Following links brought me first to this very well written piece by Vijay Prashad, author of The Karma of Brown Folk, written as guest contribution to the blog ‘pass the roti on the left hand side‘. It was an eye opener for me, particularly as he describes his younger days in Calcutta, celebrating multiple festival – quite like in Malaysia and Singapore for me – and also his ambiguous awareness of what being hindu means. I know that feeling. And I’m sure its true for many many many of us here in India. Do read his article "Letter to a Young American Hindu".
One post always leads to another, and this little snippet of a dialogue with a shopkeeper, is one that I’ll post here, without any further comment, other than that little reminder of our common humanity in our world.
Uncle: We are from Jalalabad. Do you know that there is a Sikh temple and Hindus living in Jalalabad (he says, somewhat proudly)? Have you heard of [insert Sikh names of people who now live in Orange County]? They are Afghan Sikhs.
Desi Italiana: Yes, I read about that. How come you speak Hindi?
Uncle: What? Er…. I don’t know. I mean, we speak Hindi, but… my native tongue is Pashto, if that’s what you’re asking.
DI: So are you Pashtun?
Uncle, straightening his back: Yes, yes I am. My whole family is Pashtun.
DI: But do people in Jalalabad speak Hindi? Like, is that another commonly spoken language there?
Uncle, looking pensive: I guess… now that I think about it, I don’t know exactly how we got to speaking Hindi. Bollywood films definately help (laughs). You know, before the Taliban, Bollywood films and songs were all that we watched and listened to.
DI: When did you come to America?
Uncle: More than two decades ago… we came because we were escaping the war (he trails off, looking vaguely into the distance).
DI: Have you been back to Afghanistan recently?
Uncle: Yes. I went there when my brother moved back.
DI: What was it like? Has it changed a lot since you were last there?
Uncle: Eh- in a way, it’s still the same.Whatever. By now, it almost feels like I can’t think too much about this stuff.