We use cookies on South Asian Today and measure activity across the website, provide content from third parties. Please be aware that your experience may be disrupted until you accept cookies.

South Asian Magazine Logo

On Love: South Asian men should tell their friends they love them

"Men find it difficult to say I love you in a non-romantic way"

Rao is an Astrophysics student and a standup comedian based in Melbourne. Outside of study and comedy, he works in science outreach through community engagement in scientific research. On this week’s On Love, I chat with him about why South Asian men struggle to express love - especially in friendships.

Is it because they barely see love being expressed in brown households, or is it to do with a lack of mental health support?

Let's scroll.

Romantic love is a foreign idea to me - most South Asian households don’t have the signs of romantic love you see in the movies. The man kissing his wife after coming home from work - I’ve never seen my parents kiss, have you?

[Writer’s note: hell no, I would die of shock].

I don’t talk to many people about that - it's a weird question to ask. Love is always about grand gestures in the movies - never about quiet moments, the work. 

I’m in my final year of uni, doing my honours part-time. The people I found love for, I stumbled across. It’s a cliche but so true that you find love where you never expect to. For me, it was at the Science Lounge in uni.

It’s open 24/7, so everyone with nothing to do - not just the nerds, the hippies and any other weird kids studying obnoxiously late - we all just stayed around. Us regulars became close friends through sheer happenstance. So many people in our lives are determined by proximity; you often only meet people geographically close to you. People are pretty lazy. But this means friendships as an adult, take work. Spending time with people you love becomes an effort when they’re not close by, and life always seems to get in the way. 

We studied together almost daily - an hour or two in complete silence then talking shit for another three. We weren’t getting work done, but that wasn't the point. When lockdowns meant we couldn’t meet in person - that was hard, but we did Friday night drinks over Zoom. 

The friendships transcend cultural backgrounds; most of them are white - do I still count as brown? I was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia at  1. I have an Australian accent and would be wildly uncomfortable doing an Indian accent on stage. Anyway, there are things universal to us all. Our shared trauma from the Science Lounge binds us together with the woes of trying to get employed with niche skills. 

Many have now graduated, and none of us go to the Science Lounge anymore. One of my best mates recently moved to Sydney - we schedule phone calls once a week. We have three to four hour conversations almost every Sunday. I make sure to tell him I love him - sometimes, I think I haven’t even told my parents that. Men find it difficult to say I love you in a non-romantic way, especially when they’re not super drunk.

After growing up in a South Asian household where there weren’t many overt displays of affection and overcoming challenges with my mental health, I’m willing to let my guard down a lot more. I want to do the work to keep what I prioritise in life - the people in my life. I genuinely love them, and it’s important for me to make time for them and tell them that often. It’s important for them to hear; it’s good for people to know they’re loved, right? People have too narrow a view of what love is.

Anyway. I’m 23, and I still feel like a child all the time. This is where I’m at right now.

Liked reading 'On Love'? I will be speaking with a South Asian person about what love 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.

Support South Asian Today's independent journalism by becoming a member or buying us a coffee here.

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



Covid Baby: Becoming Amma and Appa during a pandemic

I could not have fathomed how lonely it would be to become a parent in these times

On Love: I no longer hide my brown parents

"There is a fear in me to bring white people over"