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safia Khan, (at 6:57PM Monday 23rd of July 2007, GMT)

This may be of interest to our community. Feelings of the ‘next generation”
By Sahifa Akhter

So, they packed us up and brought us here. Said their farewells and came to the land of opportunities to have what else, better opportunities of course. They came here without knowing the language, knowing the culture or knowing the customs. For them all this land represented was a way out.

Out of what you ask? Out of poverty for some, out of monotony for others, out of curiousity. They came here and worked in factories, in grocery stores at home doing odd jobs. They worked morning till night. Sometimes night till morning or both. Extended families living in tiny little apartments. All their hard work has finally paid off. They own houses, they own businesses. They have friends. They can speak the language, to a certain extent. They are enjoying the rewards of working hard. A nice house, a nice car and educated children.

Who are they? They are Pakistanis, Indians, and Bangladeshis etc. who moved here decades ago. They have indeed become a force to be reckoned with in America, holding professional jobs and gaining political power. So, have they really made it?

You be the judge. First generation Asians are void of identity. Children who cannot identify with their parents cultures and feel alienated by the American culture.

You see for those from the Asian sub-continent, assimilation does not and has not come easy.

The molds that ours parents have made for us, no longer fit. That is not to say, that we don?t try. I have met numerous Asians who created dual personas out of necessity, not insanity. There is the one that they put on for their families, and shed as soon as they step out the door. There is the one that sips kashmiri chai listening to ghazals. Then there is the one that prefers jack daniel and coke while bopping to hip hop. There is the one that weds a virgin and is a virgin when wedded. Then there is the other that beds a virgin every so often.

We are, for the most part, the fist generation of Asians growing up in America. Many of the twenty something Asians living here today came to this country as toddlers.

So we have parents who spent a significant portion of their adult lives in Pakistan, India etc. Coming from cultures where purity, modesty and family are the pillars of the community (nothing wrong with these). Cultures where arranged marriages are still the norm. Cultures that celebrate endlessly the birth of a son and console the parents of a daughter by saying, ?Well there?s always a next time.? Cultures that cannot be any further then the one where our parents decided to settle.

I can?t really blame my parents for attempting to instill in us the same morals and values that they grew up with. In fact, I truly respect their ideals. However, I know that I am not wholly Pakistani. Nor am I wholly American. The culture that I belong to has not yet been identified. I know that my children will probably have even a lesser connection to Pakistan then I do. Perhaps that is sad. To me this is all I have really known. Whether I hate America or love America, it is still my home. The debate is echoed in Asian households all over America; parents insisting that their kids maintain their Asian identities and the children trying to maintain an identity lost long ago.

My earliest memories are of my parents telling me that I am NOT American, while my earliest memory is of America.

I remember being told consistently by my parents that I am different from my school mates, that I must maintain a distance. As is they had something that was highly contagious. Whatever it was that they had, I think I?ve caught it.

For a long while my friends were all Asians. I watched many Indian movies and speak fluent Urdu. I have gone to Pakistan innumerable times and love it. I love the culture, and the customs. But I appreciate them as an outsider looking in. You see although I speak Urdu, I dream in English.