this isn't that important to me.

I think for me the UK in some ways, despite all the things that people go through, is a really easy place to live out your faith as well - despite the discrimination some people may face, despite the name calling, because I think after a while people realise that actually you stand for something, you stand for a belief or you stand for something principled that they see.

It's not easy, you know, it's much easier to just blend in but you can blend in as well as have your faith. I think this sense that it's got to be either or is actually a huge misnomer.

SJ: There is a certain amount of respect especially in the UK that you get from -- you know I say to my friends "I don't drink at all" and everyone's like "So you've never drunk alcohol? Not even one drop? Would you ever drink alcohol? When you do drink alcohol let me know, I'll make sure you have a good time" and then at the end they're kind of like "d'you know what I really respect that" because especially at a place like uni of someone my age, you know, going out is sort of the be all and end all.

You go out, you drink, you have a good time, you wake up hungover, you go to your lectures, you go out, you drink etc., etc. and it's kind of like people actually -- there's a certain amount of respect that people have for someone who's passionate about something and someone that sticks to something.

And I think generally my religion is -- because of the nature of Sikhism as a religion and a lot of religions share this mantra is you know equality and everyone's equal and there's no one person above others and whether you're black, white, brown, whatever you know everyone has God inside them and for that reason you show respect towards everyone.

In a way that's kind of shaped me is as a person and being respectful but also that's part of upbringing and, you know, I wouldn't say that you need to be Sikh or you need to have religion to have those values which I think is a beautiful thing that anyone can be a good person, anyone can live a good life, with or without religion.

I feel lucky to have religion but obviously appreciate that even without religion -- you can live a good life and be a good person which I think is quite, quite beautiful. It's gotten very spiritual.

[All laugh].

Amalie: Yeah, yeah.

SJ: The nail polish is coming back.

Amalie: [Laughs] Yeah. Erm we've actually recorded for a...

Mona: A long time.

Amalie: Quite a long time and we usually end the conversation with the same question. It's always the same and it is basically: If you could associate the object that you brought to the conversation with one word what would it be?

Mona: Home.

Amalie: Why home?

Mona: Home and all the complexities of parent-child relationship. What you see in your parents, what you want to see, what you want them to be and what they want you to be.

Nothing is very straightforward and I don't think we should over sentimentalise home because it's a complex structure but at the same time home is -- it stays with us in every sort of way so...

Amalie: It does right.

SJ: One word is quite difficult. I'd probably just go for love because sort of every time I think about -- I sit down and think about either this necklace or what it means to me, I'm kind of sort of filled with love for—love for it and what it shows and also it's quite badass as well and I love that about it and it reminds people that legally I'm allowed to carry a knife [laughs]. No, no.

Mona: Just wear a t-shirt "Sikhism is a badass religion". Wear that to the nightclub.

SJ: Symbol of Sikhism is three swords and just yeah the hula hoop of death as I mentioned earlier so like...

Amalie: Hula hoop?

SJ: [Laughs] But no, yeah just filled with love and I think about it and just sort of want to share that is much as I can and I like when people ask me questions about it as well 'cause I love to -- love to talk about it and educate and hopefully teach someone something you know about religion maybe they didn't know so much about.. So yeah.

Amalie: Yeah.

SJ: I'd say love.

Amalie: You should get it fixed but maybe not wear it to the club.

SJ: Yeah I feel like -- well I tried -- I did a bit of DIY on it but yeah I should probably fix it up but I quite like it just-- having it just-- something.

Mona: You can play around with it.

SJ: Yeah just fiddle with it. Yeah and I definitely won't lose it if it's not wrapped around someone's hair and on the floor of a club so maybe it's safer like this anyway.

Mona: Next time it winds itself around some girl's hair, she may be the one.

[All laugh].

Amalie: Maybe that's the sign [laughs].

SJ: Just walk around swinging it like a lasso [laughs]. Yeah maybe, maybe.

[All laugh].

Amalie: That's the full circle.

SJ: That's the full circle. Great.

Amalie: Thank you for being on Sharing things.

Mona: Lovely conversation, thank you.

[Sharing things theme music].

Amalie: Thank you for listening to Sharing things. Join us next time when we talk with Niamh Martin-McGarrigle and Hollie Davidson about internet trolls, creativity and path changes.

Hollie: For me when things haven't gone to plan it's if I don't get, for example, selected for something or I've had a bad game and I'm getting absolutely trolled on social media or on Twitter.

Niamh: Mine isn't people on Twitter telling me what my opinion should be. It's just like the voice in my own head being like oh you've done a terrible job and I'm like have I though?

Amalie: Make sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Spotify or your favourite podcast platform to catch our next episode. See you next time!


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