Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Identity, Immigration, and being a "Muhajir"

I lived in Nigeria (14), Pakistan (10 yrs), and now the US (17 years as of this week). It has been an interesting journey. In fact, a lot of my life has been a journey of sorting out identity. I used the opportunity to spend the middle third of my life in Pakistan itself to ground myself in that culture—but even today, it's an evolving, changing thing. Today, I am the parent and uncle of people (one is officially an adult and in college as of this week) of Americans, but, and this is the one unmitigated joy of my life, rather well-rounded, well-grounded ones who know from whence they are their folks, as we say in America, are coming from.

When I was in my early/mid-teens I once asked my father about all the immigrating and migrating our family had been up to in the last 3/4 generations (from Bara Banki District to Lucknow District to Karachi to--for a while--West Africa and back to Karachi and later to the US). His response was one misra from an old sheyr:
hai tark-e-wathan sunnath-e-rasool-e-khudha

(forsaking [one's] homeland is a tradition of The Prophet of God)
Whether you want to take it in a religious direction or not, the lesson I took from it was that it's a prophetic thing; embrace it, own it, be it. Muhajir for Eva! [And that's not a political statement; remember, the MQM itself has moved on from Muhajir to Muttaheda] 
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