Obie Matin was shunned for marrying a white man. Yet, she cared for her parents to their last moment.
BENGALI CULTURE & A NAME
Obie Matin’s full name is a little bit complicated she says. In Bengali culture, people would know her by her nickname: Obie. But her formal name is actually Lubjana Matin. Nobody calls her Lubjana except during graduation or in any formal occasions. Everyone calls her by her nickname. There is complete separation between formal and informal life in Bengali culture.
UPBRINGING AND RENT FREE ACCOMMODATION
Obie was born was born in Britain. When she was born there was seven years gap between Obie and her older sibling.
‘I feel privileged of how I grew up, even though we never owned it. It was a massive house with a basement, a Victorian attic, beautiful house. And the terms and conditions were that my dad would have that home rent free, which is one part of the house for lodgings if he oversaw the rest of the property. So dad was fixing it up looking over tenants. We had free lodgings, and now I look back and think how lucky were we that we never had to pay rent.’
She remembers brick being thrown through their windows and kids would say to others not go to go to her birthday party because her parents could not speak English properly or she would not wrap her present up in a nice way. But she also remembers that her parents did their best to blend in.
‘And I remember…that my dad couldn't sing the Happy Birthday song…He made an effort… quite soon you realise you were not one of them…I wasn't middle class, like my white friends at school. It wasn't the same middle class, because we were still working class, because my dad didn't have a full professional job. But it's not the accountancy that when we think about people who work for KPMG or Deloitte today…He was doing things by sort of the traditional accountancy methods of ancient China, I'd say still by hand, his arithmetic was really good.’
MARRYING A WHITE MAN & BENGALI FAMILY
‘Initially, my parents took it very well… But later, I realised 24 hours at a time, it was a shock. They didn’t take it very well at all. And my father was, he actually stopped talking to me. So we were living in a house, having told them, there's continued living here. And yeah, he'd stopped talking to me. And I think anybody who knows that my dad’s mood had changed.’
Her father would never let her marry anybody who is not Muslim. She had persuaded her husband to convert to Islam.
‘Yeah, he converted, he'd gone off to tell his mum that he converted to Islam. And then basically, … so I enjoyed about a year of just not having father talking to me and telling me I ruined my life.’
A cousin of Obie, who was much younger than her, had actually run off with a boy. She'd run off to Florida. She'd been quite ill there.'
‘...And I think my parents had sort of adjusted their thinking, thinking that my daughter is older, she's come to tell us this. And we know and suddenly, actually a lot of stories were popping up. They'll be like, Oh, so and so's daughter married from another culture.’
OBIE THE CARER
Obie’s dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and her parents weren't managing well. She quickly learnt her role.
‘…It did fall on me to be the person to recognise and pick up what needs to be done… I just became the caregiver sort of remotely from we live in the same area pretty much…And they became very ill like they were in their 60s and 70s. I was looking after them to pass away.’
Obie taken on the role as the eldest and the role of the son, she feels there were no words. But in sociology it's called a cat sandwich caregiver. So she was basically in two generations simultaneously. Her father soon passed away sadly. She was to be the only carer of her mother.
LOCKDOWN & TEACHING
Obie was living in two homes simultaneously: in her own house with her husband and living with her mother. She decided to move in with her mother three weeks before lockdown.
‘I'd sort of struggled a lot with looking after my mum and having my own family, you know, to different spaces… And we had a very nice home of our own, but it was huge. My husband being so helpful and... being able to move in, you know, you're moving into the house of your traditional old fashioned that she mother-in-law, right. So, he had done that. And it was good, because we were in one place. And the people that were dearest to me, were under one roof.’
She explained that teachers were not known for working from home and doing remote teaching during lockdown. She found herself living in a house that was unbearable: with a leak ceiling and living in her parents room that was dated to their taste, a toddler that could not go to childcare and a mother who was shielding.
‘I was teaching full time with the internet that my dad had bought, which was the post office internet. So you know, it's very cheap, just so that we had it, he never used it. And, and my husband who was also constantly working from home, like on these meeting calls for about four hours. So it was a very difficult time.’
She would wake up at six o'clock in the morning and sleep at one o'clock in the morning the next day. She was in a survival mode the whole time.
‘I learned to realise that whatever your life situation, you are always better off than somebody else…And I've never seen that people lining up for the food bank, and a soup kitchen, you know, and I was like. I'm so lucky, like an Asian parent who would never want to get takeaway wouldn't get in. And, you know, she's elderly and frail. But yet she could articulate let's get takeaway today.’
‘Like, how I have privileged that way, like I have privilege that I live in my own home. And I learned, you know, my toddler, he'd lost his, you know, privilege again, that he had, he had a tablet to use. And there's a lot of children in this country who don't have the technology to they couldn't access education.’