Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A Liberian Pakistani desi in America

A Liberian Pakistani desi in America

Visiting the US again has been sweet, even nostalgic at times, because this is the country gave my my Indian partner's and my love child neutrality in what otherwise would have been one tricky situation. Last time I was here was for a few months as I waited to deliver Kavita in Chicago, staying with my Liberian-American-Zimbabwean sister friend.

But my relationship with the US is life long. Most of my schooling, up to high school, was completed in international American schools in capitals such as Bucharest, Dakar, and Athens. I memorised the American map in 4th grade, read about the American civil war in 9th grade and had American teachers and friends all my life.

I find it most amusing when people here remark that my English is good. Even Haresh was kindly told that his English did not have an Indian accent and, was really quite good. I usually laugh inside because not only is it patronising but ironic because I keep telling Haresh not to speak to Kavita in English at home. You see, as per our agreement, we want to teach her our respective mother tongues: I, Urdu; and, he, Sindhi. But he keeps speaking some kind of Hinglish to her. "Kavita, room  mein aa jao." It irritates me to no end.

Some people think this will confuse Kavita which I do not agree with at all. I really do think she will be able to learn both languages. Moreover, when folks spend time with her, they seem to think she is very independent-minded and smart.

So, we carry all these different aspects and histories of our identities. Folks ask us, where are you from and, now are our rehearsed response is: My partner is from ___ (other side of the sub continental border circa 1947), we live in Liberia, West Africa since ____ (1982 for Haresh when he first landed in Liberia) and (2003 for me).  Our daughter is American, born in Chicago in 2013 because our countries have been at war since inception. We decided to have her in the US because we needed a neutral citizenship and, Liberia does not grant citizenship.

We arrived in the US last Thursday evening and, drove from NYC to North Carolina trying to make it to our friend's rehearsal dinner. We missed it but managed to make it to the wedding. We were able to meet so many friends and, it was a sweet reunion.

Since then, we have been road tripping across North Carolina.

Visiting from Liberia to parts of the world outside of West Africa is always a physical shock. This part of the world is so utterly different. Here we are in the American mountains, surrounded by woods, wild flowers, fresh crispy air and, a language, food and life style so utterly different to West Africa.

Then of course, there is the awesome sense that no matter what, you can't get lost here, run out of food or ever be out of water or electricity. The night we got to the hotel, we were actually up on the wrong hill at first and, at 3 AM, poor Haresh was trying to find the hotel driving up and down slopes. But thanks to the GPS, he found the hotel. I cannot even compare this road trip to the most adventurous one we had in the south east of Liberia we did together back in 2010, trying to go over tunnels of mud at mid night in the middle of nowhere.

I guess I experience countries on two levels: how do they compare to the very low level of development in Liberia and, the usual food, wine, sights and sounds. I mostly feel bad for how much Liberia lacks and, trails behind in terms of infrastructure, access and comfort.

Social mobilisation, the work I have been involved with at Mercy Corps, seems so far away. The day to day head aches of managing light, power and so on are almost forgotten, too.

I have really enjoyed our trip so far. I am glad I made the effort to attend a wedding for the first time in my life. It was really nice to witness my friend getting married and, how their love was celebrated by friends and family. 

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