This episode talks about identity – specifically learning and relearning aspects of identity from Ruhee’s perspective some years after settling in Australia. Ruhee M. is an inclusive facilitator and public speaker with over 12 years of teaching and facilitating experience. Forever curious, straight-talking, and driven by the conversation around inclusion and equity, Ruhee holds an academic background in psychology and a bachelor’s degree in business management. Having worked across industries including advertising, sport, retail, hospitality, tech, digital marketing, community services and wellbeing, Ruhee brings a wealth of diverse experience and problem-solving perspectives across the board. To support others in their learning journey, Allied Collective was founded to solve the need for impactful, inclusive, and accessible training. Today, Ruhee combines these insights with years of experience in teaching to provide clients with engaging workshops, training, and facilitation.
You can follow all of Ruhee’s latest work here:
This episode was produced by Aamon Sayed. Aamon has worked within the Social Work sector since 2012. Aamon’s work experience adds sensitivity to interviews to create them in a culturally safe setting. As a podcast producer, Aamon explores the human condition, and how to make the world a more positive place through his series AddLOVE.
Interested in sharing your own Story of Community Resilience? Email [email protected] for more information.
This transcript is generated automatically and may contain errors.
Aamon Sayed: My name is Aamon Sayed and welcome to another episode of Stories of Community Resilience by 3ZZZ. On this episode of the show, I wanted to have a conversation with Ruhee about her experience of resilience. Ruhee, welcome to the show.
Ruhee M: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Aamon Sayed: If you could give us a couple of minutes, just an introduction to yourself and why you volunteered to come and have a conversation with me today.
Ruhee M: Absolutely. Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are the land of the people of the Kulin Nation, Melbourne, Australia and I pay my respects to the elders past and present. I am here today to talk about my life experience and tell my story because I believe that storytelling is one of the most natural human ways that we connect with people and I love storytelling and hearing people’s stories. And I’ve heard so many episodes on the stories of community resilience, of people that have inspired me. So I hope I can hopefully inspire someone out there today.
Aamon Sayed: That’s amazing. Thank you. What topic did you feel like you could add to the catalogue that we have within the podcast. What was it that you felt like you connected to? You talk about your identity, like can you elaborate on that?
Ruhee M: Yeah. So I identify as a South Asian, Australian Muslim woman, and when I was listening to these podcasts and whenever I’ve heard podcasts in the past, I’ve always derived strength from people’s stories that came out of persistence. After facing hardship and difficulty. And throughout my life, I. Have got through places where it hasn’t been the easiest. Especially navigating navigating as a woman of color in a Western country and having to navigate different intersectionalities. And because the work I do is in this space as well, I think that storytelling aspect is so important. So my topic today is basically about navigating the world as a woman of color, because I wish I had heard these stories earlier in my life because I derived strength through hard times in my life listening to these stories.
Aamon Sayed: Perfect. Thank you. Can you tell us about a time when you faced a difficult challenge due to your identity, and how did you handle it, and what did you learn from the experience?
Ruhee M: That’s such an interesting question. And I think everyone who identifies as a person of color, mostly in the Western world, has a very unique experience and multiple experiences. For me it is. Kind of a part of what? Makes me who I am and my life story, right? So there’s not one particular example that comes to my mind. It’s navigating every space that I go to and being very aware. Suddenly out of nowhere that, Oh, I’m a person of color. And that took time. I’ve been in Australia for ten years now. I just clocked over a decade and for the first 4 to 5 years it was mainly just assimilating, right. Human beings have this innate need for connection. So the autopilot mode, at least for me and I know a lot of people can identify who are migrants that you want to fit in, you want to belong. So the first 4 to 5 years was assimilating, was denying my identity of being Indian born, of being Muslim, and trying to be like everyone else around me, which led to kind of whitewashing my own self, whether it’s the way I spoke, whether it was the way I said my name, like you say it perfectly, and I don’t have that Arabic accent, but it is an Arabic name.
Ruhee M: So even, you know, pronouncing the R’s differently, I had to change that to make it more palatable, saying my name shorter when ordering my takeaway coffee is like, No, you can just call me Rue. And when someone says my name wrong, or is it Ruby? And I’m like, Oh, fine, you can call me Ruby. So it’s kind of almost gaslighting myself and denying my own identity. And that journey in the last, I guess, the last 4 to 5 years again, has been unlearning all that, relearning aspects of my identity, my religion, my culture, learn what parts have served me, what parts have not served me, what parts I can use to serve the communities around me, whether it’s by way of education, inspiration or otherwise, and even learning from my own mistakes and failures. Now, when someone says, oh, you know, you can just call me this, I’m like, No, no, you your name is beautiful. And I see the power in saying your full name.
Aamon Sayed:I find myself doing the same as well, like seeking to like, know, like honor, you know, the, the amazing name and like, so much history comes with it. It’s like this. Amazing. Like you. You’ve been given so many gifts and you’re just like, No, no, it’s okay. Just to make it easier for someone else. It’s like, yeah.
Ruhee M: And exactly right. That making it easier is a big aspect of that because it requires emotional labor to be authentically who you are and that takes work. It’s like going to the mental gym, going that extra mile to educate someone, go out of their way to make them understand. For example, I’m a yoga teacher around why it’s not okay to go to a generic. Chain of fitness training and one of their exercises being called the Hindu Push Up and having to educate around why that’s not appropriate for certain cultures. And it’s that emotional labor that sometimes you can opt out of. But not all people have the privilege to opt out of that mental labor.
Aamon Sayed: How do you overcome? Some of the, um, because you mentioned that you felt like you spent a lot of time like whitewashing. What are some practical advices that you feel like others who fit into that space where they’re trying to, quote unquote, whitewash themselves in order to make themselves palatable for others? What’s some practical advice you can give to others that are experiencing that that situation specifically?
Ruhee M: I have an interesting opinion about advice in itself is that every person’s experience is so unique that. Any advice I give from personal experience might not apply to everyone 100%. But what worked for me was accepting myself as I truly am in all that I am in how that I am imperfections and everything, and learning about myself, about my own culture, about my own identities. Until very recently, I had no idea about the intricate details of, for example, the India-Pakistan partition. And I have to say pop culture is getting a lot of traction. And, you know, kudos to that. Like, for example, the Disney Ms. Marvel series, they portrayed that so beautifully. And for someone like me, like a 90s kid, I had no idea because it wasn’t taught. People didn’t talk about it. So it’s learning about your own self, about your own culture, accepting that intersectionality will always exist within you. We see a lot of people who are born in the Western world with, you know, cultures and communities of different backgrounds around the world, and they navigate the world differently than, for example, a migrant would. So it’s understanding that duality and it’s always going to be there. So I don’t have any, I guess, silver bullet practical tips there. But at first I would say acceptance in yourself. And the second part is. Acknowledging that the people around you will love you for no matter what. They will accept you. They will get curious about who you are without being annoying or inappropriate. And that’s okay. And you know, you’ll see that authenticity come through.
Aamon Sayed: Well, that perfectly leads into the next question was what role do family and friends and your support networks play in helping you develop and maintain your identity?
Ruhee M: I say fierce friendship is a good quality. I pick my friends very carefully. They’re all fierce friends and everyone around me who loves me, accepts me for who I am. I’m not perfect. And to be able to have conversations safely where you disagree, where you discuss opposing perspectives and points of view, but then still, at the end of the day, know that you’re loved no matter what. So for friends and family and allies. Be curious, not judgmental.
Aamon Sayed: Beautiful. Thank you, and last question. How do you envision a more just future and what role do you see yourself and your story playing in creating a just a just future?
Ruhee M: Oh, that’s a loaded question. Oh, my goodness. Um, the philosopher in me is like, define ‘just’.
Aamon Sayed: Well, the reason is it’s. It’s vague on purpose, I guess, because everyone will relate to that differently.
Ruhee M: Absolutely. And that’s the thing, right? Like… Justice Equity. We talk about it a lot in today’s time. But it’s challenging to define it because every person’s definition looks different. My role, I would I kind of go back and forth in I’m just a very tiny speck in the entire universe. But on the other side, I know I can also change the world. So it’s acknowledging that both may be true. And I hope that with what I do in my work and the skills that I have and the stories that I tell and the voices that I amplify and the friends that I make and the circles that I’m in. I hope that somewhere along the way people find strength and resilience and persistence in themselves, not because they want to be like me, but they learn from everyone’s hardship and know that with every hardship, there is ease.
Aamon Sayed: Beautiful. What an amazing way to end that. Thank you so much for your time, Rory. Um, I really hope that others that listen to this continue to grow and can find some inspiration or some gold in that. And I agree with you. I think storytelling is so powerful because like so many times in such such scary times, for some people, they can feel very alone. And when they hear others talk about their experience, even if it’s just advice for yourself, like from your own experience, some people can find connection there, and I think that’s really powerful. But thank you so much for your time.
Ruhee M:Very well put. Thanks for having me. It’s been an absolute honor and lovely to have this chat with you.
To share your story, or help tell someone else’s – email Rebecca at [email protected] for more information.