Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Table Talk - Identity

So this collegue from work her friend and their dorm mate went out to dinner at Mirchi and I ended up going with them .... Belal (he spells it Bilal actually), is a Pakistani-American who is in the process of becoming a full-fledged American, is the sort of guy who loves to indulge in intellectual dialogue ... maybe without realizing that his discussions may actually qualify as intellectual musings.
Clemmy is here not because she thinks that the 'Gorra Saheb' did great injustice to the Muslims of the subcontinent and that she needs to give something back but because she wants to be here and it would look great on her CV.
Same is the case with Cecili (I hope I spelled it right) whose wearing a rather exotic necklace tonight. This is probably the second time we r all together. Hey! we could start having our own GTs now :p
So somewhere between the cheese na`ns and the spicy palak and my philosophy on how palak (spinach) is more spicy with the na`n when compared to having it without one, we started talking about 'identity' and how it is so hard to define what it exactly is.
To me identity became an issue only recently, because a few months ago a friend of a friend came to me asking for help on a speech that was all about identity and how to preserve it and I started thinking on the lines what exactly identity would be. She, the friend of a friend, was of the view that our culture is mostly borrowed from the subcontinent and we are very much influenced by the west. So if we are to preserve our identity then would that simply mean to encourage people to learn Sindhi, Balochi or Banghrra dance? In a nutshell we arrived at the conclusion that there should be much more to identity than just that. I never followed up on how well she did at the debates but the issue got wedged into my head forever.
Clemmy's point of view was that identity is to be recognised through small gestures as being part of a culture. To her the British customs of saying "please" and the general politeness and conservatism of the British culture is what her identity is.
I don't know ..... I'm still not convinced that if this is all that is to identity then what is it that we are supposed to safegaurd?
Then the talks took an interesting turn and Belal said, "So Clem, what would you call a guy born and raised in the UK but coming from a Pakistani family..... would you consider him? A Pakistani-Brit or a British-Paki?
Guess what she said ..... She took an awkward pause with her jaw half-drooping, as if a word she had meant to say would not come out .... and then with an err and a squint of an eye, she said, "I would consider him a Pakistani-Brit, even if he was born and raised in UK, I would never consider him a Brit first and then a Pakistani..... she was as new to this thought as we were .... maybe that's why she and Cecili weren't that keen on having sweet-dish (humaree sweedish). That reminds me Mirchi has some yummm Shahi-Tukrre (that would be royal-bits if literally translated).
I had to catch a bus to isloo the same night so after unseccessfuly trying to gracefully exit a few times I did the "time-out" ritual and poofed away.... I do wonder at what note the discussion might have eventually ended .... hmmmm ....

1 comment:

Tahereh Sheerazie said...

we're all floating in this same 'identity' crisis - those of us with ethnicities that are not of the majority (where we live)or children of mixed marriages - from the high profile politicians of the world to us ordinary folks, each of us has identity baggage to carry - hell you sons of the soil do as well.
i think, what drives you as a person, what gives you your integrity, your humanity, your soul, is your identity.
grappling with external identities - i say please and thank you if im british, or invite any stranger to my home for a cup of tea if im pakistani, the language you speak, or the food you eat, etc etc - is only robbing yourself of finding your core - the you that makes you "You".
- "na mein hindu, na muslim na turk peshawri-------" bulle shah got it right, not to mention rumi and hafez and saadi and those gifted men of God.