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On Love: The complication of being 'unconditional'

"As a queer, brown, female-assigned person – things got complicated"


Sunanda Sachatrakul is a comedian from New Delhi, Bangkok, New York and Los Angeles all at once, who moved to Melbourne for love. For my debut column, ‘On Love’, I spoke with Sunanda about unconditional love among South Asian families. When they came out to their mother, they grappled with the fear of losing it. 


But can unconditional love ever be lost?


My mum. I’ve been away from her for a while and thinking about her. 


The love between a mother and a child is positioned as one of the purest, unquestioned, unconditional forms of love. It’s not just a biological thing. I’m adopted, my mother always said to me – never forget that we really, really wanted you. 


As my identity as a queer, brown, female-assigned person grew – things got more complicated. I started to question whether part of that love was conditional. I wondered how far I could get from the idea of the person my mother wanted me to be without losing her love. 


I don’t want to position my mother’s love as purely conditional on meeting her expectations. Sometimes I think that I’m socially or culturally conditioned to believe that brown love is a stronger love – we don’t get kicked out of home at 18 and told to get a job. But is that love or coddling? I don’t know. I can go to her anytime and say – I need money, I need to stay at your house, I killed someone. It will come with a lecture; everything comes with a lecture. I’d regret killing someone mostly because of the lecture. But the support – it’s always there.

 

 Famous poster of the unrealistic family drama, K3G. Emphasis on the drama.


When we wanted different things for my future, I didn’t know how that’d affect our relationship. When I first decided to come out, I thought she would disown me. Maybe because of Bollywood movies – okay, definitely because of Bollywood movies. They’re so dramatic, and their ridiculous focus on always doing your duty – Kabhie Kushi Kabhie Gham is outlandish.


I also started to think – if my mum and I were the same age, would we hang out? Would I think she’s weird or obnoxious? Hang on – is my love for my mum also conditional? If I don’t agree with my mother or like what she says, can I still fully love her? And vice versa? It was a strange thing to grapple with – how to fully accept her as she is, knowing that some gaps in our thinking will never be bridged. 


It was through coming out that I learned that nothing I could do would result in her losing her love for me. I’m realising that perhaps disagreement is natural in love. It’s natural to continually expand the boundaries of who you are beyond those drawn for you by who you love. It takes strength and courage to love through the disagreement that comes with that expansion. 


For some reason, our culture makes our parents' love feel really conditional on meeting their expectations of who we should be – it’s fricking unconditional. You just have to cop the lecture.


Liked reading 'On Love'? I will be speaking with a South Asian person about what it means to them regularly for this column. If you have a story you'd like to share with me, DM me! You'll find my handle in the bio below.

 

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About the author

Sashi Perera is a Sri Lankan Australian comedian, writer and recovering lawyer. She was featured on the UK's 2021 Funny Women Awards 'Ones to Watch’ List and was part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2021 and 2022. She's constantly inspired by love in all its forms and writes a regular column for South Asian Today, ‘On Love’. Instagram | @sashbomb


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