By Sabika Mirza
Dunkin runs, leggings, the New England Patriots, Forever 21, Netflix-watching; these are some of my favorite things as an American-born teenage college student. But there are other aspects to my life too, like curry-salan, large family gatherings, loud Bollywood music, monthly trips to the Mosque, cultural values, and traditional clothing.
My parents, Amir and Rushda Mirza, immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1984; like most families traveling here from Pakistan at the time, it was to start a new life and take a chance on the “American Dream.” They knew they wanted their children to have opportunities they never had as kids, and to build a life for them that they’d never had.
So when we fast forward about 30 years, we have the present Mirza family. Residing in northern NH, at a glance we seem like your average family: 7 members who are obsessed with American football (Go Pats!), well-versed in American politics, working jobs, and taking a couple vacations a year to some tropical place. We are all those things; however, there’s a side to me not many people may know about.
My parents made sure that growing up, my siblings and I were cultured and brought up immersed in what it means to have Pakistani descent. For me, this means a lot of things! From a cultural standpoint, it means I have an insane spice tolerance from the traditional curries and spiced dishes I eat when I go home. It means from time to time when I take a break from the “Top 50” in American music, I listen to Bollywood songs from my favorite Bollywood movies, like “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham”, and “Tum Bin II.” It means bi-annually, when the Islamic holiday Eid comes, I get dressed up in traditional salwar-kameezes, saris, and lehengas (all traditional garments in Middle-Eastern culture) and spend the day with my huge extended family! It also means I can speak 4 languages fluently (English, Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi).
I love this side of my life; however, finding that balance between being an American teenager and a Pakistani daughter to my parents can be tough sometimes. My parents never grew up in an environment where kids have access to all sorts of technologies and leisure activities include things like Netflixing, going to the movies, and “going out”. They have always been a little more protective than your average parent, you could say. It is really interesting to me how they’ve adapted to American culture and the American way of life over the years!
For me, it’s always been fun to live my life here at Simmons, where I’m involved with student government, I love American fashion, I am singing with the Sirens, and I am living an average college student life! Then to go home and be speaking other languages, eat my favorite curries and naan, watch Pakistani television shows, listen to Bollywood music and dress in colorful fancy clothing for parties and celebrations, it feels so normal too!
Finding this balance is something I’ve been doing for about 19 years now. I am more comfortable with sharing this side of me, as curiosity grows from my friends, peers, professors, and general community. It’s nice to hear questions from someone genuinely trying to understand my culture. I believe knowledge is power, and diversity is what makes the world so special!
Anyone who knows me knows I have always been open to sharing about my culture! This mix of backgrounds definitely makes my life interesting, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.