Sunday, April 4, 2010

Don't Mess with

Image by Sunny Ali

Enough with the pork already. I had a non food-related thought.

I spent the last week thrashing around with four Pakistanis. Now, these guys aren't your everyday desi dudes. The one thing about myself, my bandmate Sunny Ali, and the guys from the Kominas, is that we're all musicians and music buffs. This one affinity somehow altered each of our paths, to the chagrin of most of our parents, whose respective upbringings were more concerned with the lower rungs of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Bringing their kids to the US meant opening up opportunities our parents never had, including the opportunity to explore our artistic sides and even value them over our education.

What a nightmare! Poor bastard born into a country like Pakistan, busts ass his entire life and makes it to America to start a family, only to see his son with bleached hair and a sweatshirt that constantly smells like weed. No aspirations, no drive, just music music music all the time. If you wanted him to be like you, you should've stayed in Pakistan, daddy-o. The world sees America as a land of opportunity, but you have to actually live here to see all its dimensions.

But not all desi parents are so unfortunate. Raising your kids with a strict regimen of salan-roti, Islamic Sunday school, and constant exposure to your 'communiTy' might also yield a perfect Pakistani American kid; one who focuses on his studies, doesn't drink, doesn't have hobbies, and remains a virgin living at home until he finishes med school or law school or his masters in engineering and marries his second cousin. It's this conception of the dream that I've been alienated from.

I identify as a Pakistani to some extent, but understand that to most Pakistanis, I'm the worst kind. My actions signal that of a self-hating Pakistani, rejecting whole sections of my culture, assimilating without looking back, casting away my heritage for the sake of ease. Ever since I started eating pork and being public about it, I doused the last ember of my ethnicity and have since descended into a gray area of the space between immigrant and second generation.

The scary thing for the 'communiTy' is that I'm not alone. There are plenty more first generation American Muslim kids who stared opportunity in the eye and banged its head like a drum. The cue ethnic identity takes from America is individual expression, and there's no standard for how much of your heritage you choose to keep. Who will define our minority in the next generation? I just hope it's not a bunch of nerds.

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