Soon after my parents married, they immigrated to America from Pakistan. Their goal was to bring South-Asian culture here. But after 9/11, it became pressing for them to immerse my sister and I in American culture, while distancing us from the culture of our ancestors. So each of us made an active effort to forget the big and small pillars that founded who we were - from Eid and Ramadan to galub jamun and kheer.
Like many first generation children, my ethnic identity stopped being emphasized to prevent discrimination, and this continued until I was old enough to acknowledge that America was white-washing my family of its individuality. I realized this at disparate points in my life - like the time my sister was too embarrassed to take my mother to a school function because she was wearing shalwar kameez (and refused to wear 'American' clothes) or the time my dad corrected me at baseball practice on a word I said with a distinct accent - and thus I attempted to resuscitate my family's culture, while putting an end to our being watchful of one another deviating from American norms. It wasn't that we felt a double-consciousness; it was that there was one in place for us. We were American Middle Easterners, but the majority of onlookers saw us plainly as otherworldly terrorists. We were treated differently, harassed at airports, and even had the nastiest of comments said to our faces.
On October 16th, when my grandmother, Ami, was hospitalized for a heart condition, I decided my family was going to learn Hindi - my parents have forgotten much of the language, and I barely recognize phrases. It struck me that if Ami dies, no one in my family will be fluent in Hindi. We will lose our language, our cultural thread. I want to work to learn Hindi and South-Asian culture to give my future a chance - to be able to pass on who I am to my future family and the following generations. I want to show South-Asian families that we cannot lose culture because of fear. In this melting pot of America, the ironic trend is that in fewer years than we think, everyone will be the same, 'American.' There will be no distinguishable trait that will allow us to separate me from you.
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