In my post about Serial, I mentioned that most people of South Asian descent can relate to living a dual life. We know how to be two different people. We live the life that we want, along with the life that our parents want for us. We become masters of pretence. We know how to cover our tracks and we do so until our two worlds collide.
I have written a lot about my alienation from my Pakistani heritage but Serial pushed me to think about the kind of person that our culture wants us to be.
Our parents and grandparents were raised in an environment where a woman was unable to leave the house until a male was present. They are now living in a Western country, conveying these same customs to their children. But how do they prevent their children from succumbing to the customs of the space that they are now living in?
There are two conflicting cultures; our lives are battles between them. One culture teaches us to be open and the other silences our pain. One shelters us from existence and the other overexposes us to its reality. We inherently gravitate towards the one that is unfamiliar to us and thus we end up living two lives.
I guess what I am saying is that we are a part of two cultures that cannot co-exist. This drives us to be two different people. We come from a community that forces us to hide fragments of ourselves to protect the honour of our family. We are not allowed to reach the full capacity of who we are because there is already a predetermined path that is paved for us. We repress everything, we internalise everything. Even the sound of our own heartbeat is a secret.
When we eventually discover a new way of living, it realigns everything that we once knew. It’s almost like when you’ve been staring at the same picture for years and you suddenly come to realise that there is a shadow in the background. There is something that you didn’t see before. There is a new perspective, which changes the entire meaning of the photograph. There is a different way to live.
We want to live our own lives; we want to explore our own avenues. But when our parents want something else entirely, we become another person in the dark. We exist coherently in one form, recognising each other, a part of two worlds but always guarded. It is an intrinsic part of our existence.
In the end, I think that the culture that corresponds with who you want to be is going to take precedence.