Two and a half thoughts from Thanksgiving eve

  1. I always get a little bit emotional whenever I watch Hook. It reminds me far too much of my own childhood, where I could spend endless hours with my own imagination. I’d make a laptop out of my heavy blue notebook, following my mother around and pulling out it out whenever we had even a few minutes to sit down; I would daydream for ages, thinking of all my favorite characters from TV shows, books and cartoons, creating scenarios where I would save the day and be the heroine to end all heroines. I would frolic – like, literally frolic – in my garden in Lahore and pluck flowers, grass, seeds and berries, mashing them into elixirs that I would then taste-test. I determined that elixirs are naturally bad-tasting things, and that simply the act of making them was enough. Actually imbibing in my potions was optional. But here’s the part in Hook that really got to me: when Maggie sings, and sings with all her heart out at the moon. Goosebumps. I always tell people that I used to sing a lot as a kid, that I used to be a really good singer. Truth is, I was just less inhibited as a child, because I didn’t hold myself to standards that either I had set for me or that I had cultivated for myself based on the world around me. I could sing my heart out, forget about whether it was good or bad, and the confidence was all I needed. Now, even when I’m alone, I police my own singing. How ridiculous is that? I police my singing, my drawing, my writing, and in doing so, I run the risk of taking the fun out of my own hobbies. Refining your skills is extremely important, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as important as remembering how to enjoy the things you love doing. I nearly ruined drawing for myself; I still love singing in a group and aggressively screaming the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody or Vienna during karaoke nights; and writing is still my one of my greatest joys in life. Keep what you love close to your heart, and improve on it every day, but never compromise love for expertise.
  2. This is a slightly darker thought. In a way, I feel like I’m exposing certain people by writing this but the hope is that we are far too old to remember minute details of our childhood at this point. Pakistan’s demographics lean heavily towards the Muslim majority side. Only 1.8% of our population is Christian, but then, that’s a nice, solid 2,700,000 people. Pakistan’s a pretty big country. Anyway, I must have been 11 years old. I had a pretty good awareness of the world around me, being the budding future political science major that I was. I was also a voracious reader and pretty damn observant. So, I observed that a classmate of mine (who incidentally had the same name as me) wore the same necklace everyday to class. I had a feeling. One day, as we were playing during our recess, I noticed that it had slipped out from underneath the kameez of her uniform: a green, beautiful cross. I absolutely loved it. I wanted to know more. I had been reading a lot about Christianity and was fascinated by the religion. I’m not sure exactly what I said, it was either a really excited and sincere “Is that a cross?” or a nonchalant, feigning-at-tacit “What is that?” Immediately, her hand went to the cross, and her body language changed to a defensive one. Her voice didn’t change, but I knew the stream of conversation wasn’t going to put her at ease and make her feel as open as I was hoping it would. “It’s a medal,” she said, hurriedly. “…a medal?” “Yes.” I knew not to pry any further. Eventually, I think she became more open with me about her religion as we got to know each other better, but that was the day I realized what being marginalized meant. You could approach someone with the most sincere of intentions, but that doesn’t matter if you’ve been raised being told to be careful about your words and to keep your identity on the down-low. I understand that a lot better now, because it’s something I’ve been forced to experience. But back in Pakistan, I was supremely privileged – a Sunni-raised Muslim girl (albeit with strange Sufi family traditions) who fit the right demographics and had a family name that didn’t make people raise their eyebrows.
    1. I don’t think I have to explain what has happened recently to make me think along these lines, but I have just one thing to contribute: since coming to America, every time I see a police officer, my heart beats a little bit faster. I put on my most gracious smile, chirp a friendly “Thank you, officer! Have a good day, officer!” and put my head down to keep walking. I’m obviously brown, and that already puts me in a neat box to be scrutinized in. But I have the distinction of not being black. And that’s where my right to chip into the conversation ends.

That is all. Have a good day, everyone. Be careful, be kind.

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