The Back story.... (part 1)
Part 1: Surprises
I love to surprise new South Asian friends with a greeting in Urdu (or Hindi). Even better, responding in Urdu to a comment I was not expected to understand in the first place.
It is a strange thing for an American girl to be learning Asian languages -- especially for a girl with no Asian heritage, who has to date never traveled farther East than Rome. But the element of surprise works both ways. As I learn more about the wider world, especially the Muslim world, I am more and more amazed at how little I knew previously. How little I was taught in school. How little of Islam is present in the American consciousness.
Here's something that particularly surprises me: until a few years ago when I began taking a focused interest in South Asia, I had no idea that Pakistan was once part of India. I had never heard the name of Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who was just as deeply involved in the independence movement as were Gandhi and Nehru (and those are figures that any American schoolchild can name). Shocking enough that I didn't know these crucial elements of world history, despite being a highly educated person who has lived her almost entire life in towns devoted primarily to higher education. Even more shocking, though, is that I am not a fluke. I have made it a regular point of conversation to ask others around me if they know who Jinnah was. And not just asking flighty teenagers or confirmed couch potatoes. I am asking college professors, people with multiple degrees, people who frequently impress me with the breadth and depth of their knowledge, sometimes even in the field of HISTORY. And yet almost NONE of these intelligent Americans has ever heard of Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
But I have heard of Jinnah now. And daily I am coming to know more of the country he founded. Many of my American friends were initially surprised (some still are) when I started to immerse myself in things Pakistani, asking if it was just a phase. A few years have passed now, and I can assure them without doubt that it is no phase.
The more I learn, the more paths of inquiry I discover. I have been blessed with a journey.
1/21/2014 11:04:58 am
Great peace of literature. You work will be appreciated.
1/21/2014 10:53:24 pm
1/21/2014 10:02:20 pm
Very well-written. Wonderful piece. :)
1/21/2014 10:54:02 pm
Abz! bahut shukriya. aapki mehrbani hai :D
1/22/2014 06:16:40 am
I saw your page its very good and i appreciate your efforts to learn more and more about south Asia great work emily keep it up.
1/23/2014 10:47:27 am
So grateful for your kind words, dear Khadim!
Jamal Mustafa Syed
1/23/2014 07:07:21 am
Good luck wid ur blog. The reasons one gets 'intrigued' with a certain apparent reality, can probably never be explained! Your getting involved wid South Asia or Pakistan or, for that matter, the East also seems to be one of those obsessions that defy objectivity! But then each one of us - living in the East or the West - does negotiate with such obsessions at one point in life ..... the desires, inclinations, curiosities ..... that are never explained on the scale of logic! So welcome to the East...! As you explore more you'll get to know more of the good and bad things that East is all about. And yes .... in the process you'll come across the mysteries .... things that appear arcane ..... wisdom with different dimensions ....... romance with different meanings .... relationships defined differently....... But that is all about differences....and differences are not always bad.
1/23/2014 10:47:00 am
Dear Jamal Mustafa sahib! I'm so pleased to see your message here. And such a thoughtful and poetic one, as well. Thank you for taking the time to look at this new site. I think you might be especially interested in the upcoming post, which will be all about how Sindh came into my life! In other words, the story of how a once very vague and romantic notion of the East became a genuine, living, breathing presence in my life. Of course, given that we are talking about Pakistan, there will always be mystery, vagueness, and a degree of romanticism in my understanding of the place.... it's just in the nature of the thing! But what makes my interest most notably different from my childhood fantasy is my growing awareness of the tragic history of Pakistan. This is definitely a bitter-sweet love affair I'm having with your country. But as more time passes, the more at home I feel in this strange project, the more blessed I feel to have discovered it. So keep reading as I post more, my friend -- and please keep responding with whatever thoughts might come to you!
11/6/2014 12:41:44 am
Oh it's such a wonderful description dear Emily..!!, and you have beautifully described how you were fascinated towards Sindh and South Asia their cultures..!! Truly your blog 'On my digital journey to the South Asia' is so lovely, and it also exposes lot much about your mesmerizing writing skills and talents. I indeed love and appreciate your descriptions and thoughts in your wonderful blog. But i still wonder how i missed to visit this blog.., the blog that was written by my most talented intellectual friend Emily..!! Feeling sorry for missing this fantastic blog all these days...
5/18/2016 01:12:46 pm
So lovely described dear sister...... I loved it very much.
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Image at top left is a digital
portrait by Pakistani artist
Imran Zaib, based on one of my own photographic self-portraits in Thari dress.