Human beings need a sense of identity and belongings. Individuals derive their sense of identity from their cultures and cultures are system of beliefs that determine how people lives their lives. We also become who we are by developing a certain relationship to the past-not only our personal past, but our family’s and culture’s past as well.
What is a nation and how do people recognize each other as a nation, like self-identity? How we shaped us and how do we make connections to others? How we develop a sense of belongings? What makes us feel at home or not at home? What creates a sense of alienation? How do we feel and express connection to a community and a culture? There are several layers of complexity to these questions about belonging because most of us belong to many different communities at once, and at times those communities conflict or exist in tension.
A home the place we start from has a perpetual shaping influence throughout our lives. No matter, where we end up, how we change or grow, we are always the products of the place we came from. That place might be as small as grandmother’s house or the neighborhood in which we grew up. All of our lives it has a great affect on us. Our background also effects our kids. It is the universal truth.
No matter who we are, throughout our lives we are negotiating the borders. It may be the border or the division of culture, race, class or people’s perspective. We make transactions across boundaries and maneuver among differences. Self -discovery is the most important issue in our lives. For many of us, exploring the self means exploring the multiple selves and their roles within their families and cultures.
In Pakistan the word “Immigrant” or “Muhajir” always haunted me. I was in the comfortable cultural zone, but as my parents were born in India. I was also influenced by Indian culture. After my parents migrated from India to Pakistan, they became immigrants and than they have to deal with all these complexities of cultural conflicts and sense of belongings. They had to deal with limited jobs opportunities and “quota system.”
I was born and raised in Pakistan and it is my country, my home, but I am still considered as an immigrant (Muhajir) there. They have treated me the same way my parents had been treated. I remember the same limited aspects of life and “quota system.” The local people never liked us and always treated us as “outsiders.” All my life, I had the sense of alienation.
Twelve years ago when I came to this country I became an Immigrant again, but I was prepared for this. There are two ways to belong in America. People like me, who are here to maintain our identity, retain our culture and values and not to transform it. Other people, who are willing to give up their own culture to adapt a new culture and a new cross- cultural identity. People from all over the world come to America. They wanted to live here because America is like a “contact zone”. A contact zone is any place where different cultures come with some “asymmetrical relations of powers.” So people from different culture lives here and maintain their own identities as well.
Some days I refuse to choose: I feel like I’ll always be a Pakistani: nothing will change my identification. I feel some kind of irrational attachment to Pakistan that I don’t to America. I decided to live here but I can never understand my sense of belongings. My husband and I feel our sense of belongings at more than one level. I feel worse about my kids, who are neither Pakistani nor pure Americans. My kids are a product of two cultures: my own and American. We are surrounded by American culture, but our customs values and beliefs are not “Pure Americans” It can be another discussion that nothing is like “Pure American.” American culture is a combination of European, African, and Asian and Hispanic culture.
My kids feel alienated from the culture that is supposedly their own. My kids feel both outsider and insider: when ever they went to Pakistan, people over there, treated them as an American, who always has an upper hand or power over third world countries. As my kids are living in America, we would not allow them to adapt American culture. So they are hanging between two cultures.
Before 11th September, I feel that America is the country that includes you and is curious about other people. In America people have respect for each other. But now it seems like every thing has changed. People’s attitudes are changing towards each other. People feel sense of betrayal and alienation. I feel worst about those who became and wanted to become “Pure American”, now they are paying the price of “self transformation.”