Monthly Archives: March 2014

AM I ACTUALLY INDIAN THO?

( I accidentally published this earlier in the day before it was finished, my B.)

Anyways, hey guys. I’ve been wondering. Am I actually “Indian?”

Because I think the answer is no.

Tom Hanks – Really?

 

Yes, Voice of Reason, really.

 

Well then you might have some revisions to make there, M.

 

Revisions? What do you mean revi-

 

 

 

indulging

Oh. Right. I’ll fix that. 

 

Also, what the heck, M?! What do you mean you’re not Indian??

 

It’s actually not as crazy as it sounds, I promise. I’ve just kind of realized that nothing about me is actually Indian. Let me explain myself in three nice and organized main points.

*AHEM*

REASON 1

Technically, I’m not Indian. Like, in technical ways. 

Think about it. My nationality is American, because I’m a citizen of the United States.

And my ethnicity is Panjabi.

listofmodernethnicgroups

So even technically, nothing about me is actually Indian. It’s not my nationality, and it’s not my ethnic group. It’s no one’s ethnic group, really. “Indian” is a nationality. Panjabis who live in India are Panjabi by ethnicity and Indian by nationality, Panjabis who live in Pakistan are Panjabi and Pakistani the same way, and Panjabis who live in the U.S are Panjabi and American. I’m a Panjabi-American.

So there’s that.

ALSO

  Reason 2:

Culture Confusion

I’ve always been friends with the brown kids in my school, most of them of ethnicity originating in India (see what I did there). And while I was always able to be pretty tight with them, and we’re always able to have a laugh, I noticed pretty early on that, whenever we talked about our cultures, there was always some confusion. They wouldn’t know what I meant when I said there’s a new bottle of Rooh Afza in my house. I wouldn’t know what they meant when they said they had a Bharata Natyam class to get too. I noticed my friends were able to connect over their cultures in a way I wasn’t. In fact, even after knowing some of them for a while, they would ask me if I was Indian, or, lol, just ask me what I was. Not in a rude way at all–they were sincerely unsure, because I didn’t do any of the “Indian” things that they did. There were occasions where they labeled parts of my culture, like Bhangra, as strictly Pakistani, and not Indian. Which is fine. I love Pakistan and I love that my grandparents were born in such a beautiful place. And it’s true, a lot of the traditions and customs my family is familiar with–like Rooh Afza, for example–are familiar to Pakistanis as well. But my friends saying this  just kind of showed how unfamiliar my Panjabi culture was to theirs, that they did not consider it Indian.

And they were kind of right. Panjabi culture is different from that of a lot of India. We speak a language specific to our region,we eat unique foods, we have different traditions, and most Panjabis in the world are either Muslim or Sikh, not Hindu, like the majority of India (even though there are some Hindu-Panjabis).

I know that India is pretty diverse, and many regions have traditions and cultures that are pretty unique. But there are a couple of factors that make Panjabi culture even more different, I think. For one thing, more than half of the Panjab region is in Pakistan.

File:Punjab region 2.png

This has allowed our culture to have some Pakistani influences, even for those of us who don’t live in Pakistan.

Additionally, because most Panjabis in India are of a different religion than the rest of India, religion has had a different influence on our culture. For example, Panjabis are famous for many meat dishes, including some with beef. Because Sikhism doesn’t ban meat, at least not as explicitly as Hinduism, Panjabis have developed a unique cuisine to reflect this.

 

 

And lastly,

 

Reason 3:

Politics and Stuff

India has always oppressed Panjabis, it’s just a fact. Sikhs and Panjabis have always fought valiantly for India, and they continue to do so today:

sikhsinmilitary

And yet, today, the Indian government channels over half of Panjab’s water supply to other parts of the country–an act which is prohibited in the Indian constitution.

Also, 30 years ago,  the Indian government attempted to wipe out the Sikh population of India, killing and displacing over 50,000 Sikhs and Panjabis.

India still denies visas to Sikh refugees who fled to different countries during the genocide 30 years ago, and to those who speak out against the government’s actions against Sikhs.

Additionally, over 73.5% of Panjab’s youth are drug addicts–not just users, but addicts. The Indian government has barely acknowledged this tragic and strange statistic, nonetheless done anything about it.

Not to mention Bollywood, India’s major movie industy, which almost never fails to portray both Sikhs and Panjabis as unintelligent, drunk, and irrational. (There are quite a few good articles on this, so the link is just to the google search. You can take your pick from there.)

There’s also the fact that Mahatma Gandhi, who is hailed as the Father of India, refused to acknowledge Sikhism as a religion.

As I learned about them, all of these unfortunate facts kind of made it harder and harder for me to identify as an Indian. And I’ve learned that this is actually not uncommon. Some Sikhs, particularly after the Sikh genocide,  find it hard to even identify as Panjabi, nonetheless Indian. And not just the crazy rebellious youths such as myself. 

 

So…with these three reasons, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not really Indian in any way. The last reason is kind of the kicker for me. Even if the first two reasons were still there, I might not have a problem calling myself Indian if it weren’t for the last reason, which is the lack of respect and fair treatment Panjabis and Sikhs get in India. I’m not trying be dramatic or anything here, really. Like, am I going to start correcting people when they call me Indian from now on? I don’t really know. I just know that this feels right. ” Panjabi-American” feels so right. It’s what I am, you know? I listen to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan while eating hot dogs. I go to Starbucks in my Patiala salwar kameezes. I’m a blend of these two cultures, and I think they’re really all I need to describe myself when it comes to the culture that has surrounded me my whole life.

Let me know your thoughts?

See you next week 🙂
-M

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Pls

PIND APPRECIATION AND JATTS AND BACKWARDS CLASS STATUS

SORRY NO POST LAST WEEK AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

 

A lot of Panjab, India is rural land made up of tons of small villiages, or “pinds” in Panjabi. Basically, there are cities, and there are pinds. Cities in Panjab are some of the richest in both India and I think Pakistan too–they can  have Pizza Huts and KFCs and the people wear jeans. And they really, truly are beautiful.

But when I was in Panjab, sitting in the car for hours at a time, about every fifteen minutes or so, the air would suddenly become fresher, the roads became clearer, and the view outside the window changed to this. CLICK IT. DO IT. PLEASE. I DIDN’T WANT TO COPY PASTE BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE AN OFFICIALISH PHOTOGRAPHYISH BLOG. BUT JUST CLICK ON IT YOU WON’T REGRET IT.

Panjabi pinds are where it’s at. Just ask Bollywood.

jabwemetpind

Panjabi pinds are famous for their bright yellow fields of mustard, but they also grow wheat and sugarcane, among other crops. So I was definitely expecting those to be there. But I figured seeing that bright yellow sarson di khet would be kind of rare? Like maybe I’d get to glimpse a handful of these fields of mustard.

THEY WERE EVERYWHERE THO. Like I don’t think we ever drove 30 minutes without seeing at least one.

^^some of my pics from the car.

Another thing I didn’t foresee was these amazingly beautiful trees. They were like thin, tall trees with greenish yellowish leaves and, here’s the magic, they were lined up in perfect rows. Driving by them, which happened just as often as driving by the mustard fields, they looked like some kind of an optical illusion.

And CLICK HERE OKAY LOOK AT THIS AMAZING PICTURE OF THE PIND TREES THAT ISN’T MINE BUT IS BEAUTIFUL AND YOU REALLY SHOULD. This picture captures the optical illusionness of it all. It’s the same one I linked you to before. I’m linking you to it twice because for some reason I’m afraid you didn’t click it the first time #trustissues

And yeah. I’m starting to see that pinds are kind of a big part of Panjabi culture. They’re kind of more traditional. I didn’t get to check out any pinds that much while in India, but I like to imagine the ladies wear salwar kameezes, the guys wear kurtas, the kids speak Panjabi, and everyone loves to get down and giddha and bhangra, and on warm nights they sleep on cots on the roofs, under the stars.

*sigh*….pinds, man…<3

Unfortunately, pinds are also where the majority of Panjab’s huge drug problem lies. See, people who live in pinds are usually farmers, and Panjab is facing an enormous agricultural crisis right now, one which the Indian government has not helped very actively. In fact, the government does some things that tend to hurt Panjabi farms more than help them, such as channel more than half of Panjab’s water sources out of Panjab…and because of the agricultural crisis, many Panjabi farmers are without work, and have turned to drugs. There are some pinds in Panjab where you can find syringes littered on the ground. It’s a heartbreaking situation. From what I’ve heard, pretty much every family has been adversely affected by drug addiction.

Panjabi pinds are a wonder. They have a dark aspect to them, what with all the drug use, but they are also so beautiful and have so much culture. Sometimes people call others “pindus” or “pendus,” and it’s taken to mean you are ignorant (when I first typed this I spelled it “ignortant.” like just try saying that out loud.)…it’s usually used lightheartedly, but still, not too cool. I’ve probably done it too, and I’m seeing now how wrong and unfair it is. Now, if anyone ever calls me “pendu,” I always take it as a compliment.To be from a pind is a beautiful thing 🙂

Oh! Also, one more thing! A good amount of people who live in pinds are part of the Jatt caste. A lot of them are Sikhs, and in Sikhi, we are taught not to abide by the caste system. Buuuut sometimes the culture around you trumps religion. Personally, I don’t like to identify people by their caste, or even acknowledge castes. But this topic kind of focuses around a certain caste, so I’m going to this time. 

Anyways, Jatts and Jatt Sikhs  were recently named a “backwards class” by the Indian government as I found from on Diljit’s instagram

 

And at first, I was annoyed, like a lot of other Panjabis and Sikhs. I just thought it was more of the government hating on us, yet again. But this was the Panjabi government, when usually (but not always) it’s the federal government that sips the haterade. So I looked it up, and it’s actually kind of a good thing! Basically, the Indian government has set up this title of “backwards class,” as they call it, and by affording a group this title, the government acknowledges that this group has been underprivileged in the past, and that the government should do it’s best to put the group on equal ground with the rest of the country. It’s kind of like acknowledging their minority status. Here, Wikipedia says it better:

“Other Backward Class (OBC) is a collective term used by the Government of India to classify castes which are educationally and socially disadvantaged. It is one of several official classifications of the population of India, along with Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs and STs). The OBCs were found to comprise 52% of the country’s population by the Mandal Commission report of 1980, a figure which had shrunk to 41% by 2006 when the National Sample Survey Organisation took place.[1]

In the Indian Constitution, OBCs are described as “socially and educationally backward classes”, and the Government of India is enjoined to ensure their social and educational development – for example, the OBCs are entitled to 27% reservations in public sector employment and higher education. The list of OBCs maintained by the Indian Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is dynamic, with castes and communities being added or removed depending on social, educational and economic factors.”

 

So I think this is actually a good thing! I mean…they probably should’t have “backwards” in the title, because it throws people off a little. Nonetheless, it’s a good thing. 

Apparently, the government didn’t include Jatts in this classification the first time around, and a lot of Panjabis were annoyed at this. But the government actually went back and added Jatts! 

And from what I know about the agricultural crisis and the drug problem, I think the hardships that Jatts and Jatt Sikhs are facing deserve to be acknowledged. Heck, all Panjabis in India probably deserve this status.  But this is a good start 🙂 

All women are afforded this status as well. 

 

Well that was one heck of a tangent. Man I hate when I go on tangents right before the end of the post. Because then it’s like, how do I end this now? Do I tie it back to the original topic? Do I pretend like the tangent never even happened? Do I pretend like I totally forgot about the original topic? Idk…this is too much. Too much stress. I love you. Bye. 

-M

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SILK ROAD REPUBLIC

Why are all my post titles in caps these days. 

Okay, so a couple of weeks back I came across this really cool clothing line called Silk Road Republic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basically, it’s a contemporary Afghan clothing line started (I believe) by a woman of Afghan descent living in the West. 

This clothing line struck me for many reasons. Firstly, “Silk Road Republic” is a very awesome name. Cause like, the Silk Road is like that area:

And republic is like…fashion. You know. Fashiony things. Like Banana Republic. Okay and SECONDLY I thought it was cool because I LOVE seeing and learning about ethnic wear from all over South and Central Asia. And I hadn’t seen very many retailers for Afghan wear before (not that I had really looked thoroughly). And this one has an awesome website and everything! The final thing that struck me about Silk Road Republic was how beautiful the clothes are. When most people think of Afghanistan, they think of war and barren fields and miles upon miles of dull land and overwhelming hardship. People also don’t tend to associate Afghans, particularly the women, as fashion-savvy, because of spread of the image of the impoverished, widowed Afghan in a dusty, light-blue burqa. And I mean, it’s totally fine to work a burqa, if that’s what you like! And it’s true that burqas are widely worn in Afghanistan, particularly in the past couple of decades. It’s just that they have not always been common practice in Afghanistan, nor are they the only thing Afghan women have ever worn, the way we might think they are. Afghanistan has a rich, colorful history and culture, just like the colorful clothing sold by Silk Road Republic. The website’s “about” reads–

Once the center of the Silk Road, Afghanistan and its people have held onto many treasures. Afghans are a beautiful mixture of different cultures and backgrounds blended into one identity and with this we build onto fashion. After decades of invasions and civil wars, Afghanistan lost many beauties, including its posh sense of style. The traditional clothing were being made and sold by middle aged men, because women were not allowed to take part in any business outside their home.

Slowly and steadily, the world is beginning to see the hidden treasures of Afghanistan. We at Silk Road Republic want the world to realize these beauties through their fashion, where the east meets the west.

 

How beautiful is that?

I wish the people behind Silk Road Republic all the success they deserve for doing such a cool thing. Definitely go check out their stuff! They have some beautiful things I’ve got my eye on for when I have enough cha-ching. 

And tell me what you guys think in the comments! What’s the ethnic wear where you’re from, or that you like the most? Mine has got to be Panjabi Patiala salwars…so comfortable! What about you? Also, I’ve been wondering if what’s sold by Silk Road Republic is specific to any one ethnic group of Afghanistan…they have quite a few ethnic groups within their borders, and I’m guessing there’s some variation in their dress. What do you guys think?

Basically what I’m getting here is just please leave a comment about anything really, that’d be great 🙂

 

See you next week 🙂

-M

 

P.S: Some interesting things are going on in Pakistan right now, including their dealings with the Taliban and with religious schools, known as madrassas….I will definitely try to post sometime this week about them. In the meantime, you can get some good info on it all here. 

 

 

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