Dr. Samosa on Intercourse, Love and Popping out — the Final Taboos in South Asian Households

Dr. Samosa
Picture Courtesy of Dr. Samosa | Photographed by Farzana Chowdhury

I’m going to be a intercourse therapist. 

I used to be stunned when my late cousin shared this with me on the cusp of our twenties. 

As a reasonably modest Indo Guyanese lady raised within the Connecticut suburbs, the considered discussing a stranger’s love life appeared not solely overseas however stunning to me. However, my cousin was all the time daring on this method. She took delight within the extra daring elements of our Caribbean tradition with pure confidence. It was one of many issues I cherished and now miss most about her. 

Admittedly nonetheless, it was over a decade earlier than I began to know a few of her deeper curiosity in love, sexuality and psychological well being. This awakening was thanks enormously to Dr. Samosa. 

[Read Related: 3 Indo-Caribbean Mental Health Counselors Talk About Community’s Stigma]

In early 2020, Dr. Sarika Persaud, a New-York primarily based, Indo Guyanese psychologist specializing in relationships, sexuality and complicated trauma, took to Instagram as “Dr. Samosa,” an alias impressed by her favourite South Asian snack — and one she feels is a typical thread for brown women. 

The platform grew to become a protected area for brown women to attach on subjects like psychological well being, psychoanalysis, sexuality and relationships. From discussing sexual empowerment to constructing a robust sense of self, Dr. Persaud quietly grew to become a confidant for these craving sensible and candid insights the neighborhood shied away from. 

Dr. Persaud and I sat down to speak about her journey and breaking these taboos within the South Asian society.

Her curiosity in psychology began as a journey of self-discovery as a pre-teen.

“I believe I skilled myself as totally different from my friends,” she defined throughout our interview.

She didn’t get caught up in teenage drama and prevented sure sorts of relationships and other people. In the meantime, the buddies she did make noticed her in “this form of trainer position.”

“I grew to become interested in that about myself — how, in some methods, I discovered it helpful to really feel my emotions and have a depth folks have been drawn to, but in addition use it in methods to isolate myself,” Dr. Persaud mentioned.

She was additionally starting to determine as bisexual.

She shared, “I believe I used to be avoiding my sexuality in some methods and psychology grew to become a method for me to know myself extra. It’s all the time been this confluence of philosophy and science and even artwork for me.”

Dr. Samosa
Dr. Samosa photographed by Nushie Choudhury

Rising up in Queens, New York, Dr. Persaud noticed fellow Indo Caribbean ladies at a “very particular intersection of faith and tradition.” It was the nexus of Caribbean values which welcomed sexuality and extra modest Indian traditions. Caribbean affect appeared to “take away a boundary” on how Indo Caribbean ladies felt permitted to current themselves sexually, she defined. On one hand, after her Bharatanatyam dance lessons, she noticed her didis (the older women) go away their classical strikes behind for horny Bollywood choreography and dancehall songs. 

“It was thrilling, like they have been simply starting to search out methods to precise their sexuality,” she mirrored. Then, across the similar time, Dr. Persaud found a replica of the “Kama Sutra” at house and her mom was appalled. “What’s unsuitable along with your daughter?” aunties requested.

Confused, Dr. Persaud thought “You personal this. That is from our tradition and it’s a Sanskrit textual content. It’s actually a non secular textual content. All of it appeared so highly effective — and but so many individuals have been afraid of it.”

One thing didn’t add up.

In 2013, she started a blog to deliver a voice to subjects like these. As phrase of her content material unfold, Dr. Persaud was met with backlash from her temple. Leaders mentioned her weblog was inappropriate and dishonorable to her neighborhood, however she caught with it and her household caught by her.  

A number of years later, when she launched Dr. Samosa to share her analysis and insights with a wider viewers, sexuality got here entrance and heart.

“Sexuality — the way you perceive and honor what you need and like, and the methods you let your self expertise that pleasure — is intrinsically linked to how deserving you’re feeling on the planet,” she defined.  

For instance, in case you assume you’re worthy of a elevate at work, a associate who needs you, or a household that listens to you — all could be linked again to a block in your relationship with your self as a sexual being. 

Nonetheless, in case you can really feel assured in one thing as “primal, instinctual, and private” as your sexuality, Dr. Persaud argues you lay the muse for confidence in these different areas of your life.

Dr. Persaud says the concern of sexuality comes into play for South Asians.

“Being snug along with your sexuality means being snug along with your energy,” she defined. “If everybody felt empowered and had a wholesome relationship with themselves sexually, plenty of {our relationships} and hierarchies in society would change. And there are simply so many individuals who profit from ladies and marginalized communities (like LGBTQ+ and people with continual sicknesses) being disempowered,” Dr. Persaud mentioned.

All through her work, Dr. Persaud has discovered it’s particularly troublesome for South Asian ladies to really feel delight in themselves as sexual beings.

“There’s a lot disgrace in regards to the self and the physique. Girls particularly are held to a double commonplace and it’s so complicated. If you happen to look a technique, you received’t get a husband. If you happen to look sexual, nobody will need to rent you for a job. Whatever the South Asian ethnic group, there’s the identical disgrace and perception that your physique has to look a sure method, and if it doesn’t, you’re not fascinating. The whole lot will get tied up in sexual disgrace.”

It’s plain that Bollywood motion pictures have additionally closely impacted a lot of our views on love and intercourse, however Dr. Persaud didn’t condemn this.

She says, “Folks want to appreciate Bollywood began from a practice of classical drama and dance from historical India. These dances have been meant to be explorations of desires and legendary and philosophical concepts. Bollywood is only a continuation of that. It’s meant to be a break from actuality.” 

Actual relationships are rather more fraught and sophisticated than in movies, however that doesn’t imply you have to be ashamed of seeking to Bollywood as a solution to be in contact with romance and love in your life.

“They’re a fantasy,” Dr. Persaud added.  

She additionally argued Bollywood isn’t essentially as “censored” as many declare.

“Folks don’t have to observe others bodily have intercourse or kiss to be in contact with their sensuality,” she famous. “It may be rather more nuanced to see two folks simply embracing in a method that stirs up emotions. Like, how does it really feel to have your lover’s head towards your chest? Culturally, we simply discover and categorical sexuality in a different way than the West.”

In relation to turning into extra snug with our our bodies and sexual well being, Dr. Persaud says it begins with self-reflection.

“Ask your self why you’re afraid of being horny or seen as sexual. Are you afraid your loved ones will reject you? That you just’ll be thrown out of your property? All of us have totally different triggers, and when you determine yours, you may get to the difficulty beneath all of it.” 

[Read Related: What South Asian Parents Won’t Tell You About the “Birds and the Bees” and… Vaginismus]?

Dr. Persaud encourages ladies to ask themselves essential questions.

“If you happen to’re afraid that in case you assert your sexuality, your loved ones will reject or not assist you, how are you going to be extra financially impartial? How will you discover delight in having the ability to handle your self?” She urges ladies to take stock of what they like. “Have a look at books and films and what you see on the planet and consciously pay attention to what you react to. This places you extra in contact with your self.”

In relation to fostering open conversations with others, Dr. Persaud says to guide with vulnerability and readability.

“If you happen to ponder whether your folks have had intercourse but and are embarrassed to ask, voice that concern. Share the way you’re feeling or ask your self why. Main conversations with vulnerability permits folks to attach slightly bit extra; to really feel safer to share.” 

“If you happen to’re uncomfortable with one thing your associate does or need extra of one thing else, speak about what you need to change and why it’s essential to you. It’s not a shortcoming on their half, however quite you saying ‘that is what I would like for myself. Is that this one thing we will speak about and work on collectively?’” 

With South Asian households, particularly older family, issues can get a bit extra complicated. Boundary setting is essential because the household can deliver out your largest triggers. 

“You must be at some extent the place you personal your self,” Dr. Persaud defined. For instance, in case your mother finds out you have been out with somebody and questions you about it — “A bai? A boy?!” — it is best to be capable to say confidently, ‘Yeah I used to be on a date,’ and likewise not really feel obligated to provide extra particulars. In fact, that will not all the time be protected for somebody youthful, however at a sure age, it’s OK to be personal, to have that protect to guard and develop your self and your confidence,” Dr. Persaud says. 

Dr. Persaud additionally reinforces the significance of figuring out your boundaries when reflecting on “popping out” to oldsters. She wished to be open about her bi-sexuality together with her mother and father; that she was courting — however not simply males. She stresses nonetheless, one doesn’t have to be excessively open.

“Not everybody has to come back out and never everybody has to come back out to everybody. You’re seemingly not dealing with something new out of your mother and father when popping out. If they’re vital and judgmental usually in life, they’re most likely going to be like that once more. South Asian dads can actually simply be like, ‘Okay, don’t inform me you’re a sexual being,’” she laughed. 

Whereas Dr. Persaud is grateful for her mother and father’ acceptance, there are members of her household who’ve been lower than supportive. She credit her confidence and sense of self for drowning them out. 

“I’ve discovered the extra I change into snug with myself, the extra I’ve this sexual power that I can use creatively and in different good methods. If my dad rejects me, it doesn’t change that I’m bisexual. Or if my mother rejects me, it’s not going to vary this factor I do know so deeply about myself. I’m simply sharing one thing true. I can’t change it.”

Towards the tip of our dialog, I shared with Dr. Persaud that I questioned how my family would react to this text. I felt a little bit of disgrace.

However she jogged my memory, “It’s also possible to discover delight in it — ‘Yeah, I’m actually happy with the truth that I’m one of many folks breaking the stigma. I’m speaking about one thing essential to folks’s well being.’” 

And she or he’s proper, as was my pricey cousin in her early ambitions. These conversations are by no means straightforward, however strolling in curiosity, confidence and delight will help us discover our energy as South Asian ladies. It could assist break the stigma surrounding love, sexuality and relationships in our neighborhood and their roles in our higher well being. 

In so some ways, sexual well being and psychological well being are usually not solely linked however interdependent. Actually, Dr. Persaud believes the extra assured persons are of their our bodies and identities, the extra assured they’re as a complete — and the extra engaging they’re.

“Sexual attraction and power comes from folks being competent and peaceable and calm with themselves; figuring out who they’re,” she mentioned, and the extra we study to embrace this and discuss it overtly, the extra we can’t solely develop however thrive.

For extra on Dr. Sarika Persaud’s (aka Dr. Samosa) doctoral work and writing, go to her website or Instagram @doctor.samosa. For extra on how one can discuss to your loved ones or youngsters about sexual well being, go to sexpositivefamilies.com.

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With a B.S. in Advertising from the UCONN College of Enterprise, Ramona has made a reputation for herself publishing over … Learn extra ›

Black Rose

I used to be a mere 14-year outdated on the fateful night time of twenty-two April 1993. The night time that witnessed black teenager Stephen Lawrence brutally murdered in a racially motivated assault as he waited for a bus. The night time that cemented my concern, that the color of my pores and skin does matter. The identical night time that confirmed my indifference as a British Asian in the UK — have been we actually united? Quick ahead to Could 25 2020, the homicide of African-American George Floyd by a white policeman was the turning level for British Asian writer and my pretty buddy, Shweta Aggarwal to lastly break her silence and narrate her story of colourism, in her new ebook, “The Black Rose.” 

Aggarwal’s gripping memoir emits so many feelings; that of an awakening, a voice that has been suppressed for years, stuffed with anger, distrust and guilt. However most significantly, “The Black Rose” efficiently disrupts the narrative that persistently permits society to field somebody as detached primarily based on a visibility issue. For Shweta, this issue was the color of her pores and skin. The injustices she persistently endured by way of some members of the family and fellow South Asian friends all through her life, was because of her pores and skin tone failing to qualify as ‘acceptable’, or as she typically quotes in her ebook, not rating excessive sufficient on the ‘fairometer.’ Whether or not she was in India, Japan or London, the dimensions was by no means too far behind. 

Throughout the first chapter, she remembers as a baby in India, the distinct lack of subtlety displayed by sure members of the family by direct taunts of her duskier look compared to her mother and father. She realised that she wasn’t in full isolation from this prejudice, as her maternal aunt and uncle have been additionally harshly nicknamed on the idea of their pores and skin color — Kaali (black) and Savla (wheatish). Aggarwal was left mortified by what many South Asians sadly nonetheless proceed to casually train. Echoing related incidents inside my social proximity, it’s infuriating witnessing the recipients of such remarks give up to laughing at themselves too. 

Besides it isn’t humorous. Born right into a tradition the place conversations on faith, caste and hierarchy in India are nonetheless so outstanding, the comparability of Aggarwal’s pores and skin color being as darkish as that of the home assist (typically from poorer households), prematurely planted seeds in her thoughts that she merely didn’t belong together with her household, particularly  when she was despatched to boarding faculty. Her lack of self-worth coupled with these taunts, gave her a complete new vocabulary for the letter B, that grew in parallel with the continuing prejudice and anxiousness. B for blackie, beggar’s youngster, bedwetter! Not humorous, however derogatory. Submit her ebook launch that Brown Lady Journal attended, she tells me,

I personally really feel we’re method behind relating to understanding the significance of psychological well being. Identify-calling was normalised and in case you objected, you have been ridiculed additional with remarks equivalent to ‘So delicate! Can’t you are taking a joke?’ Physique and color shaming can result in a sense of inadequacy within the sufferer, which may additional result in despair and far worse psychological sicknesses.

In the course of the 1984 Hindu Sikh riots in India, the place over 3000 Sikhs misplaced their lives, Aggarwal recollects the horrifying second when she and her classmates fled into hiding to flee the violence throughout a college journey. As a method to save lots of all the scholars from hurt, the Sikh boys have been pressured to take away their turbans and lengthy hair — their seen identities stripped to maintain them alive. But, mockingly, even on this horrifying state of affairs, Aggarwal felt least in danger, attributing this self-assurance to her darker look. 

The crux of her self-loathe was the love-hate relationship she shaped with pores and skin whitening lotions. The beginning of Truthful and Pretty, India’s most renown model (now often called Glow and Lovely following a backlash) was infamous for promoting the damaging message that fairer pores and skin equated to a happier and fulfilling life. For it was fairer pores and skin ladies that might qualify for marriage — clearly their solely sole goal! 

Tactfully utilizing well-known fair-skinned Bollywood actresses in tv adverts and posters, their so-called perfection would scream out to susceptible younger women. (Males have been focused a lot afterward, however the significance appeared much less). Akin to the wretched seaside physique posters plastered on each nook in January — as a result of apparently bikinis solely look good on a sure physique sort —  the damaging message stays the identical. Social acceptance comes at a price, and that value is to look a sure method. 

It’s an extension of the dated strategies imposed on ladies from the womb, the place moms are lectured on ingesting milk with saffron to make sure the newborn is truthful, conventional matrimonial websites asking ladies to specify pores and skin color, and girls being instructed to remain out of the solar. These socially ingrained views are finally developed into modern-day strategies within the type of cleverly marketed consumables. Aggarwal admits, 

Most individuals solely use the cream on their face simply as I did. At the moment, I didn’t even take into consideration the remainder of the physique. I felt that if the face turns into fairer, that shall be sufficient for acceptance. My mum seen the distinction for certain and I used to be lighter by the point I met my husband, Amit. I need to admit the habit is a mixture of three components: the justification in your individual head, the sturdy advertising message that ONLY truthful is gorgeous, and the ‘compliments’ from these round you. 

I admired Shweta’s honesty on admitting what basically was a harmful obsession that she remained devoted to all through her teenage and grownup life. A ritual that, while prompted gradual leads to her look, was by no means going to eradicate the insecurities she felt inside herself. Moments of pleasure together with her husband and kids on holidays overseas, can be damaged up by the necessity to ‘repair’ any injury the solar might have inflicted i.e. reverse her tan. The booming tanning business in U.Okay., her now house, and admiration of her ‘sun-kissed’ look by Brits initially shocked Aggarwal — as if her color had now gained acceptance. 

However who’re we searching for acceptance from? A society that’s nonetheless deep rooted in patriarchy forcing ladies even now to stick to dated rites of passage that holds no relevance? Or a society that seeks to level out one’s indifference due to how they appear — their pores and skin, their spiritual apparel, their weight? Or a society that passes judgement on a girl’s self-worth, and continues to abuse that very same girl behind closed doorways underneath the eyes of Goddess Kali? Aggarwarl goes on to elucidate,

The extra damaging perceptions of colourism, are that ‘truthful is wealthy’, ‘truthful is profitable’ and ‘truthful is healthier educated’. Basically, ‘truthful is supreme’ in each sense. And if that’s the case, the place does that go away dark-skinned folks? In Ukraine, for instance black and brown folks have been discriminated towards and  not given a good probability to save lots of their lives. Is it truthful to be denied a primary human proper — survival — primarily based in your color? 

I personally was curious to know from my household what the definition of prejudice within the Hindi vocabulary is and the way it’s/was utilized to in India. “Pakshappat” (taking sides) or “poorva dhaarna”, have been the closest pure Hindi definitions identified to my cousin, but hardly ever used. Nonetheless, my dad acknowledged that “hum bedh bhau nahin hai” was the widespread time period used to state amongst household and mates when somebody was not biased and believed in equality. By some means, colourism by no means actually got here underneath that class. A sentiment echoed by a few of my Chinese language and black mates . Even in elements of China and Africa, the idea that darker pores and skin is perceived as inferior, is accredited to stereotyping sure teams of individuals as guide labourers working underneath the solar, and due to this fact of a decrease class or caste. Does Shweta consider we will change this perspective?  

A few my aunts are nonetheless reluctant to assist me with my mission. One even mentioned ‘it’s pointless combating it’, whereas one mentioned, ‘everybody has the fitting to outline magnificence for themselves and being fairer is what magnificence is for some.’ The issue with that is that individuals then begin to look down on individuals who aren’t. Colourism, casteism and classism divide folks, creating extra unrest in society. If we proceed to aspire to be fairer, we’re nonetheless encouraging white pores and skin privilege, and inspiring colonial values. The extra we enable ourselves to succumb to those social constructs, the extra enslaved we really feel internally. Melanin is essential for safeguarding our pores and skin towards the dangerous radiation of the solar. Really feel blessed that you’ve it and put on it with delight! 

I’m wondering how we will dare to stroll shoulder to shoulder with our black mates within the Black Lives Matter motion, if we refuse to resist our personal biases towards color? We search equality within the U.Okay., however deny our deep-rooted prejudice, while a white privileged man lectures the world on the distinction between racism and unconscious bias (sure Prince Harry, I’m taking a look at you!). “The Black Rose” has paved a method for a lot of extra voices to talk out towards the damaging influence of colourism, and for my part, rightly belongs underneath the definition of prejudice within the collective South Asian vocabulary.

“The Black Rose” is obtainable to buy on Amazon.


Picture Courtesy: Shweta Aggarwal

Brown Lady Journal’s U.Okay. Editor Sejal Sehmi is an IT advisor by day, whose ardour for writing stemmed from difficult … Learn extra ›


In July 2022, Sania Khan’s life was ruthlessly taken from her by her ex-husband. Sania was a younger, vibrant South Asian girl – a creator and photographer who had the braveness to step out of an abusive marriage, even within the face of neighborhood norms that discourage ladies from talking out. Whereas this tragedy appeared to stir a consciousness within the South Asian diaspora that we will not justify the established order, it’s removed from the one such incident. Simply months later in December of 2022, Harpreet Kaur Gill was stabbed to death by her husband in Vancouver. Whereas essentially the most excessive circumstances like these of Sania Khan and Harpreet Kaur Gill are highlighted by mainstream media, a small physique of analysis offers proof that intimate associate violence experiences are equally, if no more, prevalent in South Asian communities than the overall inhabitants within the US or Canada. That’s why we have to do extra as a neighborhood and throw mild South Asians and intimate associate violence.

[Read Related: A South Asian Daughter of Divorced Parents Speaks up After the Tragic Death of Pakistani-American Photographer Sania Khan]

Violence prevention researchers have lengthy used traditional gender roles to explain intimate partner violence in South Asian countries. These norms are deeply entrenched beliefs in society about acceptable roles for folks primarily based on their gender. In South Asian communities, these norms usually privilege males in intimate relationships. These beliefs are additional perpetuated by mainstream media. For instance, regardless of historic criticism for its depiction of harassment as “romance” or abuse as “lovers’ quarrels,” Indian cinema has only normalized toxic masculinity and violence as a form of conflict resolution with its hundreds of millions of viewers.

Regardless of the identification and investigation of those norms in South Asia, there’s a lot we nonetheless don’t learn about diaspora communities, particularly in relation to South Asians and intimate associate violence. Within the US, South Asians have change into one of many fastest-growing populations, however we stay unaware of how the stresses of elevating a household in a unique tradition, and the load of rising up between two worlds, have an effect on these norms, expectations, and experiences amongst South Asian immigrants, the second era and past. 

On this article, we’ll take a deeper have a look at how these norms are enacted to affect intimate relationship dynamics, talk about the current rise in intimate associate violence, and discover the work that researchers, policymakers, and program implementers can do to handle violence in South Asian diaspora communities.

[Read Related: On Domestic Violence: Model Minority, Private Pain]

Social Norms and Violence in South Asian Diaspora Communities

Why does it take catastrophic occasions to function a name to motion? For one, the “mannequin minority fantasy” continues to painting South Asians in America (who originate from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) as a wholesome and rich group. As a baby of Indian immigrants, I all the time thought this was only a irritating trope that lived rent-free in my head subsequent to the everlasting query, “Log kya kahenge?(What’s going to folks say?) Nonetheless, I’ve realized that this fixed fear is not only an harmless preoccupation. It’s the results of a harmful spiral starting with the portrayal of South Asians as a mannequin minority and the necessity to preserve that well-to-do picture. This solely reinforces the normal gender norms that overlook males’s perpetration of violence and encourage ladies’s silence, crippling any efforts to know the scope of the issue and draw consideration and sources to handle it. 

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Intimate Companion Violence

Previous to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the frequently-uttered phrase amongst researchers, practitioners, and advocates alike was “one in three” — one in three women ages 15-49 experiences physical and/or sexual violence inflicted by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Underneath the quilt of the COVID-19 pandemic nonetheless, charges of violence towards ladies rose dramatically, prompting UN Girls to name for recognition of this “Shadow Pandemic.” In the course of the peak of the pandemic, the social isolation that got here with lockdowns and quarantine procedures to curb the unfold of illness made house a extra harmful place for an rising variety of ladies. As communities search to rebuild, the inequities in entry to and use of probably lifesaving companies have deepened. Now greater than ever, it’s vital that we shine a lightweight on the numerous intersections of our society to stop South Asian ladies’s experiences of intimate associate violence from being pushed even additional into the shadows. 

[Read Related: How to Talk to Your Child About Domestic Violence: 5 Tips for Parents]

Addressing the “Shadow Pandemic”

Before everything, to higher perceive South Asians and intimate associate violence, we want higher data disaggregated by racial/ethnic group. Because the 1980 Census, only those of Indian origin have had a fill-in bubble. All different South Asian teams have to jot down one thing in, lowering their participation. South Asian communities within the US are usually not a monolith and they’re actually not all of Indian origin. This notion, fed by our lack of information, seemingly privileges the Indian neighborhood in America and limits the visibility of different South Asian communities. 

Extra correct data will assist us higher perceive the place the necessity is biggest. We will make a stronger case for extra equitable useful resource allocation, enhance South Asian language supplies for survivors, and improve supplier coaching applications, accounting for the precise cultural implications of exposing and searching for remedy for violence in South Asian communities. Public well being researchers ought to improve efforts to know the prevalence of experiences of violence, the environmental components that make South Asian ladies in America susceptible to experiences of intimate associate violence, and the way it impacts their well being.

Whereas excellent organizations equivalent to Narika in California and Sakhi in New York are main the cost in elevating consciousness, working energetic helplines, and offering assist, they can’t be the only real protected area for survivors. Whereas the system’s failure to guard Sania will not be an remoted incident, it has served as a wake-up name.

All South Asian ladies in America ought to be capable to be wholesome and protected and lead lives free from violence, coercion, or abandonment. To attain this, we want higher information, extra analysis, culturally-tailored sources, and acceptable legislative motion that may enable for prevention, screening, and remedy efforts to lastly take root.

 Intimate Companion Violence Sources:

  1.     National Domestic Violence Hotline Name: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224; Textual content: “START” to 8878
  1.     National Dating Abuse Helpline Name: 1-866-331-9474
  1.     National Sexual Assault Hotline Name: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Sneha holds a PhD in World Well being and is presently a researcher on the College of California San Francisco working … Learn extra ›