Jaspreet Kaur Podcast Transcript

Jaspreet Kaur Podcast TranscriptListen to episode here

Jaspreet Kaur: [00:00:00] That messaging of to be confident you have to be the loudest person in the room and you have to have this really extroverted personality isn't true. I think as we all know confidence is something that comes from within you and developing that self confidence of really loving who you are and feeling like you can truly be your authentic self no matter where you are.

Jaspreet Kaur: It's really what confidence means. 

Amardeep Parmar: Welcome to the BAE HQ podcast where we interview inspiring British Asians from all different fields about their success and how they got there. Today we have with us Jaspreet Kaur, who's a spoken word poet, a teacher, and the author of Brown Girls Like Me. Say hi to everyone. 

Jaspreet Kaur: Hi  everyone, and thank you so much for having me.

Amardeep Parmar: So, your story is really interesting, and obviously you've written about it, and you've got a book about it, so it proves that it's interesting. But, for the people who aren't aware of your book or what it's about, can you tell us, when you were growing up, did you ever think you'd get to where you are today?

Jaspreet Kaur: That's a great place to start. I definitely wouldn't have thought I'd... I would have got to where I am today [00:01:00] or I'll be the woman that I am today. I think if I look back to definitely like teenage Jaspreet, 13, 14 years old, I was a really shy, geeky, introverted, young teenager. Definitely still am. I think there's elements of me that still hold parts of, parts of my personality is still that person, but I really did not have

Jaspreet Kaur: much self confidence at that age. And I was pretty badly bullied at the start of secondary school. I think that really impacted my confidence. I didn't know where I fit into the world at that time. Um, and I grew up in East London. I'm a proud East Londoner, um, a very multicultural, diverse part of the UK, but I don't feel I saw myself anywhere being represented.

Jaspreet Kaur: And I think that really had an impact on my self confidence as well. So if, if, if you told me back then that I would have been a published author, a business owner, an educator, doing the [00:02:00] work that I do now, I would have never believed you. I would be like, nah, you're crazy. No, that's, that's never gonna happen.

Jaspreet Kaur: That's not me. That's not my life trajectory. Um, so yeah, I think yeah. I think I've surprised myself over the years of what I've been able to do and achieve. 

Amardeep Parmar: So quite similar because you actually grew up quite near me. So I went to school around the corner. 

Jaspreet Kaur:Which school did you go to? 

Amardeep Parmar:  I went to Ilford County.

Jaspreet Kaur:You went to, ah, you know.

Amardeep Parmar: So you're Bill, right? Just around the corner, yeah. So a lot of my people from when I went to primary school, we went to that same school as well. And it's what you talk about there as well, it's a lot of people who grew up in that kind of area. Like you said, we didn't really have those role models.

Amardeep Parmar: You mentioned too about being introverted and how much of that do you think was like due to the bullying inside of things, or is it? What was it? What kind of came first? Um, and also just showing like so many people listening now might think I'm too introverted to go and do something, but it's cool to see people like you, who've said like, Oh, I was bullied.

Amardeep Parmar: I was introverted, but you've now turned that around and you've gained that confidence. 

Jaspreet Kaur: Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: And it shows that it's possible

Jaspreet Kaur:. Yeah, and you can still be an introvert by [00:03:00] personality and still be a confident person. And I think hopefully that's what I've through the work that I've done. And I do a lot of work in schools and with young people and showing them that you can still have that personality and be a confident person.

Jaspreet Kaur: And I think that messaging of to be confident, you have to be the loudest person in the room and you have to have this really extroverted personality isn't, isn't true. I think as we all know, confidence is something that comes from within you and developing that self confidence of, of really loving who you are and feeling like you can truly be your authentic self no matter where you are.

Jaspreet Kaur: It's really what confidence means. So yeah, I think I've, I've really challenged that. Over the years, and I think even for myself, I thought I had to be more extroverted and have this kind of personality to be confident. But I had to even challenge that own that kind of mindset in myself and just kind of coming back to growing up where we did.

Jaspreet Kaur: You're absolutely right. I think other than the women in my family or people that I saw in my close vicinity, I didn't have the role models. That I [00:04:00] really needed outside of that. And I, what I mean by that is kind of in mainstream media on TV and films and books, I couldn't see people like ourselves being represented.

Jaspreet Kaur: So yeah, I think role models play a really important role in, in developing that self confidence of I'm a big believer that you need to see it to believe it. To see something as possible. And as we all know, we went, we were all encouraged to go down those traditional career paths of doctor, dentist, lawyer, accountant

Amardeep Parmar:  Teacher.

Jaspreet Kaur:  Teacher. Yeah, which is one of the areas that that I did go into. But anything outside of that didn't even seem possible at that time. 

Amardeep Parmar: Where did you gain the confidence from? What was that journey? 

Jaspreet Kaur: I guess kind of coming from that teenage self who, who was very shy, very anxious. And I'm very open about the fact that I used to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, even in my early twenties suffered from depression and, and really had to figure out ways and tools [00:05:00] to work around that and support my wellbeing and growing up in quite a traditional Punjabi family. Back then we just didn't talk about mental health. which is a very different story now. 

Amardeep Parmar: Which  is great, right?

Amardeep Parmar: It's really good how the community is changing.

Jaspreet Kaur: Yeah, much more open to it and really tackling that stigma, but it has been quite a journey. So back then I just didn't talk to anybody about these feelings that I was holding in and bottling in. Um, didn't speak to family, friends, teachers about anything I was going through.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, so I turned to writing. I turned to specifically poetry as my outlet to let out all those emotions that I was bottling in. And I would write poems and journal and short stories to let out all those feelings and emotions. And I continued that for a number of years into my early twenties and never shared it with anybody.

Jaspreet Kaur: This was just something I was holding onto and doing for myself, but I think that helped me develop the confidence over the years of, of not holding those emotions inside and actually releasing them out of [00:06:00] myself onto the page. And that really helped me kind of develop that confidence over the years.

Amardeep Parmar: And then you entered to teaching as well, right? And when you're talking about teaching, obviously, you're standing in front of a class full of kids. So you need quite a lot of confidence to do that. And I think sometimes people don't necessarily appreciate that enough. 

Jaspreet Kaur: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm a secondary school teacher as well.

Jaspreet Kaur: So I'm standing in front of teenagers from age 11 to 18. And as we all know, at that age, easily distracted. If they're not engaged, if it's a topic, they're like, I'm not interested in this. Or if you're just not an engaging person for them, they'll switch off and they'll want to disengage. But, but thankfully I had a really inspiring teacher growing up.

Jaspreet Kaur: Her name was Miss McCarthy. She was my sociology teacher. Um, I still speak to her till this day. She's still a mentor to me till this day. And, and she really did change my life growing up. So she's actually the person who probably encouraged me, inspired me to go into teaching. So after I did my undergrad in history, I did a postgraduate degree in gender studies and sociology, [00:07:00] um, and then went into teacher training and I did something similar to teach first where they chuck you into a classroom on day one and you've just got to find your feet and figure it out.

Jaspreet Kaur: And as a young South Asian woman, you can imagine stepping into that classroom. I really had to think if I don't own it from day one, they're going to eat me alive because we all know how we were with new teachers of substitute teachers. So I really had to step into that room and really find my voice.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, and what I mean by that is, is own who I was. And I knew that If I was relatable and approachable to my students, that will help, but I also need to remain a level of being strict and for them to respect me as well and balancing those two things. And I was teaching history, which, as we all know, historically is seen as a boring subject and not the most engaging subject.

Jaspreet Kaur: And if you think about all the history teachers you might have had growing up, they definitely did not look like me. So if anything, I try to use that to [00:08:00] my benefit of, um, I'm bringing something different to the classroom and I'm bringing something different to the table. Um, so I think I had to bring that confidence from day one because if I didn't, I'd probably get eaten alive and thankfully it worked and I had a really brilliant teaching career.

Jaspreet Kaur: And even though I've left the classroom at some, in some capacity now I do miss it. And I did end up helping young people feel engaged. in the history curriculum and in the topic of history. I've now had students who have gone on to study history at university and, and become teachers themselves, which makes me feel really old.

Jaspreet Kaur: I'm like, Oh my God. Um, but yeah, that, that I think pushing myself and taking that leap of faith in myself from day one of I've really got to do this and challenge myself is what's going to help me be the best teacher I can be as well. 

Amardeep Parmar: And then you're still writing on the side, right? So at the time you're working full time in teaching.

Amardeep Parmar: Writing for yourself and you weren't sharing at that point. Did you, where did you start sharing it first? Was it with your students or where did that kind of [00:09:00] come about? How did you get the confidence to put your words out there? 

Jaspreet Kaur: Yeah. Yeah. So how did I become a, then I was calling it teacher by day, poet by night.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, so the trigger moment for, for when I started sharing the poetry was around the same time I had just finished my master's in gender studies and sociology. And I'd written. a thesis, a research paper on a really heavy topic. Um, but it was on female infanticide and it was looking at the ongoing son preference in South Asian communities.

Jaspreet Kaur: And why is it that we prefer to have a son over a daughter and how has that impacted us economically, socially, culturally. I was mainly focusing on

Jaspreet Kaur: South Asia and specifically on Punjabi where my family are from and why did that have some of the highest rates of female infanticide, sex selective abortions, girls going missing. And when I was doing the research on this, some of the statistics were really harrowing. And the fact that the UN population fund had estimated because [00:10:00] of this ongoing son preference and before preferring to have a boy over a girl is resulted in 140 million missing girls.

Jaspreet Kaur: And when I, when I saw that number, I was like, that's twice the size of the UK population. That, That is, that is harrowing. That is, how, how do we not all know this? How is this not something that's like more well known? And I finished that research paper, finished the thesis. I was working with a few great charities that are tackling the work in this space.

Jaspreet Kaur: But I was like, how do I get this message further? How do I get this to reach more people? So I actually combined that research and summarized it into a spoken word poem. Because I was like, Oh, I've been doing this for years, writing poetry for years. Let me just summarize it into a short spoken word piece.

Jaspreet Kaur: And I, I just plucked up the courage to go to a poetry and arts night happening in Hounslow in West London. And I was like, I'm from East London. No one knows me there. [00:11:00] If this goes terribly wrong, I'm just going to run back home and never do it again. So I felt like in a way I had nothing to lose. Um, so I went to this poetry night and performed this poem, which was called Queens and Corpses.

Jaspreet Kaur: And what happened was, an audience member was filming it, and the next day I woke up and saw the video had gone viral across the UK, North America, Canada, India, Australia. I was getting emails and messages from people around the globe. And then I could also see on that day the impact it had on the audience in the room.

Jaspreet Kaur: And everybody was saying, thank you so much for talking about this issue. I want to do something about it. And that's when I recognized that, that poetry can be a really accessible way to talk about some of these difficult topics, taboo issues, but can also be used as a tool for social change. And I kept going from there.

Jaspreet Kaur: That was day one, and the poetry journey continued to where I am now. 

Amardeep Parmar: I think it's always one of those [00:12:00] dark secrets, right, about The Punjabi community with the infanticide and I guess it's one of those topics where people don't like to bring up because obviously it's such a dark, morbid topic. But it's so important for us to acknowledge that it's happening.

Amardeep Parmar: And I haven't seen stats recently, but I hope it is getting better and..

Jaspreet Kaur: But I wanted to emphasize that this wasn't just a far away issue happening in the Eastern world. This is definitely still something that's happening in the Western world too. And, and what it looks like in our homes, even here in the UK, is that, for example, when somebody is pregnant and about to have a child, being asked lots of questions about the gender of the baby, making assumptions that it should be a boy if it's their first child.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, I've even heard people being told when they've had a baby and it's a baby girl, Oh, don't worry. You can try for a boy next time. And I think that's the kind of language and, and sentiment that we're still seeing even here in the UK and the Western world. So it was trying to challenge some of those mindsets, challenge that language, um, and not just see it as a far away problem, that [00:13:00] this is something that's happening in our own homes as well.

Amardeep Parmar:Yeah. And  I think what's really great about say over the last 10, 15 years, It's how many appreciation women are really emerging and getting that confidence to take a stand. And I think this is the way you change opinions, right? Is by standing up and obviously men are doing it as well, but just seeing so many like young women going out and be like, yeah, I can, I can say what I think and I can make a change the way people's perceptions are.

Amardeep Parmar: And I think that's really helped the community, especially with mental health is another area where I think it's really changed by people who are getting the platforms like what we've got today and talk about these kinds of issues. So people know about them because it's very easy to kind of hide this stuff away.

Amardeep Parmar: Like, oh yeah, don't talk about it. But then it's affecting real people and real people's lives. And like I said, there's all these missing women now who could have had like such amazing fulfilling lives. And we don't find out about them and yeah, it's tough. But, um, going from that, so you, you're doing the spoken word poetry.

Amardeep Parmar: And then obviously you're talking about lots of different topics [00:14:00] and how did that then translate to like going into your book, what was that journey from one poem that you spoke out loud to then publishing a book and doing a book tour and all of that, all of the success you've had now?  

Jaspreet Kaur: I guess what then led this book to really existing and coming from an idea to fruition and actually getting published and out there into the world is a combination of all those things.

Jaspreet Kaur: I really do say this is the book I always wished existed. It was the book I wished I had as teenage, shy, anxious Jaspreet. This was the book that she needed as I went into my academic field, feeling like South Asian women were being ignored in those spaces too. Feeling like what I mentioned before of not seeing us represented in the mainstream, in mainstream media anywhere.

Jaspreet Kaur: And sadly, when I did see South Asian women being represented anywhere, we were still seeing these really outdated stereotypes about Asian women being shy and submissive and weak and docile. And I was just so tired of [00:15:00] that narrative of where, where are the stories of achievement and resilience and overcoming struggle and the amazing strong South Asian women that I know.

Jaspreet Kaur: And I see, where are their stories? And then when I was in the classroom as an educator, I could see that South Asian girls are academically doing really well. Some of the smartest in the country. Um, we, we follow closely behind Chinese boys and girls at every academic level. So GCSEs, A levels, the number of undergraduate degrees are increasing, postgraduate degrees increasing.

Jaspreet Kaur: And that's amazing. But why was it that in the classroom, I could see Asian girls are the least likely to put their hands up in class. They were the least likely to put themselves forward for kind of prestigious school roles. And then I could see this at university and we know we can see this in the workplace as well that Asian women feel that it can't be their fullest selves in the workplace.

Jaspreet Kaur: And I couldn't understand why is this all still happening today? And that was what the book really wanted to look at, to challenge some of these existing [00:16:00] narratives, but also just be a guidebook and a manifesto for South Asian women for us to tell our stories from our own voice. And so I began some of that research from when I finished my master's in gender studies, whilst I was teaching in the classroom and doing the poetry and doing the spoken word.

Jaspreet Kaur: I started doing some of that research in the background and I began interviewing Asian women as well. So I spoke to around 150 Asian women from across the country to collate their stories into this book. Um, and I started molding that all together and then it was the question of, well, how do I get this book out there?

Jaspreet Kaur: How do, how do I get it published? Like I've, I've not got any authors or writers in my family or in my close vicinity, so I don't know what that process is. Um, so we really then started researching, okay, so how do you get published? There's a number of different routes. You can self publish, crowdfunding.

Jaspreet Kaur: But I really wanted to take the traditional route of finding a publishing house, getting it published by them and, and wanting this in bookstores [00:17:00] around the country, because I feel it really deserved that and, and to do this story justice and, and to, to do justice to South Asian women, I wanted to see it in bookshelves in Waterstones and W.

Jaspreet Kaur: Smiths and the like. So it was then finding a literary agent. Which was kind of the first step into the literary world. Just like actors and movie stars have an agent who gets them into movies, it's the same thing for, for writers. Um, so I started to just reach out to literary agents. And it was literally Google research into what are literary agents?

Jaspreet Kaur: Who are they? The number of different ones across the UK and across, across the world, started reaching out to them with this idea. And thankfully, lots of them are coming back and saying. You're absolutely right. A book like this needs to exist. 

Amardeep Parmar: Did that surprise you at all? Like, did you expect, what was your expectation?

Amardeep Parmar: Do you think people come up positively? Or are you expecting a bit of bias or people being like, oh, this isn't important? What were you expecting? 

Jaspreet Kaur: I was  expecting mixed, mixed emotions, I guess. Um, and we did receive some of [00:18:00] that and I should emphasize that even though I was lucky enough to find a great literary agent, um, there were rejections too.

Jaspreet Kaur: There were people saying a book like this isn't really needed or being told I already represent an Asian female writer. I don't want another one as if they can only be, um, which was frustrating. So I think I did expect some of that rejection and some of that animosity or some of that kind of, um, not sure.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, I also had a bit of that imposter syndrome of, am I even a writer? Like questioning that I was like, I know I'm an educator and I know I write poetry, but writing a nonfiction book like this, I was kind of like doubting myself a little bit. Um, so yeah, we did get those mixed responses and I think I kind of expected that too.

Jaspreet Kaur: I don't think I was naive and thinking that it's gonna be a yes straight away and this is gonna be a really easy journey. I knew it was going to be a bit of an uphill battle also from kind of what I could see more widely in the publishing world about the fact that there's so little black and [00:19:00] Asian authors being published and black and Asian books out there, um, that I knew this was going to be a bit of an uphill, uphill battle.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. And  a few things you mentioned as well, which was just one of the highlights audiences that if you do know any South Asian women who you think are doing incredibly well, like reach out to us so we can interview them and we can share their stories as well. We can give them a platform and then also with the book side.

Amardeep Parmar: So part of what I do is why I do a lot of ghostwriting. So I've done book proposals, people, and I've got the different agents there as well. So if you are struggling to try and get some connections there, like you can contact me and I can try and help you. I'm sure you'd want to help them as well. 

Amardeep Parmar: So there are people who have done this, like in our community, and if you reach out to them, some of them will try and help you. And it might not always work out. But like I said, unless you try, you never know. And you might find that your story really resonates with somebody. And then you can get out there and then you can have your books on shelves as well.

Amardeep Parmar: With the actual, like, writing the book process. How did you, did you have the finished book already ready before you reached out to Literary Agents? [00:20:00] 

Jaspreet Kaur: No,  it wasn't finished when I reached out to Literary Agents. At that point, it was still in research stage, I did have the ideas of what the book was going to look like, um, what chapters were going to be in there, the structure of the book.

Jaspreet Kaur: So I was quite strong on, on, on knowing the structure of it. And when we were putting that proposal and pitch together, I kind of already saw it, um, but it wasn't finished and it still needed another two years. After getting signed for it to be completely done. So if you are thinking of writing a book, no, it doesn't actually have to be fully completed.

Amardeep Parmar: And I think that's a huge   misconception because a lot of people I hear who wants to write a book, they think they've got to just write it. Whereas everything I've done, like what you did as well, you write the proposal first.You get that airtight, you get that really strong in the concept. 

Amardeep Parmar: And then once you start writing and you've got a deal, they'll have editors who will help you out as well. So you don't need to do it all alone, which I think sometimes people think I used to just write this book on Microsoft Word for like 10, 15 years. And then I try and get an agent, like you don't need to do that.Yeah,  exactly. Yeah. 

Jaspreet Kaur: [00:21:00] Put anybody off. Oh my God. I'm going to sit here and write this entire book and you may, like myself, still be in a full time job, still be in a part time job, doing other multiple things, have other roles in your life. And you're like, when do I have the time to write this entire book? So don't let that put you off.

Jaspreet Kaur: If you've got the idea and like you said, you've, you've really got that, that concept strong and not to sound like Simon Sinek, but you've you've really got your why strong. Why are you writing this book? What is the purpose behind it? And I was very strong on that. I knew why it needed to exist I knew why I was writing it and the purpose and the audience and I knew who it was gonna help. So I was very strong on that. So as long as you've really spent the time to work on that that's enough to take you forward and, and since writing the book I've I've spoken to a number of other South Asian women, actually two, three of them are now in the works of getting their books published or have had them published.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, so I'm absolutely happy to give anybody advice on, on what I've done and my journey, because like [00:22:00] I said, I came from a working class, ethnic minority background from East London, had no authors and writers in my close vicinity. So, I just kind of had to figure out that journey and, and any of that knowledge I can share with anybody else, I'd be more than happy to provide that advice.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. And with the book itself, so obviously you've been doing a book tour, you've got another university book tour coming up, but is there anything that you think you don't get to speak about enough that an idea in the book that you really love, but people don't ask you about, you don't feel like it gets enough attention that you can like highlight for us today?

Jaspreet Kaur: Oh,  that's a really good question. It's done a lot of the work I really hoped it had. And, and when, when I wrote this book, we call it the Essential Guidebook and Manifesto for South Asian Girls and Women. And I really do see it as a manifesto, which sounds like a very politically heavy word, but I do see it as, as a movement for South Asian girls and women.

Jaspreet Kaur: And I, I definitely feel that movement has started this year since the books come out and those that have read it and been a part of the movement, um, have felt it too. But I guess the, [00:23:00] the area I, and the concepts in the book that I guess I wish had a bit more focus than the one side of it of how much academic research went into this book, I think sometimes gets missed a little bit and as an academic and as an educator, I'm like, there's a lot of research and time that went into this book.

Jaspreet Kaur: And I think the reason behind that is I think a lot of people see it and might assume it's an autobiography, which it's not. It does have a little bit of my narrative in there and anecdotes from my own life in there, which I wanted to include. There's a lot of academic research that went into this book, and I'm currently a research fellow at the University of Birkbeck.

Jaspreet Kaur: Beck with their politics department. And what that meant was I had access to a number of resources and libraries and archives and data and statistics that, that I, I felt people hadn't seen about South Asian women. So that's really interwoven into this book. So sometimes that gets missed a little bit. So I want people to really look at some of that data and, and

Jaspreet Kaur: recognize that research behind it, [00:24:00] but I guess one of the topic areas that I feel may have not got enough focus yet is perhaps the last chapter of this book. It's, it's called power in the digital age, and it's looking at the idea of how in this kind of post 2020 world. I couldn't write this book without looking at the impact of digital media and social media and how that's impacted South Asian women's identity both positively and negatively. Positively because social media has been a great place for South Asian women to find their voice to share and talk about issues that concern them as a form of activism, as a form of networking and finding solidarity with other people.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, so that's been kind of a brilliant tool for that. And something that South Asian women haven't had historically. But I think the negative side of it is obviously the impact on our well being, our mental health, and sometimes the digital space isn't a safe space for women of color. So I think that chapter is a really [00:25:00] interesting one, a really current issue.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, and I feel like that one, that particular topic hasn't got as much focus as I hoped it would have, especially because we are living in this digital age. And if anything, I want those conversations to continue, especially around how do women of color like myself use the digital space safely going forward, using it as a tool for change or networking or solidarity or however you might use it.

Jaspreet Kaur: But making sure you're doing it safely, um, and looking after yourself in the meantime. So yeah, I think that doesn't get as much time as sometimes I hoped it would have. 

Amardeep Parmar: One thing, so me and Gurvir, like the co founder of this, we were talking about is how we're almost jealous of South Asian women on social media in some ways, because we just see how much

Amardeep Parmar: they support each other. Right. And that's something which men don't tend to do to each other. Like you'll see like when somebody from a South Asian background, when they're a woman, you can see all of their friends really coming out and showing the support. And it's really nice to see. And it's really great.

Amardeep Parmar: Like there's that kind of community being built in by different people across different industries. [00:26:00] And sometimes men kind of don't do that to each other. It's like, we're trying to build that culture. Yeah. And it's, it's one things we've been questioning. Why don't we do that? And. And I think it's this idea of many of us have, when we're growing up, this idea about being strong or like you don't say comments because you don't want to be made fun of or whatever like that.

Amardeep Parmar: And that stops sometimes people saying things in a social space where you're gonna be afraid of being judged. Right. And I have that fear of judgment when I put stuff out there because I know what I was like 10 years ago, 15 years ago, because grew up in East London. The environment wasn't particularly say, um, what's a good word for it, tolerant of different ideas and different

Amardeep Parmar: people. And if you're different, then you're weird or whatever like that. So a lot of people have grown up in this idea of like, you keep in your lane. And what I find a lot is a lot of like, men will message, like DM me, but you didn't get as much of the public support sometimes. And that's what I want to try and change as well, because you can just see like, there's so many South Asian women doing amazingly well on social media.

Amardeep Parmar: And they're all supporting each other. And it's [00:27:00] really good to see. And even for like, say people listening, like regardless of like, if you're a man, a woman, wherever you are, it's, you will find a tribe on social media sometimes. And there are the trolls. There are the people who put you down, but there's also a lot of people who will find you and connect with you based on what you're saying.

Amardeep Parmar: And it's kind of, you have to have the courage sometimes to do that and also find the support. So if you do have any problems, you've got your friends around you can help you.

Jaspreet Kaur: Yeah, I completely agree. And I think there's, there's a number of reasons behind why that might be the case. And for South Asian women, we are seeing this growing sense of solidarity and sisterhood.

Jaspreet Kaur: And that is a beautiful thing. It might not always be the case. I think that sometimes that might come down to feeling like there's a lack of opportunity or there's a lack of space to have all of us taking up these different spaces and industries. But that is not the case. There is plenty of space for us all to be there.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, but yeah, there is that growing sense of sisterhood, and I think that was one of the most beautiful findings from this book. And I think for men, it may come [00:28:00] from, you're right, some of these, these ideals of, yeah, growing up in East London, people weren't tolerant to different ideas. I definitely grew up in environments that had a lot of that kind of toxic masculinity of what it means to be a man and, and not showing sometimes those more kind of emotional or compassionate parts of our personalities.

Jaspreet Kaur: And we need men doing that. We need men being more supportive and compassionate with one another. And we've seen what the negative side of what that looks like, too. And we've seen how for South Asian men in our communities, how much their mental health has been impacted in recent years. We're seeing some of those really horrible figures of suicide rates increasing men's mental health, really suffering.

Jaspreet Kaur: But if we held space for being more supportive with one another, specifically for men to find supportive and compassionate communities, whether that's digitally on social media or in real life, I feel like that would really be helping South Asian men with their well being too. So yeah, we need more [00:29:00] men supporting one another, being compassionate with one another, and that doesn't make you any less of a man.

Jaspreet Kaur: And I think that's where men themselves really need to question, what does it mean to be a man? And historically that might have been told you have to be this really hyper masculine person. But as we all know, that's not the case anymore. Being a man can be so many different things and you can still hold space for compassion and love and those ideals too.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, some of the most confident men that I know are the most compassionate. And they have communities and they support community and that concept of community, and, and they're probably the best men that I know, if that makes sense. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. And I think so much of it is changing where a big idea I think is coming across social media now, especially among South Asian women is about being, like you define yourself and trying to break those stereotypes.

Amardeep Parmar: And I feel like men are starting to do that as well about being a man isn't like, there isn't a single definition of what that means. [00:30:00] It's whatever it means to you, you be who you want to be. And it's an idea which I think is really being pushed well by a lot of them. I feel my influences and people in that space.

Amardeep Parmar: And it's an idea that's like blurring the lines out a bit and it's showing like whatever you want to do, as long as it's not hurting anybody else, you can do that, right? And you can show that and show leadership in that area. And you obviously, you've done your tours and you're doing a university tour as I think it started or it's going on at the moment.

Jaspreet Kaur: It  started. Yeah. It started last week. 

Amardeep Parmar: And I guess it must be really good because what you're doing is meeting people who've read the book or interested in your ideas. Have you had any stories? And from that, then really touching that it really mattered to you and made it all worth it, all the hard work in writing the book.

Jaspreet Kaur: Oh yeah, definitely. Definitely. So we had the national tour earlier this year where we did, um, regional events across the country in London, in the Midlands, in the North, in Scotland, where I was meeting all the communities that were really hoping this book would help. And then we just last week, uh, launched our National University tour.

Jaspreet Kaur: So I'm [00:31:00] traveling to around 20 universities across the country, meeting young South Asian girls and women at university to talk about some of the topics and themes in this book. And yeah, I've had lots of women, girls and men who have read the book and they've said it's, it's made them feel. like it's validated their voice.

Jaspreet Kaur: It's made them feel like they're not alone in their experiences. It's given them the tools and education to maybe make change in their own lives or in their own families and communities. And that's exactly what I was hoping the book would do. And I've had women telling me really inspiring stories, sometimes really emotionally moving ones where sometimes I've just got to sit back and just kind of absorb it and take some time to absorb it of women who have left abusive relationships and abusive marriages after reading this book, or women who have set up their own businesses and started a new career and started a new job because it's given them a confidence in the tools to do that.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, and for men [00:32:00] and whether that's South Asian men. All men from outside of our community or allies from other communities have read this book and it's given them the tools of understanding the South Asian woman's experience. And they've said that it's given them the self education to be a better ally to women of color and what they can do better.

Jaspreet Kaur: So, so it's definitely done all of that, but I think one of the moments where it really struck me and I think I'll hold on to this forever is earlier this year on On World Book Day, where students usually to go into school, in primary school and World Book Day, they'll dress up as their favorite character from a book or a story.

Jaspreet Kaur: And historically, everyone dresses up like Harry Potter, Matilda, or, or one of the well-known books. And I was sent photos across social media of parents who sent photos of their children, specifically young South Asian girls, dressed up in their traditional salwar kameez, or their traditional cultural wear, and a lehnga, or whatever their cultural clothes might be, with the black sunglasses, as the front cover [00:33:00] is famously known for.

Jaspreet Kaur: And they went to school with Brown Girl Like Me. And that, that was so moving to me because I thought, wow, for these young brown girls to feel the confidence to go to school in their cultural wear was something I would have never been able to do even growing up in East London, which we know was filled with Asians.

Jaspreet Kaur: I still wouldn't have done that. So for me to see that this book has given brown girls the confidence to be themselves, feel proud of their identity and their culture and their history and their heritage was yes, so moving. I think that's a moment I'll hold on to, to, for the rest of my life of, of the impact this book has had on people.

Amardeep Parmar: And obviously like this is your first book, have you got other books in the works or what's the, what have you got? What's exciting for you at the moment? Right? So you've got other projects going on, what's most exciting you, what should people be watching out for? What's coming from you in the future?

Jaspreet Kaur: Yeah, absolutely. I think what I'll emphasize is that from now being a business owner and an entrepreneur, it's [00:34:00] not just the literary works that I'm developing. There's also the educational side and the training work that I do. So I provide online workshops and classes for corporate spaces, for schools, for universities.

Jaspreet Kaur: So that educational element of who I am is still developing. Even though I've now kind of stepped out of the classroom, I've kind of thought of how do I go beyond the classroom to, to educate. So that area of my, my work is definitely growing in terms of the literary work that I do. There's definitely more books in the pipeline.

Jaspreet Kaur: I think any writer would say that they've got so many books that live within them. So it's about now thinking about the next stage of my books. The most obvious one is that lots of people have asked, where is the poetry? Because obviously this was my debut book and it was a non fiction book. It does have some of my poems in there.

Jaspreet Kaur: Each of the chapters opens with a poem. But I think people are keen to see a collection of poetry. I definitely have more kind of feminist research that I want to explore around wider themes to [00:35:00] do with feminism and, and women's rights. Um, but I actually have a children's book coming out next year, uh, which we'll be talking about very soon and launching very soon, which is a children's poetry book.

Jaspreet Kaur: So there's definitely lots still growing in the literary space. But I think by having these multiple roles as a poet, a teacher, an author, I used to think that I can only be one of them. I can only be one thing. I'm like, I can only just be a teacher or maybe I can just be a poet or I could just be an author.

Jaspreet Kaur: But now I've seen I can do all these multiple things and wear these multiple hats. And I think especially for women, often we're told we can only do one thing, fit into that nice neat box, have a safe career, um, get married, have children as is what everyone's expectation is of you. But I think now I've, I've learned that I can do all these different things and they can all grow.

Jaspreet Kaur: Sometimes I'll focus more time in one area than another and let that kind of nourish and grow and the others will kind of slow [00:36:00] down until the time is right. So yeah, lots more books, and pursuing more of education and then just seeing what other areas and passions I  want to explore as well. I think I'm always somebody that wants to learn and grow and develop new ideas and concepts.

Jaspreet Kaur: So I'm kind of letting myself marinate in that as well. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. That's really exciting. And then obviously people can look out for what's coming up. But one thing you said there, as I found quite funny is because it was just before we started recording about how before we had our identity as well, our job was right.

Amardeep Parmar: And then once you start opening up, then the problem is no longer about just keeping to one thing. It's like stopping yourself from doing a million different things. 

Jaspreet Kaur: Yeah, that's my problem. 

Amardeep Parmar:And you're, you're, you're like, you're probably like flips around from like, Oh, I'm only doing one thing and I'm really bored

Amardeep Parmar: to, okay, I do way too many things now. I need to stop doing so many things and focus. And you're going for the same thing right at the moment.

Jaspreet Kaur: Yeah. Yeah. I think sometimes that is my, my challenge of, I've got so many ideas and so many things I want to explore and try. And it's about sometimes just being patient with yourself and say, okay, let me focus [00:37:00] on this area.

Jaspreet Kaur: It's okay to put something to the side for a little while and let that marinate and pursue it later on. Um, that's definitely something I've developed over the years of just having patience that it doesn't all have to be right now. Come up with this idea. It needs to come out today. Not everything works that way.

Jaspreet Kaur: And to have the patience around some of those, those ideas. And especially with the work that we do, this kind of idea of work life balance, everything just molds into one. When I was an educator, when I was a teacher, I knew what my job was. I come home, I have holidays. It was a very clear routine.

Amardeep Parmar: I miss holidays.

Jaspreet Kaur: Oh yeah, I know. Now it's just like, when is holidays? When does work finish? And, and really trying to switch off is sometimes a challenge for myself of, okay, let me switch off from all these work related things and just take time for myself. And that's definitely where things like meditation, mindfulness, writing for just myself and not for work, um, going for long walks.

Jaspreet Kaur: I've got a big doggie, his name is Hida, and my husband and [00:38:00] I taking for a good long walk every day, um, and just spending time with family and friends to, to really switch off from that work side of who I am. Um, and also just kind of reminding myself that I think because we live in this environment now, especially with social media of this kind of hustle, hustle culture and more, more, more, and what's your next thing?

Jaspreet Kaur: What's your next thing? What's your next thing? I think we just need to remind ourselves sometimes just to just to be content with where we are. And that's okay, too. Just to say, you know what, everything I'm working on right now, this is great. I'm going to continue nourishing this and sit with where I'm at right now.

Jaspreet Kaur: And that's okay. It doesn't always have to be the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. And unfortunately, these kind of capitalist culture encourages that behavior. So sometimes just kind of sit with where you are, feel centered with where you are and say, this is okay. And being happy with that too.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah.  We're in the final few minutes now. So I've got a few quick fire questions. Sure. So. The first one is you [00:39:00] can shout out three people in one sentence each. Who would they be? So people that people listening should be following or paying attention to or like learning about their work. 

Jaspreet Kaur: Uh,  Amazing. Um, number one has to be my husband, uh, Indy Hothy.

Jaspreet Kaur: Uh, he would be the first person I'd want to shout out. He's probably the greatest feminists that I know. And to be honest, the person that I am today having this book out, the business that we co run together behind the Netra, which is the media and training and arts production company we run, none of that would have existed without him.

Jaspreet Kaur: So that's a huge shout out to Indy Hothi and the incredible work that he does. The next person I'd want to shout out is, her name is Rupinda Kaur. She runs an organization called Asian Women Mean Business. She's been a huge inspiration to me over the years. Um, she's an incredibly kind, compassionate woman, but really champions South Asian women owned businesses.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, so do check her [00:40:00] out on social media. Um, and then the final one, I think I'll shout out is probably a fellow poet and writer. Um, she's a good friend of mine and I'm trying to look at her work a lot more at the moment. Her name is Sanah Ahsan. She's a poet, um, a psychologist and writer. Um, and she's doing really incredible work in the mental health space, but looking at the lack of cultural sensitivity going on in the mental health space.

Jaspreet Kaur: And she's using academic research, but also poetry to, to really tackle some of those issues. So, uh, she's another person I'd like to mention. So.. 

Amardeep Parmar: Okay. And we really want to build community through this podcast and through the BAE HQ. What's something that people listening right now could maybe message you about, that you may be, might be able to help them with?

Amardeep Parmar: So you've mentioned the book, would it be around that area?

Jaspreet Kaur: Yeah, definitely. I think if they, if you are interested in entering the literary world and publishing a book, more than happy to support people on that. Um, definitely tips and advice in, in using writing [00:41:00] for wellbeing. Obviously, I've shared a little bit about my journey of how I've used specifically poetry as a way to support my well being.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, if anybody's interested in looking at creative arts and how that can support their mental health, and I'm happy to talk more about that. Um, and also just ideas around, I get lots of women asking questions similar to the journey that I've been on of how do I go down an unconventional career path, and they may want to leave their career that they're currently in that defines their identity, and they want to try and do something different, or they want to pursue a side hustle whilst they're still working, or they've got an idea that they're really passionate about.

Jaspreet Kaur: So if that, if you want support and advice on that, absolutely more than happy to help with that. And usually my advice is we'll just start. just start, take that risk, take that leap of faith because you won't know until you do start and, and do try and, and then we'll know what it feels like. [00:42:00] Um, so yeah, happy to help anybody with those things.

Amardeep Parmar: And then on the flip side of that, what's something that you need help with right now that maybe somebody in the audience could help you with and reach out and teach you?

Jaspreet Kaur: Yeah. Oh, yes. Okay. Uh, there's lots of things I still want to grow and learn and understand. I think it's around that area of what we're talking about, about work life balance.

Jaspreet Kaur: If there's such a thing, especially for women out there that maybe like myself, Business owners, but also have a family life. Um, I do have a little one on the way and now really thinking about what is this next stage going to look like for myself? Because being self employed, not getting maternity leave, all those sorts of ideas that people who do have other career paths might have.

Jaspreet Kaur: I'm now trying to figure out what is this next stage going to look like for myself? How do I still pursue, um, the passions that I have, the work that I do and feel fulfilled in that, but also starting this journey of motherhood, which I'm really excited for, um, any advice and [00:43:00] support in that, that area, um, is definitely what, what I feel I need help with right now.

Amardeep Parmar: I'm sure there's been many people out there who are doing, who've been through what you've been through and can help out. So it's been a real pleasure to talk to you today. 

Jaspreet Kaur: Thank you. 

Amardeep Parmar:Thank you so much for coming on. Do you have any final words for the audience? 

Jaspreet Kaur: I guess my final words to the audience just coming back to maybe going full circle to where we started.

Jaspreet Kaur: Um, the final words I would leave people with is to always remember to be your truest self, your most authentic self and to feel confident in that, even if that makes you different and weird and strange and, and not..

Amardeep Parmar: Especially if it makes you feel weird and strange.

Jaspreet Kaur: Yeah, to, to really own that part of you because that is what's gonna make you special.

Jaspreet Kaur: That's what's gonna make you different. And that's probably what's gonna make you successful as well. So to be confident in that.