Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Shifting Continents

Baraka shared this very troubling trend of parents forcing Western raised desi girls into overseas marriages. They go under the ruse of an ailing family member or a cousin's wedding and soon the passport vanishes, strange male visitors come and go, and a wedding surreptitiously arranged. The British government is helping rescue these women. As they leave their homes their relatives cry out, "You have ruined us. You are dead to us." Though the girls felt relief it was accompanied with overwhelming guilt. I know a girl this happened to, sadly she did not run. Such is the pain of oscillating between two worlds.

It made me think about the hybrid cultures desi's create for themselves overseas. They want the new but desperately cling to the old. It is the struggle from which ABCD's are formed (American Born Confused Desis). How long does language and culture dangling upon a string stay put before it unravels?

I delight in new clothes from Pakistan, I listen to the music though much less as the years go on but even more importantly I have parents who lived in Pakistan and slept upon manji's and watched the stars on the rooftops. Who ate the sweetest sugar canes, and watched the elders smoke the hookah as a common place occurance not an event you pay 15.99 for in great "atmosphere". I can turn to them for a ready bastion of memories of the country that my skin, eyes and smile are a testament to. If my parents took me back to Pakistan they can show me where the land of my forefathers who with their blood, sweat and tears to establish a home and a life for thesmelves, where my father grew up and my mother went to school. These are first hand memories. They've done their best to give me my culture but its easy for them because it is who they are and despite their best efforts I am still a hybrid child. I speak Punjabi fluently, Urdu haltingly though coherently, yet my vocabulary in either is probably not even 1/10th of the fluency in English. Each generation becomes exponentionally a little more integrated and that is good in many ways as the US is a melting pot, but there is something about the beauty of each distinct culture that gives life flavor.

What about my children? Their relatives will live here with a life filled with experiences more West than East. If my language fluency is less, how much less proficient will they be? How much will they feel a kinship to the land where their anscestors lived for centuries? Will this make them more alienated from the megaculture since they cannot look to a parent to tell them exactly where they came from or will they eagerly cast aside the roots that grow thousands of miles away but nevertheless attach firmly upon their feet, their hands, their skin, their eyes? This past weekend my baby nephew danced with pure joy his hands flying in the air to hip hop not Lata, Rafi or Mukesh. He is cooed to in English and his parents know only this country. Will he get as confused as I did when people ask him where he is from?

It's this fear that grabs to the throats of parents who decide to take their children back home. Not realizing that the choices they made in coming to the new world, make such a backwards trot virtually impossible. Those who choose to Immigrate make an age-old sacrifice. They leap across oceans for hopes of a better life and future for their families. They leave behind parents, and friendships. Perhaps they did not realize you can only enter the new world with two suitcases worth of cultural baggage which inevitably grows lighter as the road grows on.

55 comments:

Jane said...

This is not a subject I can relate to really. As a third gen American, pretty much all of my ancestors' customs have been forgotten and lost, sadly. I'm sure it must be difficult to straddle two worlds. But how fortunate that you still have your language and traditions. I feel lost in some ways. Yes I am American but I am also Norweigan and Hungarian.

What these parents do to their daughters is so very wrong. No one should be made to marry someone. How very very sad for these women.

Aisha said...

Third generation means your great grandparents came from Norway and Hungary? Do you know how much of an effort was made to keep the culture? Though I have my culture... I'm a first generation... time will tell how it will last.

Enyur said...

Yeah, that's just wrong! One of my friend was forced to marry a guy in Pakistan. When she got their, they had a great ceremony (even though she wasn't happy with it, she was like watever!). Then when her parents left, the guys family took all of her jewelry and expensive clothes, made her do all the housework and threatened to kill her if she ever said a word to her parents in Canada! Fortunately, her dad decided to pay a surprise visit! Aftet that her dad brought her back here and got a divorce!!

p.s. your blog has a blank space/gap in the beginning...I had to scroll down to see this...not that I'm trying to be picky...just wondering if it's my browser?

Enyur,

Http://www.enyur.blogspot.com

Zack said...

Too many Pakistanis living in Britain get a spouse for their children from Pakistan, sometimes without the consent of the person being married. I haven't seen this trend much in the US but the Paksitani community here is much younger.

Aisha: You are 2nd generation. First generation are the immigrants themselves.

Jane said...

Your blank space has been fixed. Whatever you did worked.

Aisha said...

Enyur better now? Thanks for letting me know, that was weird.

Zack Thanks for correcting me I shall note it in my blog :)

Jane, thanks for letting me know Jane. That was so weird. I wonder what happened...

Jane said...

But the blog doesn't quite look like it used to either. The sidebar is definately different--it's blank until nearly the bottom. Check your template.

rehtwo said...

Hahaha. I seem to only listen to desi music nowadays...but more pop/rock-ish. Interesting post. I quoted you on my blog, but for completely different purposes. By the way, I'm still looking for a resource on dream theories for you

Enyur said...

Oye Mubaarkaan!!! It's fixed...although missy...your sidebars are missing now (please get rid of me lol!).

Unless you took it off on purpose.

rehtwo said...

Aisha -- no no! I am not offended! If anything, I'm jealous...I guess my point was more that people assume that I have an experience that's analogous to yours, when in fact I do not...I am grateful for what my parents provided to me, just as you are grateful for what your parents provided to you - though those two things are, culturally, quite different.

rehtwo said...

PS -- your blog is coming up fine for me. I'm using Firefox.

Enyur said...

Sowwy...no it's not showing up...rehtwo says it's fine on hers maybe it's just my browser I'm using Internet Explorer.

mystic-soul said...

This insecurity comes in parents who are not educated and can only see evil in "farangi" land. Fortunately immigrants in USA from SE Asia are more educated than immigrant wave of britain of 60s nd this problem is not as bad as in UK.

Assimilation is so natural that every generation loose effects more and more and hybrid into something new. Remember movie "Mississippi Masala" ?. And thats how nature evolves.

This is sheer low IQ to think that only our language, culture, music, religion and literature is superior. 2 weeks ago, I was so disgusted to walk in one desi pool club and see young FOBs from Pakistan completely lost in alcohol, smoke and probably weed. Would I prefer girl in my family to marry them just because they are from my country?. Just today, one of my bhabhi call me and was crying as her sister now back home has been treated like a naukrani and wanted to know what we can do. That family has ties to police and threatening girl in case she tries to go back.(Exactly as enyur said).

Accept or not, change is inevitable !! (except from wending machine..lol)

Aisha said...

rehtwo, its interesting to me how different all our experiences are... are you curiuos to explore your ethnic roots?

Enyur thanks so much for letting me know about my blog? IE doesnt work on my computer these days so I can't see how its messed up or not... *sigh* I'm as technilogically inept as they come so I hope it comes back. You should think about firefox btw, it's very good virus protection so far (knock on wood!)

Chic Mommy said...

Aisha, very interesting post. I think I might post about this as a future topic. My two cents, I don't think living in Pakistan makes you anymore "Pakistani" than if you are living abroad and being raised by open minded parents. Pakistan has changed dramatically from the time your parents lived there. Most kids there are not listening to Mukesh or Lata either, they are dancing songs by Atif, Ali Zafar or Sona Family (my kids are toddlers and love Glassy, they don't know it's about getting drunk, but they love the song anyway.)
I was born here, raised in Smalltown, U.S.A. where I was the only person in school who was neither black nor white (we had no Spanish or multi-culturalism) people thought I was mullato, or that Pakistan was in Miami somewhere. the ignorance! We live in Jersey now, where 70% of the state is desi so I don't think my kids are going to grow up confused much about themselves.

I can't believe those people selling their daughters into arranged marriages. that is just "jahil harkat" and very reprehensible.

Chic Mommy said...

Aisha, I know this may sound shallow, but we also have Zee TV and Geo and other desi stations on satellite. My kids get alot of exposure of both cultures via tv and visits with family and friends. and we speak both Urdu and English. We don't have rules like "only Urdu in the house" but just randomly, we'll sometimes talk in Urdu and sometimes in English. They understand both languages. Due to most of the programming we watch on the satellite though, like music shows and soaps, my son thinks all people do in Pakistan is dance and sing all the time or have fights with their in-laws.

Zack said...

chic mommy: I think living in Pakistan is the very definition of Pakistani, isn't it?

I do agree that a lot of the times, immigrants are stuck at the point in time when they moved away while the home country culture has changed in all those years. I have only been away from Pakistan for 8 years and already I feel like a foreigner when I visit.

About assimilation, it happens automatically over time unless barriers are erected. And even barriers only work when the majority population does not want to do anything with the minority. Regardless of what I do, my daughter is going to be a Pakistani-American and her kids will probably lose most of the Pakistani culture/identity. There's nothing bad about that; it is just a simple fact of life.

Mia said...

My mom had that happen to a friend she was sent to Egypt under the guise of making peace with her father and when she got there a marriage was already arranged for her. She got married two weeks after arriving there. The same woman recently tried to the same with her daughter telling her they were going on vacation but my mother caught wind of the plan via a relative and waged an all out war against what was being planned she even went to her friends husband and informed him of a fact he didn’t know. The teenager in question due to a custody agreement can not be taken out of the country without her American father’s consent and since the American father is very much a part of his daughter’s life the teenager told him what her mother had planned and he refused to give his consent to take her out there.

PS I use IE and I was having trouble getting on your blog as well. I’m starting to think it’s a blogger issue itself because your was not the only one I had trouble with.

Baraka said...

Salaam alaykum Aisha,

Beautiful ruminations...and from now on we speak in Punjabi!

Changa! ;)

Love,
Baraka

Aisha said...

Chic Mommy and Zack you're right that things change anyways in Pakistan as well. I didn't mean that my kids would have grown up listening to Lata/rafi in Pakistan but the culture is what I meant just sharing my own.

Chic Mommy that is actually a good idea to have those kinds of shows to help them with their language fluency and cultural understanding though like you point out it'd have to be balanced out since they do hav ea lot of fantasy about the culture as well :)

Zack yes its not bad necessarily. I'm born and raised in the US and a hybrid myself like I said. Do I wish I was just one or the other? No... I went back home to Florida though and I saw my nephew, before me were three generations and it just made me think how slowly the culture would trickle away.. just a reflection on a fact.

Mia, is this the aunt you told me about earlier when we were discussing Pinjar. Thank goodness there was intervention!

Baraka, lol fellow Punjabi huh :)

mezba said...

I can speak and write Bangla, but I would definitely pick up an English novel as compared to a Bangla one! I think though the only culture my parents wanted to go down to me was the Muslim one, but that too they told me what is right and wrong and let me take my own decisions.

However, I think most parents would freak out if you ever decide to marry someone outside your culture. I have seen some mixed marriages (only one successful and many others not so), and it really depends on individuals. I feel marrying someone from same culture is easier. There's already compromises to be made, and language is just an additional barrier.

Subhana said...

Ugh erm okay, well I belong to the 2nd generation here in Denmark, and I do see such stuff happening to fellow Pakistani girls even here in small Denmark, but of course not to the same extent as in the UK.

I am getting married in Pakistan, even though I was born and raised in Denmark. My parents always thought they'd marry me off with someone living in abroad, but nope that isnt gonna happen now :P. I'm not gonna be marrying into family since that trend has never existed in our family. Also, this was a very careful decision. We have to look at many factors. Eg, what kind of culture and surroundings the particular guy has been brought up in. I think that his culture and upbringing dont differ that much from mine, of course I'm not blind, I know I'm in a DIFFERENT continent! But I think as long as the "basics" milte julthay ho, NO PROBLEM! Also, I wont be living in Pakistan anyway, NOR in Denmark. He's gonna do his Phd abroad, probably Canada.

Southern Masala said...

A little piece of cultural pride will always be there. Even though the language fades, the clothes fade, and the food, etc, some pride will always remain. For example, in my family, we can trace our ancestors in this country to 1693 when they first came over from Ireland (generations before the waves of most Irish Americans who entered this country). We have been there since the very beginning, before this country even existed, but we still know that we are Irish (my grandmother's maiden name was McQuagge). And we still know some of the old songs and stories that have been passed down for generations. So even though we don't even have the surname any more (at least in my branch), we are still connected to that culture. Kind of strange isn't it?

Aisha said...

Mezba that's such a gift that you can read and write it. Do you think your kids will be as proficient?

Subahana wow I'd love to hear about your experiences growing iup in Denmark I'm curious how they differed from mine. Are tehre are a lot desis there? Is there a lot of tension with Muslims? And you're right Subhana I've seen people marry people from the other continent born and raised differently but if the basics are ther eof mutual respect and understanding and COMPROMISE one can be happy :)

Southern Masala, that's very comforting to know. Thanks for sharing that with me :)

Huda said...

You know, we had a huge discussion about this (people going abroad to get married, willingly or unwillingly) at my parents' house on Thanksgiving. The interesting part was that it wasn't just the kids doing the talking; the parents were involved too.

In any case, one of the points we agreed on was that many parents will take their kids back to India/Pakistan to get married because they think the kids here are "not good Muslims" or they "have something to hide" or "have already dated who knows how many people." All of which are ridiculous misconceptions.

Sometimes I think people get too wrapped up in the whole honor thing.

ayalguita said...

Aisha I'm loving your posts lately!!!:) My inlaws forced my sister in law to marry her cousin, she didn't want to, as she hated him, but my father in law threw an iron ot her head, so not much choice there...She has been trying to divorce him for years, but her family won't allow it, he hits her, abuses her, etc, but her own parents don't even protect her, but congratulate the husband for being like that, they are ignorant people without education. All of my husbands cousins ahve been married of in Pakistan eventhough they were brought up in the UK (as my sister in law) and only one of them is really in love with her husband and he with her, the rest..well, not very good. Also my husband was supposed to marry his cousin but ehem, i came along just before that hehehe.

Subhana said...

Aisha, keep an eye on my blog. I'll probably do a post about that once I get back from Australia :). I always thought of posting one about my upbringing in Denmark, but I guess your kick was needed :P.

Aisha said...

Huda, yeah I dont know what I think of overseas marriages because I have seen some people who are happy and some are not, I think it really depends on personalities. Ofcourse the above situation I described is horrendous and would be wrong whether theforced marriage was with someone here or there.

Ayalguita that is simply awful. That happenedto someone I know as well, and shewont leave.... Are these girls raised in the UK as well? You're right its coming from a lot of ignorance. Good for your husband to defy their commands! :)

Subhana will def keep my eye on it. Have fun in Australia:)

BBCD said...

Sis you always write the most brilliant and thought provoking posts *i take my hat off to you sis* and agree will your fears and hopes expressed in the post.

Tee said...

Well written, as always.

I read the article. 105 rescues last year - WOW.

I think it is cruel and unfair of these parents to expect their Americanized children to return for a traditional arranged marriage. You can have both worlds but only to a point - I think you're a great example of that. You managed to (and your parents managed to give you) the best of both worlds.

I empathize with the mourning of the "thinning" of culture/language through the generations. My sons are only 1/2 Salvadoran. We try to make sure they speak Spanish, eat traditional foods sometimes, etc - but growing up with an American Mom in the United States will definitly not make things very balanced.

ayalguita said...

yes Aisha, they are all born and raised in the UK. and they are all married to first cousins ,like my sil Salma and her husband are first cousins. What surprise me a lot is that with all this interfamilly marriages that they always do there is only one case of a child being born disable, as they mix for generations! But i have noticed many of them are quite slow, not very clever, so it might be down to this as well.

mezba said...

No Aisha, I don't think future generations will be as fluent as I am in Bangla. Nor will they listen to any Bangla songs (even modern ones that I listen to occassionally). Let's face it, I go more Bollywood than Bangla! Is it important? To me I don't think so, as long as they are good Muslims. However one of ur commentators was right, the pride will remain.

Enyur said...

Aisha - You're very welcome! Your bloggy looks normal now! By the way thanks for the advice...I actually went ahead and downloaded Firefox and it is pretty good! And IE is a little screwed up because when I open up your blog in IE now, the font on the sidebar is pretty big (at least 16-18 pt font). But it's fine in Fire Fox :o)

By the way you speak Punjabi too? That's cool!! I thought I was the only one lol!! Actually, I speak all three (Punjabi, Urdu and English) Usually use punjabi to spice up the stories or just to be funny heheehehe...

Later,
http://www.enyur.blogspot.com

Aisha said...

BBCD: awwwww thank you!

Tee, can you believe that there were 105 rescues? Imagine how many more werent? That gives me chills... I think you respect the culture that your children share in and they will always know who they are because you make the effort to show them bout this culture and the culture of their father. Do you speak spanish fluently?

Ayalguita, yeah there are lots of issues when people continuously intermarry for generations and generations.... Its really sad so many girls to this day are treated as such.. just chattel... but I heard today from a friend that this happens to men too... wow...

Mezba, i guess we can only do the best we can do and you're right, as long as the faith remains that is the most imporatnt.

Enyur, wow I thought *I* was the only one my age who spoke Punjabi :) Challo Punjabi vich gull kuree ay. <-- okay never mind... that was exhausting to type! lol

Enyur said...

Hey not bad!! Wait..you're 25 too? Why was I thinking you were older than me? (Main phir aisay he aapko baji keh rahi thi sorry I meant "keh rahi saan!" lol). I guess it's because you sound more mature and wiser :o) And yeah...Punjabi's cool...just harder to write using the English alphabet!

Oh and sorry...I almost left without mentioning why I came here...tuhaanu TAG jo karna see!! hehehehe (okay that sounded so weird!). Umm...yeah you've been tagged BUT I've kept it short and judging by the way you write...I'd be interested in knowing what your answers would be (you're a pretty deep thinker!) - I'm serious!

Anyway, check out my bloggy (I'm going to sleep now!) Later!

http://www.enyur.blogspot.com

rehtwo said...

Aisha -- is the hotmail address on your profile a good one to contact you at? I have some articles that might interest you...re: your "Twenty Questions" entry.

Bongi-Amma said...

Loved your post! It is something that i worry about....will my kids grow up wanting to learn urdu (I have an insanely deep love for urdu) and will i be able to pass that on to them? I always thought that if the parents have a deep rooted love of the language the children will inevitably pick up on it. I have seen the case to not be true and its hard to predict if they will or not. I have a friend who is pathan and crazy about pashto, as is his mother. But he has 3 siblings that cannot converse at a basic level in it despite his mothers greatest efforts. That kinda freaked me out and made me decide that id like to take my kids to pakistan for a few years like my parents did with me! anyway really long commenting here, i gots ta go! take care sis :)

mayya said...

last summer, my aunt shipped off her 22 yr old daughter to Pakistan in search of prospective matches, not that they had a dearth of proposals in canada, but because they thought that in Pakistan it'll be easy to find and ascertain if the guy and and his family is shareef, decent, khandaani, blah blah blah! Rishtas abounded and sadly most pakistani men were after my cousins english and fair complexion and the ability of my aunt and uncle to ship them abroad and help them find jobs *sigh*
gladly my cousin took a very firm stand and refused to marry anyone who wishes to come back and settle in Pakistan, probably it was the right thing to do, after living in different western countries all her life there's no way she can adjust here..

Aisha said...

Enyur- you can still call me baji:) I'm 26! :( I will check out your blog, maybe tomorrow I'll do a post catching up on all the tags :)

Rehtwo I rarely check that one, aishacs at gmail.com is a good one.

Bongi I've noticed the eldest child usually speaks urdu/punjabi/pushto/etc the best and the younger the kids go the less they know. Maybe parents get tired! I will make the best efforts I can but there is only so much that can be done I guess

Mayya, it's a very conflicting situatoin b/c parents only want best for their kids but often dotn know their kids well enough to know what kids want. Btw- are you not blocked, I heard that most blogspots are blocked by the pakistani govt?

wayfarer said...

great post! i think culture always comes up. Like my parents are probably 3rd or 4th generation american but i also crave to know how i got french, spanish, english, scotch etc blood. i think everyone looks backwards for understanding and that won't ever change. So our kids will not be so desi - but they will still know their culture. don't you think?

Tee said...

Aisha - I classify myself as a Spanish speaker as "fluent enough". LOL. I can talk about anything and everything even if my grammer isn't perfect enough to work as a translator for the UN or something. I have no trouble understanding and communicating, can read and write it - and even have corrected my MIL for misspellings. So, I'm not as perfect as a native speaker, or someone who grew up in a Latin home, but I'm not too shabby :D

Aamina said...

Apiiiii you were supposed to call me last night!

Aisha said...

I agree Wayfarer, and I think parents and gradnparents can also record memories of their experiences and that would be priceless for their great grand kids, and to come...

Tee that is sooo awesome. I used to be able to understand spanish fluently but overtime since I moved from Miami its barely there and it saddnes me.

Aamina- I didnt forget!!! I have your wrong phon enuber sitll. can you email me at aishacs at gmail.com your cell number. Sorry!!!!! :(

Bongi-Amma said...

hey i have changed my blog address to www.chroniclesofmania.com Hope you still visit :)

Bongi-Amma said...

i mean www.thechroniclesofmania.com

Bongi-Amma said...

oh gawdm, please excuse my idioticness, www.thechroniclesofmania.blogspot.com BUSS, last time i promise hehe

Enyur said...

LOL! Okay "Baji" wait, no I like Aapi better! lol! And about the tags...sure no problemo...whenever you get the chance! :o)

Take care!!

Maleeha said...

hey, nothing wrong with rafi and lata! though mukesh is my favorite :)

i have a different experience than you. i was born and partially raised in Pakistan and every time i go back to visit i feel a sense of belonging that i havent felt anywhere else. i think i will always want to go back and visit even if i didnt have any relative there (something my husband doesnt understand very well). the thing about gradually assimilating has literally been the story of my life and it hasnt been easy. i would want my kids to have some sort of identification w/ Pakistan, but at the same time i understand that they will always be more American than Pakistani. it still wont stop me from dressing them in shalwar kameez - not for school, but for eid ofcourse :) i really enjoyed this post btw, hits close to home (as far as immigrants assimilating go, not the forced marriage bit!)

Bongi-Amma said...

actually yeah thats probably the case. I have never understood it though, surely if the eldest can speak it then theres one extra person that can speak to the next one down in that particular language! I think id be pretty crushed if my kids could not speak urdu

Aisha said...

Bongi- will note the blog change, thanks for the heads up :) I agree if my kids didnt speak their desi tongue I'd be sad...

Aapi! lol I'm used to little cousins and brothers calling me that. lol

Maleeha maybe you could provide your kids wsith a similar experience, maybe not living there, but at least visiting frequently..

Aisha said...

I have a question if you're reading this, my blogger isnt letting me upload new posts. Did you see one titled procrastination nation?

opinionatedinjerzee said...

ok.. my family moved to the u.s when i was 2.. so i was born in karachi but i have no recollection of it since i didnt even talk... I talk perfect urdu now along with my english is perfect..No wierd accents.. my kids understand urdu but can barely speak it.. they sound just like the kids my bros and i used to make fun of.. now i have to put up with that... as for going back to pakistan or getting my daughter married off to someone overseas? not a freakin chance.. once you live here you cant go back.. i dont care how hard you try.. i went back for 6 months.. i got sick to the point i was 7 months pregnant and weighed less then i weighed before i got pregnant!! so even if the guy is god and rolling in money and belongs to a royal family..i will just say.. "not my daughter, thank you!!"

Enyur said...

Yeah mine was acting weird too yesterday!!! I thought it was only mine! I came to yours and left a comment on ur post "Procrastination Nation" apparently, it's not there anymore!!! :o(

Aisha said...

Enyur array firr likh they-o! (LOL Punjabi is HILARIOUS transliterated!)

Enyur said...

Awww...that was cute!! Tussi tay Barray mazaaki ho, barray mazaaki ho! hehehhee (K3Ghum)Yeah, I did post it again but I kinda forgot what I wrote yesterday! lol!!

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