I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my roots. A thick, complex weave of cultures, nations and bloodlines-I feel myself discovering new things about myself every day. My Pakistani side is quite obvious from my looks but my mother’s genes seem to creep up on me as I get older. Sometimes I look in the mirror and realize my face is changing. I see my mother’s nose, her bronze complexion. I also feel my father’s roots pulsing strong. The way I sit, the food I eat, the things I like.
When I was a child my grandmother used to watch Indian movies. I would laugh and say, “Oh Dado, they all end the same.” And she would say, “I know but I still like them.” We would sit and watch them eating puris and drinking tea. I would watch her reactions as we watched. She would smile when the boy and girl fell in love, singing lavish songs and running through the fields. She would laugh when the crowd shuffled through perfectly choreographed routines. She would cry when the boy and girl broke up, after some mishap. And she would smile again when the boy and girl got back together and it all ended in an elaborate song and dance, complete with extra gaudy outfits.
I never understood why, even though she knew the formula and exactly how the movie was going to end, she still loved these movies so.
As years went on I found myself to be just as in love with movies as my grandmother was. I went to school and minored in Film Theory, I considered myself a type of connoisseur. I had a special soft spot for romantic comedies and musicals.
It was while I was watching one of these musicals that it hit me. Girl meets boy, girl falls in love, everyone sings and dances, girl finds out something terrible about boy, girl and boy break up, more song and dance (only of the sadder variety), girl and boy get back together, cue more singing and dancing of the happy variety.
Wait a minute….maybe I DO like Indian movies??! They are just in disguise! But they are still Indian movies.
It seems Bollywood and Hollywood were really recycling the same story to us.
Nothing made it more clear to me than when I watched Bollywood and Hollywood come together in the form of “Slumdog Millionaire.” The movie was produced by a British director, the characters spoke English, there were bombs and explosions, there was drama and comedy…but when it all came down to it it was a story about love. It followed the classic formula and it even ended with a Bollywood dance and singing send off.
And it wasn’t just the movies that made me recognize my Pakistani roots.
My father used to tell me I was a princess from Kashmir. I truly believed him and went off telling all my friends that we were descendants of royalty. Of course the princess part was not true but the Kashmir part was the truth.
Over the years I learned more and more about Kashmir and have been fascinated by the country. Recently I discovered that the founder of the capital of Kashmir, emperor Ashoka, was actually a Buddhist and thus Kashmir was”long to be a stronghold of Buddhism.”
I have always thought of myself as a very spiritual person and as I grew older the philosophies that I identified the most with were those of of the Buddha. When I found myself in a yoga pose I never felt more connected to God and the earth below my feet.
Sometimes when I do yoga I find myself on the verge of tears because I realize how my body and my mind and the earth and the sky can all come together.
And when I read about Kashmir and realized that somewhere along the line my ancestors were doing these same poses and maybe feeling the same way as I did, it touched me deep inside.
I don’t really know what I am saying about all of this other than somewhere deep inside all of us our bloodlines are still pulsing strong. And they are trying to tell us something…if we will only listen.