Last night, I spoke to an adorable elderly white Methodist woman who had not only heard of Hyderabad, but had actually visited the city!
Hyderabad has been on my mind quite a bit lately.
First, it was the article we published in our journal examining theodicy and the Hyderabad Zakat & Charitable Trust – and my discretion to feature the Charminar (see above) as the cover image.
Then, it was being invited by a Hyderabadi friend of mine on Eid. She made Kheema ki Tahari. And though I did not eat it because it was made of beef, I really wanted to because it looked just like my mom’s.
Then, we attended another Hyderabadi friend’s daughter’s aqiqah. I don’t know if it was because this friend is also Canadian, but meeting her family and witnessing the rasams – though I never understood them and still admittedly do not – gladdened my heart.
Today, we are attending what I hope will feature some aspects of a traditional Hyderabadi wedding. I’m also hoping to reunite with some extended family I have not seen since my own wedding two and a half years ago.
And to top it all off, I am currently reading a novel called A Place for Us, which is about a Hyderabadi-American family. The parallels with my own life I encounter in each chapter sometimes make me laugh, sometimes bring tears to my eyes, sometimes rile me up, and at other times, evoke just a simple nod. It’s as if the author, whom I have never met and never even heard of until my sister referred the book to me, speaks the same language of my childhood and adolescence.
Two decades ago, none of the above would have made me happy. Any time we attended a dawat (which was almost every weekend it seemed), I dragged my feet. I hated having to wear shalwar khameez. I hated the Desi mithai that was always served. I hated all the crowds of people constantly in my face. I hated having to go to every single elder in the family and give my salaam – and then be lectured for it, if I didn’t. I hated being forced to talk to people and be prodded to smile when all I wanted to do was be back home, alone in my room, and blog about how my life absolutely sucked.
Marriage. Not being a part of that world anymore. But also realizing it wasn’t all that bad.
While I unequivocally believe that culture, lineage, and pretty much anything you have no control over has absolutely no moral value whatsoever, I am Hyderabadi just as much as the other things that make me me.
Being Hyderabadi has coloured my life in ways that only a fellow Hydro could possibly understand (but as I’ve written in the Aboot page, it is no guarantee). I saw the look of confusion and interest on Mr. Rafia’s face when he was observing the rasams last weekend and when he checks out YouTube videos of people speaking Hyderabadi Urdu. For me, they take me “back home.” They remind me of my childhood. They remind me of my parents. My siblings. My family in Canada. My childhood on Timbers Circle in Markham, Ontario.
Life wasn’t all that wonderful. There were parts that sucked. But they are parts that are slowly fading, and some that already have. Even thinking of the not-so-great moments of my life are important to me, because I see them as threads weaving into the life that I am living now.
Why is this important? Just as much as the old adage “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” is true on a global, geopolitical level, it’s even more relevant in our individual lives. You need to reflect on your past to know who you are now and where you would like to be in the future.
Sure, my own history has made things difficult at times. I have had to let go of ways of thinking and being that were so ingrained and once assumed necessary. But they are a part of me. And they will always be a part of me, even if I chose to keep them only as memories.
Even though sometimes I get a nagging of anxiety that my future kids are not going to know Hyderabad the way that I do, I’m fine with it. I don’t know Hyderabad the way my parents do. I never can and never will. But I can share with them the good (hopefully, my mom and sister will be able to cook for me!) and leave the bad where they should remain: in the past.
I think we all should be reminded of where we come from: whether it’s the city we were born in, the place our family is from, or however one defines it. Don’t let it be a marker of difference, which is a trap we can and do easily fall into, but embrace that it makes you who you are, good and bad. And if you allow it, this reminder can also add to the rich tapestry that is human existence.