"My mom’s family was from Kashmir. During partition, which divided Hindustan into multiple different countries, fearing for their lives, my family migrated to northwest Pakistan. My father’s family was Saraiki and lived in Lahore and Rawalpindi. Due to an unstable political climate, multiple wars with India, and lack of educational opportunities, much of my family, including my parents, migrated to England and to the United States of America.
I was born in New York city, and both my parents died when I was young. I was raised by different people, both family and others. Much of my life has been spent navigating the intersections of my multiple identities: growing up Muslim in America after the 9/11, trying to understand my family’s and country’s history, trying to uncover who my parents were and what they were like, and trying to traverse through America as a brown-skinned woman.
Even though I was born in America, I have rarely been treated as an American. The attacks on 9/11 brought American Islamophobia to the forefront and marked many of my childhood experiences. Everywhere I went people asked me where are you from and what religion are you, trying to size me up, trying to remind me that I was an untrustworthy foreigner, among other things. Those questions now automatically scare me when I hear them, even though I’m no longer a child, even though I am much more sure of myself and have spent most of my life living in America.
While there are difficult moments in being a migrant and in the migration process, there are so many incredible moments as well. There are diaspora in America, and as a result, there are many beautiful communities that I have found home in. I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts and I was friends with people whose families had migrated from many different parts of Africa, Latin America, South Asia, The Pacific Islands, and Europe. Our families navigated this new country together, and we benefited from building communities and friendships with each other. We learned from each other, we celebrated each other, we participated in each other’s customs and traditions. We created new pathways to fuse our cultures and to appreciate others in a way that has positively impacted my life and made me a better person."