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On Love: I no longer hide my brown parents

"There is a fear in me to bring white people over"

Pavan Dutta is a Melbourne-based multi-disciplinary artist. After writing for the TV show Neighbours for many years, he transitioned to producing and performing music as a DJ and singer-songwriter. For this week’s ‘On Love’, I speak with him about being embarrassed of brown parents and why inviting a white friend over to meet them may not be as seamless for those in the diaspora. 

So, how do we learn to love our parents as people too?

When you ask me what love is, I think of my wife, Emma. I met her, and three months later, we were married. But I find it more interesting to talk about non-romantic love.

For example, I recently invited my friend Ben to my parents’ house. He’s white and Canadian. We were hanging out, and I had to leave to meet my parents, who live an hour away. He complained that he had nothing to do, so I told him to come along. 

There’s a fear in me, a hesitancy, to bring white people over. I became so self-conscious as a teenager, worried they wouldn’t vibe or complain about the smell. But as an adult, I’ve let that go. I trust that the friends I’ve made respect me and respect my roots. It’s beautiful and special; it strengthens bonds on all sides. That’s loving. 

There’s something so nice about a friend seeing you in your natural habitat. You behave so differently at home, especially people in the diaspora. I am a completely different person from who I am outside the house. 

So are my parents. They’re usually reserved, but when people come into their space, they’re so hospitable. We’re all loud, trying to tell stories while yelling over each other - my dad is hard of hearing, my mum’s translating for him, and I’m also trying to translate. It’s complete chaos. It takes trust to bring a white person into all that. 

For some time, I didn’t see my parents at all. But since Emma entered my life, all that changed; we see them once a week now. And its become important to me that they meet my friends. 

You know, as an adult, your parents and your friends don’t meet. At 25, I’ve got this close group of friends; I’ve wanted that my entire life. But I’m the only person of colour, so I feel a bit ‘other’ like they don’t know who I really am. At the same time, I don’t feel connected to the Indian community. There were many Indian family friends growing up, but there was so much infighting and politics. I let that side of me go for a long time. 

My mum once said bringing my friends over makes her feel younger. So seeing my parents and my friends meet reconciles the two most valuable worlds for me. I first started doing this around 2018 or 2019 for Diwali. 

For a long time, I thought I had to hide my parents; they were embarrassing. Something has flipped in me now. Maybe they’re embarrassing, but I’m embarrassing too. Maybe if people meet them, they’ll understand why I’m so awkward, why I talk too loud, all that stuff. 

Now I flippantly invite my white Canadian friend over, and I’m certain it will be fine. That’s love.

Liked reading 'On Love'? I will be speaking with a South Asian person about what it means to them regularly for this column. If you have a story you'd like to share with me, DM me! You'll find my handle in the bio below.

About the author

Sashi Perera is a Sri Lankan Australian comedian, writer and recovering lawyer. She was featured on the UK's 2021 Funny Women Awards 'Ones to Watch’ List and was part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2021 and 2022. She's constantly inspired by love in all its forms and writes a regular column for South Asian Today, ‘On Love’. Instagram | @sashbomb



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