A visit from my Pathan ancestor…

Daily Prompt: Modern Families

If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?

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My ancestral knowledge is sadly pathetic. I recently commented on a post by a fellow blogger innate James at The Relative Cartographer saying how I wish I had more knowledge of my rich ancestral background. That’s what a Pathan culture is all about. A deep set heritage that boasts of pride, love, passion, independence and a lot of heart! The only fact I knew until I turned sixteen was that I was essentially a Pathan, from my father’s side. Then my family was visited by a long-lost uncle who told us we were specifically ‘Ghilzai‘ Pathans. Whooppeee deee! Identification cards were changed. Names were updated. So what follows next is a large part of my assumptions, a lot of exaggeration and some parts truth. But this conversation at dinner would evoke more than just a raised eyebrow from my dearly departed ancestor.

  1. You don’t speak Pushto“!!!  Yes, that is as unbecoming as a bird purring like a cat. Not that this is a huge issue now. I know many birds who purr, I mean Pathans who don’t speak Pushto. We take pride in that. Mostly because if you are a Pathan, you will take pride in just about everything you or your family does. So seriously, I know so many Pathan folk who have successfully assimilated into other cultures etc. My father,his parents all spoke Punjabi, Urdu and English. Pushto never really fit into the equation. Though I admit, it is a soft and poetic language, fit for Kings! This almost makes me want to take some Pushto lessons.
  2. “Wait, are your eyes brown?!” Pathans are known for their gorgeous looks which encompass the stereotype assets like fair skin, colored eyes, great height, striking features etc. Ever heard of genetics and the inherited traits my dear, departed Ancestor? Maybe,my children’s children will have green eyes! *Note to self: next time wear colored contacts.
  3. You married a non-Pathan?! Just to make things clear, my immediate family and their families have all married within different races and cultures. That is no longer a big deal. In fact this is an age of diversity and acceptance. Besides my husband’s grandmother and her side of the family were all Pathans. Does that count?
  4. “Ah! So you love food! That’s my child!” Finally some acceptance. Somebody hand me a handkerchief please. Sniff.
  5. “When was the last time you had a sword fight?” Wooo hold it right there! What century did you say you came back from? We ditched swords long ago great-great-great-great-great-great…….great (stopping for a water break) great great…..grand daddy!!!

Or so the conversation would have gone (or not).  I love being a Pathan mostly because along with it comes a long, unbelievable and colorful history. A history that sadly, I may never know about. But hey, I am a Pathan…and a  proud, mixed Pathan at that!

*** I was lucky enough to get some precious information about my ancestors from my aunt…Ayesha Khan over at http://aishakhan0208.wordpress.com/. LOVE IT 🙂

My dearest niece, I wrote a detailed answer to your query, and lost it somewhere! Typical of a Khan Sahib or Khanum Sahiba…Well let’s pick up the famous Shahrukh Khan line:
My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist!
The story goes like our ancestors were invaders in Mahmood Ghaznavi’s army, during his umpteen attempts to conquer the great infidel temple of Somnaat.Thence they eventually settled in the present day India, in the vicinity of a town called Jallandur.They were granted lands and there was a village which was established by the name of Qillay Afghana.They gradually adopted the language and culture of Punjab. After 1947 they migrated to the Land of Pure.Now the only vestiges of Pathanship (a new word coined just now) are seen; firstly ,our innate pride,then our quarrelsome nature and of course our good looks!
(Yes, modesty is not of much use to us!).
I relish to tell the world, at every possible opportunity, that our Pathan Afghani brethren have put the fear of God in every Super power, be it the British Raj, the Mighty Soviet Union or the United States of America. They are unbeatable at the war games since their male infants play with pistols instead of toys.Their forthrightness and integrity make them totally trustworthy. That’s why in every major city of Pakistan they are the desired-for guards.Our transport system would fall apart without them. Right from rickshaws to the long distance truck drivers , who carry containers from the Karachi port right up to Kabul, transport is manned by pathans.
They have the undesirable trait of being ultraconservative in today’s world. But also they have been scapegoats for the mercenaries and the drug mafia forever, maybe a bit of truth is present in few accusations….
My greatest grand dad was probably a literary giant from Qandahar.Maybe this explains the reading and writing penchant in our family…..

The Parenting Puzzle

These days there are two kinds of  married people. Incessant planners and the oblivious non-planners. There are people who plan everything, right down to the prospects of a college fund for their currently unborn children. Then there are people who can’t even spell the word ‘plan’.  They leave it all to God and believe in the sanctity and inexhaustible supply of the reproductive system.

I was never much of a planner. And every time I showed even a slight interest, I was slapped back into a reality of my world, where its just not a good omen to plan anything. When I was expecting my first born, I came across people who had a long list of stuff planned for when they had their children. We didn’t even have a sufficient bank account that would accommodate our child’s schooling or even the coming year! I consoled myself and realized, if not the big things, I could always decide the near future of my child. I took to the easiest option in a woman`s dictionary – shopping. Even that did not go accordingly.

My son was born. I forgot about all the plans and non-plans that had ever crossed my mind. All that mattered were his big brown eyes looking at me with the love of the world. All he needed was our love and attention. And that surely does not need any planning. As a first time mommy, I was pretty tightly wound up and paranoid. Who saw my child, who held my child, what he ate…there was an annoying list. The fact that I did not read enough parenting material only added to my guilt and misery. But that did not last long. I was soon brought back to my senses. My son was happy, healthy and had tons of family to love him. I needed to cut myself some slack.  Then my daughter was born. Let`s just say she was the most perfect, most beautiful non-plan we could have been blessed with. The fact that this time I was not obsessing over things that were not in my control, helped me see the big picture. The actual plan, His plan, seamlessly materialized and things fell into their appropriate little slots on a previously puzzling life.

Many couples are now stuck in this conundrum of when it is the right time to have children. But that’s the thing.  You can never truly be prepared or prepped enough. Its not a dinner party that you can plan days ahead and get everything perfect, right down to the layout of the table. You think you have parenting figured out. You read all the modern books on parenting. You rely on the western culture for their thoroughness and honestly speaking at times, over-elaboration of parenting strategies. But then soon enough, your lack of preparation strikes you harder than a hammer pounding a nail.  You realize this immediately at your child’s birth; then soon after when you haven’t a clue about diaper changing or baths, or nursing! Thank goodness for grandmothers:). And then you understand it the most as they grow older. When they start school and make new friends. When they learn a bad word that is hard to delete from their razor sharp memories. When they love you to bits even though you spend a large part of the day screaming at them like a maniac. When you relentlessly obsess about a healthy diet while your kid ends up eating a chocolate covered doughnut just before bed. So at the end of it all, balance is essential. Keeping up with modern parenting techniques; while holding on fast to precious old wisdom of our parents, their parents, and so on. No book or expert will help you find that equilibrium. You will just have ride your own parenting seesaw and figure out where it all makes sense.

So with children, nothing comes as an official knock on your door. Its more like a sweet whiff of wind creeping through your window.

Unannounced. Unexpected. Welcomed.

A love forsaken.. A bond neglected

 

These days, there are many things that you don’t get to see often.  People writing letters. Children playing outdoors.  Someone going out of their way to help another. Children looking after their parents.

Now the last bit I think, is becoming harder to spot, each passing moment of our selfish, valueless lives. When you actually do see something out of the ordinary, it tends to leave an ever lasting impression. There they were, entering a restaurant; A frail, petite, very old lady, walking slowly with the help of, (who I assumed was) her 50-something son. The entire sight was refreshing yet intriguing. Like distorted reflections of life beneath the ocean, as you peer through ripples of water tirelessly circling away. Her wrinkled face, drooping exterior, and bewilderment at her surroundings betrayed her age, which I suppose must have been above eighty. The two spoke another language, but their language of love was enough for me to understand.

He asked her what she wanted to eat. She gave a confused reply. He left and returned with the menu card. That did not help either. This time he spent a good five minutes or so, explaining her options by speaking closely in her right ear. Her expression changed from confused to downright frustrated. The son listened and helped her out with the patience of a mountain. After much discussion, he finally left to place the order. In the meanwhile, she surveyed her surroundings like a child in an unfamiliar place; excited yet fearful. As our eyes met, I smiled and said hi. She passed a scrunched, sweet, satisfied smile back at me. I felt tears well up. I wanted to tell her how lucky she was.

Parents expect a lot of from their children. That’s how it was, is, and always will be. I am a mother myself and I’ll be darned if I don’t end up doing the same! Despite knowing that the love a parent gives can never be reciprocated in the same manner by the child. Essentially, selfless love is the parents’ forte! No son, no daughter can ever repay their parents’ blood and sweat.  But that surely does not give us, the children, a one-way ticket to ‘That’s no longer my problem’ land. That does not mean we can turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to our parents whenever we deem suitable. That certainly does not mean we can’t pluck out a few hours from our so-called busy schedules, for them, and them alone.

Maybe its time to collect all those years of lost time and wrap them up with sheepish little bows of gratitude, just for our parents. That precious heart-to-heart over tea, or that one-on-one shopping spree; that moment of silence shared together, or that casual walk in the park; they just want their babies near by. Sadly, even that is too much to ask for these days.  In countries like Pakistan, countless children like myself, have moved continents away from their parents, in hopes of securing better futures, or whatever that really means. Some are lucky enough to have their parents move too. But many are left to question their own beliefs, values, and priorities when they encounter such taxing situations. In most cases, I see parents at the loosing end. They send off their children, emotions tainted with bitter sweet sorrow, topped with a vicious lump stuck down their throats. And if they decide to move too, then they do so willingly but with an even bigger lump. How easy is it to give up a life you have lived forever? Yet how easy is it to live away from beings you call your life?

So many questions. Hardly any convincing answers.

Like always, I choose to ignore the the so-called facts. I choose to hide my head in the sand and pray. I refuse to accept how ‘normal’ this is in the eyes of many. I refuse to grow up. I dream of days of reunion. I hope for a time when I can bring smiles to their faces again through the little things; because honestly, nothing big can be expected from a selfish child. I yearn for a time when my parents will make everything better again, as they did whenever I shed a tear and cried out their names.

It isn’t enough, but its as true as it can be. I love you mama and baba.