In a free foreign country, Kashmiris often pine for their homeland grappling with the perennial political struggle. But as a Kashmiri teen in America argues in this piece, this craving often manifests into a diverse coexistence in a multicultural society where immigrants tend to forge unity to explore greater freedoms.
It’s hard growing up as a Muslim Kashmiri kid in America.
There aren’t many of us concentrated in one area, and not many people understand that a place called Kashmir exists. For most of the people here in the west, Kashmir is mostly about ‘Cashmere Wool’.
For about eight years of my life here in America, I’ve had my name mispronounced and misspelled, and my culture dismissed as “Indian” or “Pakistani” or “Persian”.
Never have I known the privilege of fitting in with people who really share the same experiences as me, who understand the privileged position of how I as a Kashmiri stand at the crossroads of great civilizations.
Yes, the Kashmiri me is standing at the crossroads of four different civilizations—the Chinese, the Persian, the Indian and now the western civilization.
At times, when my Indian and Pakistani pals converge under their national flags to celebrate their Independence Days, I keep wondering about mine. We shall overcome, Dad tells me. We shall overcome one day.
But away from my home, my Kashmiri has developed an accent to it, a very obvious American one that hisses and scratches out when I speak.
In Kashmir, however, I cannot understand certain customs and practices. Why this? Why not this?
I’m seen as too American or western by most of my relatives, a reminder and a lesson to keep their roots firmly ingrained in the sacred soil of their homeland.
Don’t leave the comfortable, beautiful meadow you were born in, they warn!
But in America, I’m seen as a foreigner, the one with the lilt to their words, the “exotic” girl, the student who is not as centered around society as the others are.
She speaks in a language that neither has the sharpness of Arabic, nor the relaxed trill of Urdu.
I’m a bird, a free soul of the sky. As an immigrant, I’m a child of the earth and the sky. My home is wherever my heart chooses to wander.
I do not just stand at the crossroads of four different worlds, but I walk to and fro freely, with no limitations and restrictions.
I’m not tethered to the binding ropes of a particular society or its culture, for I’m free to embrace whatever I desire.
Lately, at the event of Kashmiri Group of North America (KGNA), I found that platform. It was not just a celebration of Kashmiri culture and ideals, but also a meeting of the shadows of the past and the gleaming sunlight of the future.
Our unique identity has not been forgotten in America, no, it has made us forge even stronger bonds with our culture of the cross-roads.
At KGNA, I made friendships with people who I connected with in a much deeper sense.
I made a connection with people who understood me as a free soul of the sky, and as someone who was always the outcast for her different beliefs and the manner of her speech. It gave me hope.
It gave me hope as alone as we are in this world.
We still have the comfort of a close community formed by a people who come from the same cross-road of civilizations as me.
A Kashmiri teenager in America, Noor Ziyan Raboodi currently goes to school in El Paso, Texas, USA.
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