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Author: Jasminder Bahia

Decolonizing our Selves is a wild journey packed with honesty, unlearning, and the gutsy move of owning our ancestral truths. It’s like a wildfire, facing our past demons, embracing the messy, beautiful parts of ourselves, and tearing down those old colonial webs that’ve been messing with our heads. It’s like shedding an old skin—ditching all the junk we’ve been force fed and rediscovering our true selves. Kicking butt and dismantling the messed-up systems that’ve been holding us back.”

Dr Jennifer Mullan

a steady base – a home-from-home

Image of Jasminder BahiaAs I travel into the Big Smoke, I navigate the trains, tubes, and buses as I co-teach the weekly BAATN Decolonising Therapy course. I’m graciously welcomed into my father-in-law’s home in London. I have all the luxuries I need: a warm bed, a safe place to rest and reflect, and these walls provide me with a steady and solid foundation. A place of quiet, unconditional love, I feel grateful and lucky.

Within these four walls, I have the safety to explore the many layers and processes of identity, ‘belonging’ – the moments and spaces that define ‘home’. This personal narrative weaves together my British-born Sikh Punjabi heritage within the theme of social context. Reflecting on life shaped by the forces of culture, politics, and economy and witnessing the processes and power of decolonisation,

Arriving here from Nottingham was a journey not just of miles but of memories and moments as if I timelessly transitioned from one part of my life to another. Stepping into this London home, I’m greeted by the life it has witnessed, its dance through time, and the changes it has embraced.

This house was once bursting with life—children, pets, and every room taken. Now, it’s just my father-in-law; though guests still come and go, amidst life’s transitions, life continues to weave through this home.

This roof, much like for those before me, shelters and supports my personal growth and reflections. I feel the shifts that life’s arrivals and departures have imprinted on this home. At the same time, I sense this within my own body, mind, and spirit. The physical structure of our homes and the bodily homes within us bear witness to our past, present, and future, intertwining our material, physical, and spiritual existence.


let the tears flow

home body rupi kaur –
“what we live through
is living in us”

The physical body — another home – feeling safe in my body is important — home in my own skin. I reflect on the theme from this evening’s session, present in my heart and mind. Our sessions always end with a simple grounding ritual, and as we sat with the words ‘let the tears flow,’ these words seemed to echo the felt experience.

The theme for this week was the social, cultural, political, and economic impacts on our lives – on our upbringing. How we are moulded from a young age, according to the European societal rules and ‘norms’, the ever-present political pressures to conform and fit into a world …. where people do not look like me, a British-born Sikh Punjabi woman. Is this country even my home?

A place—this place, this country—is not my ‘home home’ in the true meaning, but my birthplace. It has shaped me into a version of a person who would be able to tow along and desperately squeeze myself to fit in, not realising the cost of what I was squeezing out of myself.

In the process, forgoing some sense of cultural identity and pride, to ensure that the backlash of not fitting in wasn’t as severe. Harsh, I internalised the shame, the oppression, and racism – in my body, my home, allowing it to permeate every sense of self.

My thoughts, my clothes, my language, my education, all of me – swept away with the promise of a better future in this bleak country.  The cold, the damp, the hostility, the harshness, the violence and abuse thrust upon Black and Brown families, all trying to make a home.


the cost of a material home

So, what did I learn? Perhaps most chillingly I have learned that the biggest perpetrator of racism in the UK was not the National Front member on the street but actually the state. From elected politicians, to laws, (especially immigration laws), to the police force, healthcare and even the education system, the state was the biggest perpetrator and supporter of racism. Not to be outdone it was followed closely by the media

Preeti Dhillon – The Shoulders We Stand On.

Yet still, we counted our blessings. How lucky we all were to live in England, the home of the British Empire. Surely, everyone knew the importance of living in the home of colonialism. We had landed on our feet, hadn’t we?

How lucky to be in the place that had ruled India, and here we were, living there, able to make some money. The economic impact, the financial struggle and the strain on immigrant families are costly – yet we can make a good living and send money home, but at what cost? To educate the children, subtly—and not so subtly—eroding them of their identity; the goal was to confuse their identity – assimilation comes at a high price.

How lucky we are to live in a country where you don’t fit in culturally, and the smells of your home-cooked food are sneered at, at least until it becomes the (wrong type of) national dish.

An education that taught me all about Winston Churchill and a reminder of how lucky we are to be here in the Great British Empire – as where would we be without him?

How lucky we were to have this British education, a consistent daily reminder that we didn’t belong. Our history books were void of any people of colour, stories of the countries that Britain had colonised, the history of the East India Company, indentured workers, stories of partition, or the Queen’s jewels.

How I wish I knew that my mother’s knowledge was more powerful than the political and social systems that found their way into my body… She told me the Queen’s jewels belonged to India; my young colonial mindset doubted her wisdom. Surely the school would have shared this knowledge. From early on, the learning helped you doubt the elders and their lack of colonial British education – the duplicity had begun.

How lucky we were to know our place, even as small children, instinctively and intuitively in our bodies, sensing we didn’t fit in. Yet unconsciously, each act within your demeanour was desperate to belong—often feeling the outsider. Grinding into your being, beginning to deny your heritage to the point all you wanted were the same clothes, aspirations, and ‘white freedom’ everyone was so lucky to experience!

Reflecting into dormant feelings and sensations with an intuitive awareness, the steadiness of my father-in-law’s house soothes and galvanises my soul. It’s a place that not only comforts and calms but also reawakens and energises my inner self, offering me the freedom and wisdom to reflect.


reclaiming your home

home body rupi kaur

“i am not a victim of life
what I went through
pulled a warrior out of me
and it is my greatest honour to be her”

Some things could never be taken away from us, no matter how hard the colonial system tried to suppress us. The frozen food and plain dinners could never outshine my mum’s homemade cooked meals—delicious flavours, spices, warmth, and freshness that filled my belly and soul. The power of paath (Sikh prayers), the mantras, the meditations, the weekly visits to the Gurdwara; that deep, strong sense of identity connected to your ancestors reminded you that you belonged somewhere, even if you didn’t fully know where.

The deepest love from parents, the ability to thrive in your own culture and language, the giggling and fun with cousins, the humour, the laughter, the dancing—oh, the dancing! Punjabis do love to dance.

Shared spaces

How lucky I am to have been educated in the British colonial system, and despite their deliberate pushbacks, we learned, we grew, we grew strong. The power of knowledge—how learning, unlearning, and rethinking—would guide me in the search for inner freedom.

And the freedom I sought out was echoing through the community, reaching the Jamaican family that lived above us in our first home in West Bromwich. Within these four walls, as Black and Brown families lived together, we navigated our strength and sense of belonging. We had power and strength in collective community, and despite the intentional, politicised setbacks from Maggie, we still found our voices, our culture, and our language.

Perhaps that’s why I have a fondness for old houses; they were spacious and stable, yet each room was brimming with family life. My Uncle’s family (Chacha), my eldest brother and his new bride, each found a room to call their own. Speaking Punjabi at home, and the Jamaican family elders teaching me my first English words—these are the cultural influences that nurtured me, our own version of Britain – our home.

We’re Here Because You Were There’

Ambalavaner Sivanandan

As we boldly sit in this decolonising counselling skills course, we watch the peeling and collective healing unfold amongst the participants and the tutors; we are in this together.

Collectively, we receive and release as we proudly and, at times painfully, reclaim our identity, our culture, and our rightful place. We feel at home in our bodies, our spirits, and our souls. We arrive home in the healing, reflecting circle.

This week’s theme on social context reminds me of the importance of listening… listening to our souls, speaking slowly, and knowing what it’s like to be truly heard. When we listen with our hearts, it soothes us, it soothes our collective psyche.

And when we speak, we speak on many levels…  for our ancestors and for the families and friends who never had a voice. We speak, we pause, we share, and we process all layers of our being, for our communities, past, present, and future. With each moment, we begin to reshape the influence of our social context and reclamation; this is the power of decolonisation. This is the power of being home.

These reflections form part of the BAATN Introductory Certificate in Counselling Skills: Decolonising Therapeutic Practice course – Session 3 of 10

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