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It’s Time To Stop ‘Ghettoizing’ The South Asian Experience, Actor Says

Sarena Parmar is changing the narrative with her play "The Orchard (After Chekhov)."

HuffPost Canada

Narratives that explore the South Asian experience often focus around themes of marriage pressures, subservient women, and complicated relationships with parents.

But Toronto-based actor and playwright Sarena Parmar is hoping to change that.

"How can we be in narratives that are just about us being normalized in a Canadian context and not about our heritage and not about Bollywood and not about the fetishizing or exotification of our culture?" Parmar told HuffPost Canada.

On that note, the actress wrote her first play "The Orchard (After Chekhov)" based on her own experience as a South Asian woman growing up in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley.

The play — which debuted at the Shaw Festival and continues until Sept. 1 — is an adaptation of Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" and centres around a Punjabi-Sikh family trying to hold on to their family orchard.

Watch the video above to learn more about Parmar's work and why she thinks it's time to stop "ghettoising" the South Asian experience.

Parmar said she tried to stay away from themes of identity and assimilation in her play, but realized she couldn't escape them in the end.

"The more I shied away from it, the more it kept emerging in the play," she told HuffPost Canada. "And because I grew up in such an assimilated situation where 97 per cent of Kelowna [B.C.] was Caucasian and three per cent was other — other including South Asian, Japanese, First Nations — I understood the growing pains of that and the sacrifice of that."

"It was funny. It was like the thing that I was running from was the thing that the play was trying to say all along."

Born And Raised is an ongoing series by HuffPost Canada that shares the experiences of second-generation Canadians. Part reflection, part storytelling, this series on the children of immigrants explores what it means to be born and raised in Canada. We want to hear your stories — join the conversation on Twitter at #BornandRaised or send us an email at

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