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'You'll Be Fine' - an excerpt shared for South Asian Heritage Month

On the final day of South Asian Heritage Month, we’re delighted to share an excerpt from the poem ‘You’ll Be Fine’ by Saher Shah. Saher performed the poem in its entirety at our MEHFIL event in April – an evening sharing and celebrating the work of Muslim poets in East London.

Following the success of MEHFIL, we're excited to welcome DEEN & DUNYA to Stratford East on Fri 20 Oct: a poetry night that celebrates and amplifies the work of Muslim artists that has sold out performances at the Royal Court, Bush Theatre, and Shakespeare’s Globe. Join us in elevating these voices that make up part of our vibrant South Asian community.

You’ll Be Fine by Saher Shah

So Aaja little one, let me tell you a story,
One that won’t always feature glitz and glory
One that I wish my own young ears could have heard
Lessons that I could’ve taken on and then might have learned
About the life that you will journey on 
Create memories with tears and laughter from 

I’ve come to say to you that
It’s ok, you’ll be fine

Mama and Abuji won’t be angry 
Well, they probably will be 
But they’ll get over it eventually
They love you unconditionally 
Most of the time 
They wont always get it but thats fine
On the way there’ll be some emotional guilt 
But that’s the way they were built
You see they come from a way, land and time different to yours
A sunehri yet fading memory for them, that will keep you torn
For a while
Later it will bring to your face a smile
A sense of pride, no other will be able to take
A badge of honour, an aurat of you it will make

Baji and Bhaiya will educate you life, Hip Hop, Classic Rock, Bollywood, RnB & Qawalliyan
You’ll pick up yourself the Grime, Bashment, Garage & Soca 
Walking in their footprints in the sand they pave out 
Will be a privilege they don’t even know about 
The small wins they have will lay out the path 
For the even bigger victories you will get, so vast - aapke paas

Itna kuch hai aap ki chothi jaan, jaan ti tak nahin
So much to give, and learn from them, mein sab jo ke rain hoon, voh hai sahi
Yes they’ll annoy you and and at times you’ll wish you were older 
But the truth is, its kinda kushti to be the youngest, it’ll make you a teensy bit mouthy and bit bolder 
To fight for your wants and needs
‘Cause you saw what it meant when they didn’t always speak up or plead
For the things they aspired to or craved
They’ll set so many examples and open doors for you for days

So It’s ok, you’ll be fine

Right, Primary days 
It’ll be the foundation of you that you will lay
I know right now it feels strange 
To be the odd one out at school, their colour palette range 
Is them and you 
I swear, I swear your shami kebab sandwiches are true
Flavour and more important yet, rich in heritage 
That recipe has been perfected over generations within your lineage
A medley of techniques and traditions from South Asia, Middle East and who knows elsewhere
A combination of women and men, artists showing off their own culinary flair 
You’ll beg Mama to feed you tinned spaghetti on toast
So you can tell your friends the next day you had the same as them instead of roast
Chicken marinated in a spiced yoghurty dream 
With hand prepared rotiyan spinning on the tavva filled with luscious steam
In a few years they’ll be paying racks for that same meal, 
telling you all about it at work and how “it was a steal!”
“You know Saa-Herr” I had a lovely curry last night”
Their need to relate to you will not be not yours, but their biggest plight
The smells that waft from your kitchen window will be alien to those next door
Don’t be embarrassed about the spice in your life, stop that inner war

But it’s ok, you’ll be fine 
You feel uneasy 
When they knock for you to play out and mama says no, it makes you feel queasy 
You’re ashamed, coz they caught you all in clothes that you love 
They fit you like a glove 
Voh darzi se banne hue, rich golds, reds, pinks and greens
Dabke, dhaage aur mukeash ka kaam, all within perfectly sewn seams 
They carry the stories
Of the women that came before 
The children that they then bore 
For you to be here 
Ok, maybe I’ve gotten a bit too deep there 
Lets just say 
One day 
You will stand proud in your shalwar kameez
It will give you such grace with so much ease 
You will be the only one with a different face and name for some time 
They will make you feel like there is a line 
A beauty standard, one that you are not allowed to cross 
But they will be at a loss 
When you push and crash through the boundaries they created for you 
One day you will be an exotic princess they crave too 
You are beautiful 
No you really are 
Khoobsurat, Pyaari, Soni, Haseen
So many words to describe you, see what I mean?

I know you’re concerned about your eyebrows, just wait for this girl Cara Delavine 
But it won’t be her or anyone else who’ll give you permission to be who you are 
You’ll give it to your self, after many years of self discovery, you’ll come so far 
The hair on your body, shape of your nose, colour of your skin 
Will become more than just an outward indicator of the person you live in 
They’ll assume things
Stereotypes of what your appearance brings
It’s not just up to you to break those assumptions 

They need to take responsibility for their prejudice, words and actions
It doesn’t feel like it now but it won’t matter what they think
You’ll find your own way of being, it wont make your heart sink
When you’re picked last or you catch them snigger behind your back
You don’t need to always fit in or pander to them because of what they lack 

You’re weary, I know 

The world is scary, but show
Them what you are, your voice is important
The quiet little asian girl will get louder, like a chaotic torrent 

So it’s ok, you’ll be fine


About Saher Shah
Saher is an Actor, Writer & Poet from London working in Theatre, TV & Film. She focuses her work around strong female leads, and stories from British South Asian & Muslim perspectives. She is currently part of the MFest and Soho writers labs, and is a current Rifco Associate. Her ACE-funded debut play “Vitamin D” went on tour in March, had sold out shows in London and Manchester and has been nominated for a Standing Ovation Award by London Pub Theatres following a five-star review. 

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