As a proud Pakistani-American, part of the Ismaili Muslim community, I rarely share this aspect of my life with you all. As much as I get a majority of who I am and the way I live from my American upbringing and open-minded nature, there is still a part of me who always remembers who I am and where I come from, and values the cultural and traditional aspects of my heritage and the religion I am a part of, even if I don’t always agree or live in total alignment with a large part of it.
In my own way, I still attend prayers every Friday night and spend time with family eating Indian food or watching a Bollywood movie, I still speak Urdu at home, I still make sure to give importance to household responsibilities such as cleaning and (sometimes) cooking, I still stand true to the morals and ethics of kindness, tolerance, respect, patience and understanding with which I have been raised, I still actively partake in community events and I still proudly share the aspects of my cultural background and Ismaili religion which resonate with me.
However, the flip side of this is just as true: I define myself as an extremely free-spirited thinker, financially independent, career-oriented and ambitious, and very outgoing, spontaneous and adventurous. I love celebrating American holidays from New Years to Independence Day to Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas, even though I am not a Christian. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than a nice southern meal or going out to Texas Roadhouse on Saturday night before catching a movie or enjoying some live music with friends. And I am just as proud of a grammar Nazi as I am of my inability to remember to say “you all” instead of “y’all”.
Many people struggle with the balance between traditions from another country and maintaining their identity as they immerse into a new culture. As far as religion and beliefs go, I can’t say much because what I ultimately believe in is spirituality and being a good and kind and ethical human being, but I do know this also oftentimes can present as a challenge for a lot of people. For me, it has become the ultimate blessing to be part of such different cultures which are beautiful in their own ways, and I will always identify as a proud Pakistani-American.