Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Rollin' Stone

A friend mine wrote an article some time ago regarding identity on his blog Ceiling Zero. You can read it here. It was basically concerning how he feels having grown up in various parts of the world and where other people might consider themselves to be “from” having shared a similar upbringing. I basically saw the article as an invitation to discuss how we identify ourselves. This article prompted a flood of essay writing in the posts that were all very personal, brave, and revealing. Some people were confused while others were confident. But they all spent time looking within themselves for answers before penning their opinions.

I personally did not contribute my views to this discussion as I felt quite comfortable to observe and learn. I guess there were times in my life where I have been equally confused but I know now that I am who I am and that changes quite regularly. I am comfortable with where I come from, my heritage, and my cultures. Although all of these things are only a part of whom I am. I felt I had nothing positive to add to that discussion but the comments were eye openers and reminders to me. And above all else I got a glimpse into how some of my closest friends experience a part of life.

The other night I was watching something or reading something that prompted a new question in my mind. The older character had spent some time with a younger one, trying to revive the culture within him. The younger had been in the US for 15 years and was loosing touch with his heritage. Though a sequence of events the older man found himself on his deathbed and he said to the young man. I am going home. Do not forget where your home is because when you die your soul has to find its way home.

I am a Sindhi by birth. My mother in Sindhi and my father is Sindhi and so were their parents. What is a Sindhi? Well there is a shit load of information on the internet about whom, what, and where Sindh and Sindhi’s are. Rather than regurgitate that information here I would rather write about what I think I know which is probably going to demonstrate how misinformed and ignorant I am about my own culture. The Sindhi’s originated from the area of Sindh, which was located along the lower delta river of the Indus Valley. Some people say this is one of the world’s oldest civilizations. What I know by word of mouth and current reading is that my Grandparents lived in an area still called Sindh that is located inside Pakistan’s borders. When India and Pakistan separated in 1945-46 (I am not positive when) the Hindu’s were driven out of Pakistan and I am sure some Muslims were driven into Pakistan as well. There were violent tragedies but shit happens, that’s human nature. My father was carried out by his parents on top of the box car of a train into India. It was the last train that made it out so they narrowly escaped. He was one year old.

Most Hindu Sindhi’s have spread out across the world after that because they had no real place to call home. I know Sindhi’s living in places you might never have heard of. We are known for being shrewd business men and sharp entrepreneurs. Many Sindhi’s have grown to be extremely powerful and successful in their new homes. But in essence we are still nomads. My generations have grown up educated, and in these trying times are searching for an identity which they can sometimes not find. There is actually a publication out of Hong Kong called Beyond Sindh which is reaching out these confused minds and offering answers. I subscribe to this magazine and I am surprised to see how many young Sindhi’s are actually interested in their culture and heritage. There are various other publications and websites that tie the community together. With all this in mind, the question of identity is wide spread and important to address.

My mother was born in Ghana, my older sister in Japan, and me in Canada. Her kids were just born here in Indonesia. Not one of us except my father in India. And in a part of India that mo longer is part of India. However, none of these facts confuse me about whom I am because these events are what shaped who I have become. And I would not rather have it any other way. I have no desire to feel patriotism towards one country. I do not want to be generally categorized, although I am. I am fortunate that I can speak 4 languages. And over all I feel like a citizen of planet Earth. I am in touch with my heritage and proud of my culture. It is important to have roots and I can pass what I know on to my children. But that will only be a small part of who they become. But after hearing that statement the other night… Do not forget where your home is because when you die your soul has to find its way home.

I don’t know if I believe in God, the soul, or the afterlife. But I asked myself, where is home? If my soul had to rest in one place, where would it be? I don’t think I can look at this question like thinking about where I would like to buy a house and settle down for the next 20 years. Hell I couldn’t even answer that. This home should be the place where you can spend eternity. If I had to answer I would say Ghana. I grew up there and that is where my heart is but that is only if I HAD to choose. I am just as content being detached I guess. Just BEING… I really feel no attachment to any one place, just to people. Shoots, if I could I would rather just linger around where all my friends and family are in the after life. Even in the afterlife, if there is one, I would not want to be tied down and laid to rest. I actually hope I can transport myself from a beach in Maui out to a mountain top in Chile and then to the Grand Canyon, all in seconds. Rolling stones gather no moss so I guess I just gotta keep on moving and give my family the exciting nomadic experience that I grew up with. Would you have it any other way?

How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
- Bob Dylan


Pantani's 2nd Cousin said...

enjoyed this post. interesting read.

AmitD said...

keep rollin my friend.

ival said...

Great post yaar...I definitely agree with it. I think we have transcended that part of life which belonged or identified with someplace or someone. We are the result of our experiences and no place, or culture, or experience tells us to just hold on and not evolve or change. I think its just human nature to move around. It is happening more and more. Our families went through it, we are all going through it with the changing global economy. My dad went to Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and then settled down in Singapore. And then went back to India and then went back to Singapore....papa was a rolling stone...

Avi said...

I guess even I have to take a shot at somthing thought provoking every once in a while.

I think Lavi says it right with "we are the result of our experiences".

Amit, I am gonna keep rollin those blunts!!

Jax said...

The question of identity is an interesting one. And I think it's awesome that you actually looked at and talked about it from the opint of view of community...the Sindhi community. And the realization that you ended with, I mean, that of how we are who we are not because of the places we've been, but the people we've met and gotten to know...that is something that I think a lot of the people of the 'present generation' feel that. Our parents had roots because they were still brought up in their homeland...well, most of our parents anyway. But in a way, they were the 'transitional' generation. The world was opening up at the time of their birth, World War II had just changed the way countries perceived and interacted with each other. Colonialism was waning, and people discovered the mobility of the mid to late 20th century. Most did it out of sheer necessity, but they didn't really forget about where they came from. But us? I don't know...personally, I know that there is a family house that I visit and there are relatives around the place (Kerala...that is)...but the question of where my soul lies, well, that's a tough one and a no brainer at the same time. Tough because if I think about it, it brings up things like possible familial obligations, and heritage, etc. No brainer, because I'm pretty comfortable where ever I go. I kind of love the wandering really. It's sort of like a 'no-identity' identity.