Some time ago, this awesome Pashtun lady friend of mine reported to me that my nephew (six years old then) had called her by her real name. My response: a loud gasp followed by a scolding for my sweet innocent nephew darling followed by sincere apologies to the Aunty.
That didn’t teach my nephew anything.
So the Aunty and I talked about it, and we realized that when our children are being raised outside our areas, we *expect* them to uphold the same values that we were *taught* to uphold when we were growing up. There’s a difference. Back home, parents don’t have to work as hard on their children because practically everyone around them believes the same way; society works together to raise the children of all the families, so the parents aren’t burdened entirely. But when these parents come to the west, or migrate to some other society where their cultures and religions begin to clash, should they have the same expectations of their children that they would if the children were being raised in their motherland?
Pukhtuns living abroad don’t have it easy, especially when they’re born and raised here. There will inevitably come those phases of loss, of insecurity, of identity crisis. Our parents punish us when we do something wrong that we didn’t know was wrong because they never told us that it’s wrong. This is a big mistake on the parents’ side – whether Pashtuns or not – because what’s right or wrong, what’s appropriate or inappropriate (particularly in light of our religion or culture) is nothing “obvious”; it’s something we learn from people around us based on the way they practice or promote/reject what is considered appropriate or inappropriate by them.
Did anyone ever tell my nephew that he’s not supposed to call elders, or anyone older than him by four years, by their real name? No. Has there been a need? Not really. Why? Because he’s not being raised around many Pukhtuns. He knows that he can’t call his parents, grandparents, and teachers by their real names, but he doesn’t know why. No one has told him the why, and no one seems to think he should be taught why. It’s as if it’s “common sense” that all people should KNOW not to call elders by their real names. Yeah, okay, it *becomes* common sense when we’re being raised in a society where everyone shares almost the exact same values and no one's necessarily directly taught how to behave and believe (as it's mostly based on observations and the sort of education we receive both inside and outside our homes), but how can we expect it to be common sense for those who are being raised in other cultures? As I said, I think even when we’re raised inside our culture, we’re not told the *why* to most things. We just know we’re supposed to behave a certain way often without understanding the significance of it. I’m against this no-explanations-provided part of our culture (and religion… that is, when religion is taught to us by those who themselves don’t know what the answers to the questions starting with “why” are) because I don’t think one can really appreciate and wholeheartedly cherish something – in our case, Pukhtunwali and Islam – if one does not understand it. And why should anyone have to go through various troubling phases to finally understand and then appreciate Pukhtunwali and/or Islam?
So this is just a note to those who are parents outside their native culture and expect their children to behave in a way that they’d be expected back home. Teach them. Help them understand. Try to understand them as well. Try not to punish or blame them when they don’t understand because I swear it’s not easy accepting something that’d make sense in one culture but makes absolutely none in another, and you fall in between, hence being a representative of neither. It's almost like standing between two cities, with one of your feet on the side of one city and the other foot on the other city, with a large gap -- say, a river -- between the two. See? The pressure and pain (the gap) is such that you can literally drown in it.