Thursday, October 29, 2009

Embracing Your Identity

I always knew that the way we carry ourselves reveals volumes about us, our identity, our beliefs, and everyone whom we represent, but it is only recently that I started understanding and believing this wholeheartedly. Everything is about how we present ourselves to our viewers, to our audience – whoever they may be. If we are ashamed of who and what we are, we will shy away from talking about ourselves and hence misrepresent our culture, religion, people, families, and – most importantly – ourselves as individuals. It is outright pitiful for us to portray ourselves as such. Every culture has its faults, but those faults should not become a source of shame for us and create fear in us of admitting who we are, whether to ourselves or to other people. Instead, the faults should encourage us to unite so that we can work on improving ourselves as one entity.

Let me attempt to give some examples. Some years ago, when Aishwarya Rai had just gotten engaged to Abhishek, the world was told that "Bollywoord Star Marries a Tree!" (obviously intended in an insulting manner). At that time, I myself thought, "Wow. How backward! Why would you marry a tree? What’s the point of this?" Even though I knew that their Hindu beliefs are such that if the believer’s astrologer tells her/him that "you should not marry ~such and such person at such and such time~," but the person still wants to, then this person will be cursed. And the only way to remove the curse is for the woman to marry a peepal or banana tree before tying the knot with her husband. (Of course, it’s much deeper than this, and I’m giving you only my understanding of it, which may not be the correct one, but I hope it’s at least close to correct.) Anyway, so I’m saying this here because I wanna say that I’m VERY proud of Aishwarya for doing this, even if her reasons were different than her desire to represent her Hindu identity – even though feminists in India rose against her, saying, "We’re trying to fight for your rights so you can be a free woman, but YOU! Of all the Hindu women in the world, YOU, a ‘forward-thinking’ woman, are doing something this backward, imprisoning yourself by marrying something as ridiculous as a TREE?!" It just shocked everyone that someone as educated as Aishwarya would do something as "backward" as that. No one stopped to think that perhaps she found nothing wrong in the practice, that perhaps it was her way of connecting with her religion and deeply-rooted culture.

Oh geez, so much for being feminists, yeah? Whatever happened to giving the woman the right to choose for herself? If an individual chooses to do something that’s not going to harm anyone else, why should anyone be against it? And why SHOULD we see her marriage to a "tree" as "backward" in the first place? I mean, who are we to decide that it’s backward? And what the hell does it mean to backward in the first place – doing something that the Western world doesn’t approve of? Good God! Must we really have other culture’s permission in order to carry out our own customs?

Now, I said that I’m proud of Aishwarya for having done this. Why, you ask? Well, because she dared to stand up for her beliefs that are not accepted as "modern" or
"progressive" and chose to stick with her tradition. (Sure, some may argue that she’s not the most traditional Indian woman there is, and I understand that, but right now, I’m talking only about this “barbaric” marriage of hers.) She basically uplifted her traditional values and taught the world that “NO one has a right to define the concept of ‘backwardness’ and ‘progression’ for you if you wish to remain true to yourself, your people, and your culture.” Were it something that would place her or someone else in danger, then, yeah, okay, that’d be a problem, and I’d understand why the world would try to raise a hell over it, but that wasn’t the case. Something like Swara (marriage through blood money, sort of), for instance, is something that doesn’t need to be practiced because it involves the forced marriage of an innocent victim.

Another example.
Ghani Khan loved us (:D:D We're SO lucky to have had him!) in spite of our faults. He wrote in The Pathans, “I love them in spite of their murders and cruelty, ignorance and hunger. Because he kills for a principle and cares not who calls it murder. He is a great democrat.” (Oh my God! Ghaneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Come baaaackk!!) (I read this book online, so I don’t know which page number it’s on, but it’s in the Conclusion section.) How can you love something in spite of its fault? Oh but you can! It’s a matter of appreciating your own self first. It’s a matter of publicly representing yourself and your people to the world.
It’s wearing your own traditional outfits and going out in public in them with a smile of pride on your face.
It’s, in case of Muslim women who cover their hair, wearing the hijab and saying with a smile, “This is who I am. I have nothing to be ashamed of, and I love myself this way. I’m comfortable with myself this way. I feel better with my hair covered, and even if I may look ugly to others, at least I look beautiful in the eyes of my God, my Creator.” It's, in case of some Muslim women, covering your face because you *believe* it's your way of feeling closer to God or attaining the highest form of modesty, and as long as you are happy doing it, no one should object to your right to cover up that way.
It’s, in the case of devout Muslims, praying five times a day even when in the company of people who fail to understand why one would prostrate to an Invisible Being, and saying, “My God comes before everything else. Praying is my way of disciplining myself, my way of managing my time, my way of reminding myself that life is ephemeral.”
It’s, in case of devout Christians, going to Church every Sunday and saying, “My God deserves at leas this much attention from me; it is my obligation to make Him see that I have no one else but He to turn to in times of suffering, and this is how I thank Him for being there for and with me during those times.”
It’s, in case of Hindus, waking up every morning to perform pooja, knowing that this practice defines who they are, gives them hope, and adds meaning to their lives.
It's, in case of Jews, not performing certain activities on Saturday because it's the Sabbath Day and certain rules should be adhered to on that day -- it's doing it without a problem, knowing that you have just as much a right to do as your religion command as everyone else does with theirs, whether the rest of the world thinks it's fine or not.
It's, in case of the Amish people, not using certain (or is it all?) technological items because you simply don't believe in it, and telling people, "I can do without it. It's not a problem for me. And I'm perfectly okay with this. You don't have to try to get me to do it your way!"
It’s, in case of females who wish not to show any skin, going to a public swimming pool while fully dressed and not feeling awkward about it.
It’s, in many people’s cases, accepting and appreciating the idea of arranged marriages, knowing that they have more benefits than harms (for the most part, for many people – not for everyone), in 2009 and beyond without feeling as though they must give in to other forms of marriage just because everyone else around them doesn’t accept arranged marriages as the norm anymore.
It’s a matter of letting people know that you have NOTHING to be ashamed of, and you’re going to embrace your identity as it is; it’s about letting the world know that you represent someone, something, and are going to do it proudly and perfectly – that you’re going to be the example that later generations will want to look up to.


  1. nice.. good thing about pathans is that they are proud of their identity and back ground. You know once a pathan, always a pathan.

  2. Qrratugai, I am smiling this broad. :D
    Up until now, life seemed to me like driving at night in the fog, with its all blur of ambiquity, where I could see as far as our headlights, and was probably intending to make the whole trip that way. Thanks to you for figuring out the top priority for me, for pointing out the direction. This "role clarity" which you have created for "yourself" I want it for all Pukhtun women!

  3. Nicely written!!!

    I would add-up my part that although in real life for certain people, because of the societal pressures or other factors, its a bit hard to embarce ones identity but as you mentioned "It’s a matter of letting people know that you have NOTHING to be ashamed of, and you’re going to embrace your identity as it is". One has to better understand ones own identity, remove the fear of ones own inner self and should have that confidence/self pride in his/her own identity.

    I just remember a quote I once read about Identity;
    "If most of us remain ignorant of ourselves, it is because self-knowledge is painful and we prefer the pleasures of illusion"
    (Rishtya kho ye wailee :))

    *About the Amish: not using 'certain' is correct as some of them, because of the commercial/trade necessaties, have changed and embraced the modern technologies...:)

  4. ~ Tiger Khana, welcome! Glad to have you join us! :)

    ~ Spongmai tror! I can't imagine what in this post made you smile that broadly, but all that matters is that it did - and I won't question it ;) Khudey de hamesha pa shundo dagha shaan khanda laree, da Gulono Khaaperai!

    ~ Khugmanda! You know what? I struggled with this whole idea of identity for a few years. I think from the time I was 17 till 21, I absolutely HATED Pukhtuns. I basically was running away from them because of the high rate of illiteracy and ignorance amongst us. And then it hit me -- I'm running away from the problems we're facing instead of actually helping them! And now, now I understand our most Beloved Ghani Baba, who loved us and wanted the best for and is for me a great example of what means to be a patriotic and loving Pukhtun.

    So I totally understand with you mean about how one has to better understand one's own identity and find one's inner self. It's true, and that's the first step to appreciating oneself the way one is.

    It's also true that "we prefer pleasures of illusion" since self-knowledge is painful, LOL. As they say, "Ignorance is bliss." (To be honest, though, I don't think ignorance is bliss. :S Or maybe just not for me. Learning isn't an easy thing to do, neither is accepting an opposing view or thought and appreciating it. The girl I am today gave me headaches about 2 yrs ago, LOL. I'll explain in another post. Perhaps it'll help some Pukhtun-hating Pukhtuns realize what I've realized.)

    And, yeah, I watched a show on Arthur (my all-time favorite cartoon :P) once that featured the beliefs of the Amish. Of course, it's not the best idea to accept that as the truth, but I think in general, it's true that many of them believe that way while others are adopting more modern technologies.

    Thanks for your thoughts, guys! Loye khaze/sari shai :)

  5. Qrratugai, gappona mu hum der da Khugman wror mailmastya mu hum da khapala wasa poorey pa kha shaan it is high time to discuss the goals that we have set ourselves. The things that we want to do together and which we have been discussing for hours and hours for the past couple of months. Kana sanga? I would recommend you please open a separate entry for those goals!

  6. I am going to, Spogmai :) The next entry will be about nothing but that. See, I posted something in KW and FB called "How can we help re-build our land?" And that could be for other readers to get idea of what they can do, but for me and you, we can discuss what we'll do together ourseles, ka khairee, as well.

  7. Da la bala!.........Che wakh da kaar raghae no Qrratugai da spogmai da tlo sochona shoro krru ao goree na che Spogmai wersara khwa ke da..:)
    It seems you guys are seriously working on what you had been discussing here in these comments, thats wonderful!!(It means you are totally different from those arm-chair analysts/ nationalists soke che da dasey khabaro na hasey khwanduna akhlee:)..... JO dey ta wayee da kar kawalo ao da khpalo khalqo da madad jazba. Buss Khudai dey mung tolo ke dagha jazba paida kee che da khpalo ghareebo ao bewassa khalqo pa sa na sa shakal ke madad okoo (Ameen!).
    I think I shouldn't be discussing personal stuff here so I beg your pardon Qrratugai:) but its just for the sake of encouragenment of fellow Pukhtana. I'm myself working on a project/ presentation to be sent/presented to an international organization to secure funding for the girls schools/poor students of Swat (nore da haghwee kaar dae che sanga ye kai ao da cha pa zaria ye kharch kai)......had trouble finding relevant material to make a strong case especially about the destruction of my 'Alma mater' there but finally found something on youtube and really I wept at seeing the destruction...... jwanday de wee youtube:). Dua kawai che hagwee owaee "Che qabool dey" :)
    Kho da staso kho hum poora interesting mansoobey khkaree........I'm sure you both you'll do something of true value, just keep up that helping spirit!!

  8. @Khugman~ Na Khugman wror munga charta na mata communication gap khkari
    Unless I am mistaken we intend to discuss all those things that we want to do right here on this very blog a new section

  9. Spogmai pa kam jahan ke da, ao Qrratugai pa kam jahan ke ~cries bitterly, non-stop~

    Kha, wadrega, I'm posting the new blog.

  10. Khogmanda! That's a grand cause! May God reward you for your efforts in helping us! I'm interested in doing the same (or similar) things, so we can further that cause of yours and give it a louder voice together.

    The thing is, I have too many goals ... but I wonder how I'm ever gonna accomplish them. And some of them would require me to stay in Swat for at least a little while to ensure that my plans are working. Khudey de khair ke . . .
    A good start will be to get something done where I am right now (the U.S.). And I can't do much except at school, so I'm planning an event with a Pakistani group here in an attempt to get the word out. Maybe we'll raise funds as well, ka khairee, and then ... ooh, I can send the money and all to Spogmai and her father can decide how to distribute it.
    Ahh, we'll see, ka khairee :) So far, not so bad.

  11. @Spogmai: "Na Khugman wror munga charta na mata communication gap khkari"

    LOL! na ma hasey gup lagao :)

    @Qrratugai; "The thing is, I have too many goals ... but I wonder how I'm ever gonna accomplish them"

    Khabara da nyat da ao da Allah na hamesh da khe tama pakaar da nore kho hagha da Rakhman Baba khabara:

    Che Allah Dersara Mal Na Wee Rakhmana
    Ka Lakhkarey Darsara Wee Yak Tanha Ye!

    I had been involved in such kind of stuff at the prime of the IDPs saga. I didn't want to share some of my personal stuff (I don't know maybe being a shy person and also don't want to put everything about myself here on the net:))....kho bas da khabarey na khabara jorra shee no zaka. Thanks Allah, I was quite successful in what I wanted to achieve regarding helping the hapless IDPs. But my understanding is that it shouldn't be just a one time fundraising event or one time effort because the effect of this displacement on the whole Pakhtunkhwa/Swat is so enormous that it needs a consistent effort and we, the ones who have means and resources or know how, has this responsibility to help our badqismatta/bewassa backhome. Personally, I have not an iota of trust in the corrupt and morally bankrupt politicians/ bureaucracy backhome. I'm sure you guys will be more aware than what I want to say and forgive me if I'm not on the same page with you but I think I'm saying based on some of my personal observations as well as.........Da Uss kome Ghwal che larraley shawee ao da koma tabahee che zamung pa khalqo raghaley, ka mung ke kha masharaan ao hukoomatee wakman wae no da halat ba na woo. Kho buss dagha political discussions pregdai na trey sa jorr sho ao na jorregee :).

    Staso dwanrro na bakhana ghwarram ka mey khabaro key wraan sa likalee wee gwarae.
    Ao kana wai ba che da ye rata sa lecture shoro krro..:)

  12. You're right; the situation needs more than a one-time contribution. For me, honestly, nothing would be more fulfilling and satisfying than going to Swat and teaching in a children's school... or maybe volunteering at an orphanage.

    I'm thinking more along the lines of a private organization that will have *volunteers* donate as well as collect donations; this organization should have members in different parts of the world (and they don't have to be Pukhtuns or Muslims), and there should be one specific address all the collections should be sent to. In case of money, we should have a bank account -- which I know a lot of people have been talking about having -- and money can be transferred there then. But I understanding this won't be most people's favorite idea because to get someone honest and dedicated to hold this account will be hard, yeah? It's still something to keep in mind. If nothing else, you, Spogmai, and I could just do something like this ~grins~
    Umm... k, we can talk about this elsewhere, lol.

  13. Oh, and, Khugmanda! Da Khudey da paara pa makha makha bakhaana sa la ghwaare, mara? Bass ka, kana. Dumra pormal (formal) ba da cha hagha nwasi wee, no! lol

  14. @Qrratugai: "If nothing else, you, Spogmai, and I could just do something like this ~grins~"

    Dher ziat mey staso dey khabara pore okhandal......well thats just so true...LOL!....ka nore hees na sho kawaley zaan porey kho khandaley shoo.....kho na da soke che dasey da nekai karoona kawai lagya dee da kho hum zama sta pashaan insaanan dee ao dwee kho zamung pashaan halato na tershawee hum nadee kho katalee auredalee ye why not us?

    @Qrratugai: "Da Khudey da paara pa makha makha bakhaana sa la ghwaare, mara?"
    Mata pata da che mala domra pormal:) keda na dee pakaar kho buss keday shee da hagha khpal adat na majboora yum zaka che taso zanana da ehteraam warr yai:) bia ba khyal kome!

  15. LOL! Whaaaaaaaaaat -- I am serious! :O Spongmai and I are definitely gonna get something done one day, ka khairee, when we meet up, kho as for you ... dessi chal dey, kana, Khugmanda, che za staso pa de alaaqa ke der she Pukhtaana pejanam; kedey she che taso warsara da makhke na malgari hum yai, kho khair za ba ye Spogmai la numona warkam ao taso ta ba ye pa PM ke darwalegi (on Haghoi already hum der chaaq khalak dee and have accomplished a lot during the last few months. If you don't know them already, I wanna strongly urge you to meet them; you'll be very pleased :)
    Khwakha yo da?

    Ao pormalities predawa, lol. Pa awala ke khair dey, kho oss der wakh shawey dey, bass tey :P lol

  16. Ya Allah kher :)......Dasey kaar de che ta ba cherta politically active khalq yadey and I'm the last person with any political ambitions and want to keep very low and quiet profile. Buss da khpalo khalqo ao khpaley Pukhto meena mein pa zrra ke da, thats it. Zama pa khyal kho taso Allah Bismillah kayai ao zama la tarafa che sa qisma financial help wee ya halta ke sa help pakaar wee no I'll be glad to provide kho only to you guys I mean taso ao Spogmai. Zaka che I'm not interested in joining any group or get politically active :) kana khpal job waghera ke doomra busy yum che dagha karoono ta na wazgaregum ao welee mein derta hum woo che maybe I'm too shy of such stuff :(.

  17. lol. No, no, they're not politically involved at all (only one is, and that's it; he's the creator of PPF Canada, taso ba ye num auredaley hum wee). Nor kho me ase friends dee kho actively involved dee. Ao ase hum der kha khalak dee, yao so pake da Swat hum dee. Kho ka taso na ghwaarai, no of course I wouldn't recommend any.

    Oh and ... :P I'm scared as HELL of politics. You see, I'm too young to involve myself in politics from now and be butchered within years, lol (astaghpirullah?). Yao salwekht kaala sabar kom, ka khairee, bya ba halo politics ta nawazam, sakh ... since haghe wakh la ba me ka khairee nor sa accomplished karee ye, so it's okay if they kill me then, LOL. Yeah? Yeah.

  18. @Qrratugai:"(astaghpirullah?)....I'm too young to involve myself in politics from now and be butchered within its okay if they kill me then, LOL, Yeah"

    LOL.....Da khanda na dey marr krram :)
    Na Allah de ta na wajnee, da munga hasey doomra duaganey derta kawo :)

  19. Qrratugai janey:),Allah de pa ilma aw himmat ke nora ham izafa ukara... che da zan aw khalko pa pakar rashi! keep up the great work sister!

  20. Yara kho! Daa "Anonymous" feature me dessi badi shee pa de aqla! Khu raata owayai che sok yai kana ... Goddd!
    Staso dera manana ada kawal ghwaaram, "Anonymous" :) Khudey de taso khushala ao abaad laree. Aameen.

    Khogmanda ... yeah, khudey de kee che daa duagaane asar wakee, no. Kho still, no politics till a long time later lol. Though honestly, I think that'll be inevitable. You know?

  21. I think nobody is going to tie the bell in the new section's comments cat :) kho waim che pakaar da Spogmai da daghey nawey section the comments iftitah/pranistae ookee no keday shee maqoola mashwarey ao ideas start flowing in that new section.......kana sanga??

  22. lol ... yeah, I'm thinking the same. Spongmai Babo lolo da kaso wass ... pa intizaar ye yam che kala ba rawekheegi :S

  23. @Qrratugai & Khugman Wror ~ awal kho dasey chal de kana, che staso da dwanrro sara che da pairyano mamagano da kom band (toley) dey aw da oooooooooogda oooooooooooooogda postona prey khwarey ghareebey la ba tre na yao maskeen ghondey pairey rakrrai bya ba staso da lan-tarano jawaboona mo pa lwastalo hairana patey yam aw la patey jawaboona...
    Flu sama rasara karrey yam, da pozey na me sur kashmirey aw da sar na me kado jorr shawey de! Aw pa marai me dase da laka che endwana che pake enkhatee we

  24. @Spogmai:"....da pozey na me sur KASHMIREY ao da sar na me kadoo jorr shawey de!"

    LOL!......zalimano taso kho dasey khabarey oolikai che sarrey da khanda na marr kai...:)
    Za uss dagha najorrtia pakey patey wa no......Khudai de rogha jorra ka, da Qrratugai sara sara ba uss ta ta hum duaganey kawo. Flu kho pa rishtya che kharab shai wee.

  25. LMAO! Spogmai!! Qurban, gulono! Hai, hai! So sorry to hear...
    Khudey de jorra ka no. Zama khyal dey cha ba nazara kari ye :O Nazar loy harami shey dey, you know.
    Khair, kha ba she, duaganey ba darta kao.

    (I'm still laughing at the kashmirey ao endwana inskhtaling part, LOL!!! Wai Allah no!)

    Ho waakhla, zama hagha tol peryan mamagaan sta shu, lol.


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