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  • Sabah Kadir

Barriers: Words Unsaid

There have been cultural barriers around me most of my conscious life, more punctuated some times than others.

Many feel that children of immigrants overplay their narrative of fragmented identities and wavering connections to culture. However, this narrative is my truth and that of many others, and I argue it cannot be played enough. Until I took a class on Gender and Sexuality in the South Asian Diaspora in University, I had never had the vocabulary to express many of the phenomena I experience. Some of the most pertinent? Language barriers.

This is absolutely not to say that I cannot speak Bangla. I may have an accent, but I can speak and my parents brought me up to know and utilize all the fun slang. But language extends beyond the tongue. Language includes the nonverbal: body language, just being there, and topics that are allowed to be discussed. In South Asian culture, many topics remain taboo, especially contentious ones, like women's socialization and issues. Both men and women are often encouraged to remain silent, worried about what others will think or if expressing themselves makes them weak. Even by writing this simple fact, some may feel I am crossing a line. Multitudes of women who came before me have contributed to the woman I am today. But their stories will always remain a mystery to me--they were unable to speak, and I am unable to ask.

In this season's issue of Coulture Magazine, my co-director of photographer Addy Liu took on the challenge of presenting these barriers to communication in a spread called Lost in Translation. I am humbled to have been a part of it.

My part in this photoshoot is dedicated to all the women who I will never get to ask about their experiences: the joyful and the heartbreaking. Who no one bothers to ever ask. May no one who comes after you have to hold it all in.

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