‘There’s no point breaking the glass ceiling, what I want to break is the entire system. I want to bring down all these buildings so all of us can come on in, the door is too small. Think big, dream big but start small.’
In this second series on ‘Break the Glass’, we hear from Asma Khan, an Indian-born chef and the owner of Darjeeling Express restaurant who has featured on Netflix’s ‘Chef’s Table’. Asma has an incredible journey, from migrating to the UK to becoming a renowned and an all female-empowering Chef. Asma shares some inspiration and food for thought!
Asma talks about her journey of immigration from India to the UK following her arranged marriage to her husband. Thirty years ago, upon arriving in the UK, Asma was unable to call home or travel like today’s generation, which left her feeling lonely and like an outsider. For her generation of women, immigrating from other countries, without roots it was difficult to build connections and find a group that she really related to. Asma compares this feeling of isolation to the current COVID-19 situation, where people are disconnected and unsure for the future and our dark shadows are coming to the forefront. We have all experienced our rights being taken away from, not being able to spend time with our friends and go to school. We are fortunate to be able to have these virtual facilities and connect and reach out to others.
Asma faced rejection and was pushed aside due to the patriarchal culture she grew up in. She has come across these feelings within in her adult life in being made to fit in. She realised she will not let people label her based on their own prejudices. Instead, Asma uses her food as a tool for communication and an extension of her culture and heritage. Asma has persisted against judgement on the way she looks and talks and encourages people to be accepted for who they are.
‘You either get crushed or set the world on fire and prove everyone wrong.’
Key messages from Asma’s talk:
- People pushed Asma into a box, she says do not let others push you into a role you do not want to play.
- Your identity is sacred! Balance is hard but it is important that you feel comfortable with who you are and try not to feel pressured to conform.
- Make allies, reach out, there is support available. There are mentors in school, books and podcasts you can listen to. Learn about yourself and other people, there are huge similarities between people who have have migrated, you are not alone.
- Write your own label and put it on yourself and tell yourself that’s what you’ll be.
‘It is your right to be here, you don’t have to educate the ignorant or the racist, walk away from the people who have hate. Your identity is sacred to who you are, if people don’t accept it, it is there problem, not yours.’