When you immigrate, you bring with yourself a lot of baggage. Your belongings are more than your clothes and other items you travel with. They include memories of your culture, weight of your history of colonization in your DNA, your third world mind and heart.
You carry things that provide a semblance of familiarity, before you start letting them go to catch the subway in time, to finish your 40-hour week, to be an immigration survivor, in hopes to be an immigrant success.
You try hard to leave behind the tragedies and trauma your third world inflicted on you, and start anew. You want to integrate into a secular, modern society where the presence and ownership of your female genitals won’t put you in the line of fire, at least in your daily life. But you continue to remain in the margins. Even if you have abandoned your beliefs, you still carry your brown colour. You still carry the smell of henna that you loved applying on your hands on Eid. You still hold the taste of warm rotis in your mouth. Your tongue still craves for those words of Urdu. Some things will never become unfamiliar, no matter how much your familiarity adapts to another life.
You want to remember the henna, colourful dupattas, and the fragile glass bangles but want to forget the greeting hand of your molester on your head in a house full of family. You wish to remember your achievements of the past without reminding yourself of the social cost at which they were gained. You want to identify with how you stood tall in the face of adversity but shiver at the thought of standing in front of a judge trembling uncontrollably when he refused to help you get your child back.
Selective memory is an art. Embracing the good and banishing the bad in that one moment in time is hard. Integrating in a new Western culture with your skin that is not brown but identifies as such is some times perplexing.
You remain torn – stuck in between, trying to only remember the taste of warm roti's you had while licking the curry off your fingers, and reminding yourself that you still enjoy the foreign cornbread because now you can have it shamelessly with a glass of wine.