Brace yourselves for what I have to say.
During my “redundant from work” period I managed to learn a lot about myself. What did I Iearn? Well…
- My children bring me comfort – YES
- I am so attached to my children – YES
- I am that attached I probably will force my kids to stay with us even after marriage – YES
- I can be a pushy parent – SOMETIMES
- I can cook – YES (may I add fabulously)
- I enjoy cooking for my family – YES
- Circumstances have left me distracted from my children’s development (Daddy D related) – YES
- I hate tidying up – YES
- Daddy D is more loopy than I thought – YES
- I love my Tamil background more than anyone can imagine – YES
- Tamil has begun to shape my identity and passion in life – YES
- I understand and can probably speak more Tamil than I actually thought – YES
- I engagingly write (about ME) – YES
The above are only a handful of stuff, and although they are mainly discoveries about my ability around the home, they are discoveries nonetheless. However I have since found a job, which has helped sprout more discoveries about me. The office environment is NOT where I belong. It is NOT where I feel useful. It is crushing my personality and passions in life. From this discovery, I have understood further what my wants, needs and passions in life are:
- I am an organiser
- I am a creator
- I am a leader
- I am a networker
- I love to talk and present
- I love to set out the framework and structure
- I love to create change and see change (no, not in a change management sense)
- I love to transform things into something else unrecognisable (ok, I’m getting closer to the point)
- I love to transform people into something they cannot recognise in their own skin (or the thought of it, as I haven’t done since my teens)
- I love make-up, and the power good make-up has to create beauty, beast, confidence, another being
I remember as a kid, I used to look at the selection of make-up on my cousins and aunts dresser, you name it, would sit them down, and slap on my take of “change” on their face. Some would like, some would question, but it was creative, and I found it so satisfying creating change on their own skin. When that moment came to deciding what I would be doing at uni, to Daddy D’s horror, I did not choose Law (I was studying A-Level Law, and loved it actually). Nor did I choose my passion. I chose the world of vague and beige Media. The result? A horizontal beige media career 21 years later.
The difficulty for choosing my passion was simply to save my family’s face. I grew up in heavily patriarchal surroundings (which is normal for Mauritians) so whipping out a make-up brush and slapping it on someone would only bring on hysteria at the expense of my family’s pride. That’s just how it is. Especially if you come from a Tamilian background (or generally Hindu background) where competition around us were the rising power of Sri Lankan intellectuals in the UK:
Them: “My son is an Optometrist. So Anneh, what does your son do?”
Daddy D: “Make-up artist”
Them: “Make-what? Oh, I see”.
Not a good look back then.
Daddy D: “He work at BiBiSee”
Yep. This held more substance in what dear Daddy D was saying. More respect. Followed by injecting Daddy D’s ego with more pride. He didn’t really have much clue what I did at “BiBiSee”. But that’s ok, I work for a globally recognised company – that’s the achievement of slogging my guts out and having my folks pay out their hard earned money for my education, right?
But have things changed in 2019? If I was a young 20-something graduate, would I have pursued my “dream”? Possibly, but I still have this image of me standing out like a sore thumb amongst a female dominated industry. Besides , I can only imagine what people in my adult life I meet (or have met, but thinking restrospectively here) would have thought. So, let’s take the line “I am a make-up artist”:
My wife: “Hmmm…interesting…ok” (distasteful look)
My in-laws: “…” (basically looking the other way)
My brother-in-law: “ki gogote?!” (Creole equivalent to WTF, but the “F” word being substituted for male phallacy)
In fact I can’t think of anyone else, except my in-laws, Daddy D’s peers and relatives in Mauritius whose reaction would be questioning. My Irish family would have been (just about) more embracing. It just draws down to those who had an expectation for their son / nephew / cousin / uncle on the type of man I should be to blend in and lead a normal married life going on to eventually being a father. Obviously this is cultural expectation. Or maybe normal expectation being phased out by modern thinking. Anyway, I always wanted it (normality, that is)! Surely it was a bit of a giveaway, though, when I started styling my wife, or fiancée at the time. The first time I saw her fresh 17 year old face, I thought way ahead on how those high cheekbones can be accentuated, the right shade of bronzers and foundations that can be applied, and those lips! Hell yeah! Ahem, sorry.
It was the most exciting time when she arrived in the UK for a visit back in 2008. She became my life sized doll! Off we went shopping to Top Shop, River Island, H&M, and I kitted my baby out with the flyest outfits and blinging accessories! Shall I start on the saree shopping? Well to this day, I still choose her sarees. Because I know. I JUST KNOW. I know my Kanjivaram to my Uppada silks, to my mundhanai (pallu, headpiece) and body work. Her saree blouse models? Most of the time, chosen by me. To this day I still buy her make-up, testing shade after shade of whatever on my wrists to get the colour right. Intuitively, I know what she needs and what will be a good “to-have” in that lil’ make-up stash bag of hers. No, I do not dictate. She does not feel silenced of her own “fashion” freedom. She trusts my style and judgement.
What about my kids reaction? Would they rather see their dad have the ability (and technical intelligence) to demolish and rebuild our house? Get my overalls on, dive into the white cloud of dust of falling bricks or slither beneath the floorboards for a spot of rewiring? That is a normal dad right? Or, a dad glued to laptop and numerous devices whilst tracking the shifty shiftiness of stocks, shares and my Bitcoin. This has become the iconic daddy of our post-post-post-modern society, right?
No. Children are the most non-judgemental innocent spirits, and as long as their Papa can spend maximum time with them, quite frankly they don’t care what I do! They love my time. Not how my money is being (respectfully) made. It is such a strange thing though, how far we are supposed to have come in 2019 with closing the gender “occupation” gap, that I still am extremely nervous about making this admission!
Earlier in March, my children were involved in a variety of performances at a Tamil cultural show as part of the annual Kalai Vizha (celebration of Arts) organised by the Tamil school. I was amazed and mesmerised by a brother and sister duo performing a Bharathanatyam piece based on the Murugan Vaahana (mode of transport), the Mayil (or peacock). Everything about that dance exuded power and beauty. What further struck me though was the young boy who danced his salangai (anklet bells) off! He was the star and I could not help but congratulate both brother and sister for their stunning performance. My thoughts wondered off to how it is now virtually unheard of for young men to undergo Bharathanatyam training. For a dance which requires both man and woman to each play the respective part of God and Goddess, the man is required to bring a surge of masculinity to a dance piece. However because of the make-up used to accentuate the eyes, to beautify the eye movements or “Drishthi Bheda” during these pieces, the dance is overly feminised. Therefore this artform is being shied away from by men (and the parents of young men) who see it as a female art form. Nevermind Nataraaja who is the Lord of the Dance, according to popular Hindu belief and various texts, to whom all dancers dedicate the Pushpanjali sequence at the beginning of a dance performance! Hmmm…this will be the focus of another write up!
So there you go. I have finally admitted to myself my secret passion in life. It is why I was always fascinated by supermodels of the 80’s and 90’s (Stella Tenant and Linda Evangelista were always amongst my top favourites). It is why I was glued to the Living TV channel (remember that) every Monday night from back in 2003, watching America’s Next Top Model. How were Tyra Banks’ team going to transform that face. The results, I found, were almost always impressive. Even then, I never had the guts to pursue that dream.
As a nearly 43 year old, had I followed that dream, it is likely I would have had my own academy by now. But no. I pretended to care in the world of media. I pretended to believe I would be at media organisation board level because I knew my shit. Given, I certainly did know my shit, but didn’t hunger enough. Because I did not care about the same-y same-y formula of drama’s we were licensing for our channels for a tiny fragment of viewers who actually had access to watch the channel! I did not care about the tired old Saturday night judge-panel entertainment type programming that would ripple excitement throughout the company as the must-have key campaign that would draw in global attention! I care about making a difference to people. Somehow. I care about delivering a service that will make a person, couple, family’s special day the ultimate dream. Somehow.
Somehow, through this, I understand why it is ok to encourage our children to go for their dreams, and let NOTHING hold them back. As cliched as it may sound, this advice still holds substance.
Somehow, I will find myself before retirement. Somehow.