Unfortunately, my introduction doesn’t come with a creative nickname or a fancy title, but that can be a work in progress. It’s just me – Adeenah Choksi. My middle name, Lukhaniz, was almost my first, but thankfully my parents battled my dada’s (paternal grandfather) wishes and came to a compromise. The reason why my dada was so pressed on the name Lukhaniz is because it was the name of Prophet Musa’s mother. He wanted me to have the sawaab (good deeds) of that name being mine as well. I knew that, but I was still very persistent on no one knowing my middle name. If asked, I’d respond with a mumble, or I’d say it too fast to hear right. That’s the effect of the westernization of the Desi culture. I am an unruly victim.
My first name, Adeenah, means From Heaven in Arabic. My last name, however, is the doozy, because I only learned its meaning about a month ago. I’ve always known I was part-Indian, part-Pakistani, and part-South African (we can circle back to that later, I’m learning how to become an open book), but I didn’t realize how prevalent the former was in something as small (yet as large) as my name. My full-Pakistani dada’s last name, Choksi, means jewelry maker in Bengali. Yes, it makes sense because “all Pakistanis were Indian” but at the same time, my dada is “Gujju” (Gujarati). Even my dad doesn’t know how it all correlates to each other. That’s a piece of my history I have yet to learn, but I’ll update you all when I get the answer.
There’s a lot about myself that I still don’t know, and that’s embarrassing to admit as an 18-year-old. For one, I didn’t even know I was part-Gujju until my friend googled it for me at the beginning of my first semester of college and my dad later confirmed that fact. That’s right: college. I don’t know why I never thought to check who I was. I’ve been living life in this blissful limbo where life was all sunshine and rainbows, however the clouds were in the distance, racing in to rain on my parade.
It’s important to know who you are. I know it is. I’ve always known it. But sometimes it's easier living life the easy way. I tried to gaslight myself into this thought process, because a small part of me was more embarrassed to ask my grandparents or parents the real questions. They thought I already knew, as if I were born with all the answers. That’s the same reason why I don’t know how to swim. I’m supposed to be the one with all the answers after all; eldest daughter, first niece, first granddaughter… I’m supposed to be the perfect one (apologies to my siblings and cousins), but it’s the truth. And while we’re truth-dumping here, I’m no longer ashamed to say that I don’t know everything, and I often have those days where I feel like I know less and less as time passes by. You know that frustrating feeling you get when you’re trying to argue your point, but it never comes out as strong and powerful as it sounded in your head? It feels like that to me, but I know that I’m not the only one that feels that way.
I’m going to confess something to you guys, and I hope you don’t make fun of me for it… I grew up watching Bollywood movies with my dadi (paternal grandmother), but I don’t know any of the titles and I stopped when I was 11 years old. Pathaan was the first Bollywood movie I’ve watched since. I only listen to Bollywood music on road trips with my family, and I always fall asleep to it. I know little-to-no Urdu (my basic knowledge being how to understand the sentences “How are you?” and “When’s the wedding?”). I’m a Muslim girl with an amazing, strong Muslim community behind me, yet I don’t know how to connect with them. I know I need to fix this, but I don’t know how, or if I even have the capability to. The funny part of this all would be the three years of Islamic school that did absolutely nothing for my path to self-discovery. Those years at Islamic Foundation School were an interesting point in my life with ups and downs that I tend to forget even occurred. I get so wrapped up in the moment but I never saw what was right in front of me.
The point to get here is that the saying “you never stop learning” is the most accurate sentence in the world. It took me coming to college to learn the most important facts about myself. When I told people the fun fact that I’m part Pakistani, Indian, and South African, they were taken aback. They followed up with “what type?” and I had to respond with “I don’t know.” They were taken aback by that, too. I didn’t always think it was a big deal that I didn’t know, but it hit me then how wrong I was. But I know I’m not the only one that doesn’t know. There’s no way all 8 billion people in this world know everything about themselves. If they do, and if I’m the outlier, then maybe you all can teach me what it means to be Desi. But I know everyone doesn’t have it all figured out. No matter where we live, we all have to fight the battle that is the Westernization of the World, but no one has to do it alone.
That’s what Our Safe Space is all about, after all. Everyone deserves a haven. Everyone deserves to know they aren’t alone. We’re all here for each other, we’re all a community. And I hope we can make the journey to self-discovery together.
Whether this post resonated with you or whether you’ve never been more confused, I hope you found a small piece of yourself between these lines. And if you haven’t yet, I hope you will. For me, this blog is an outlet, yet for you, I hope it serves as a welcoming into our vast community, our home. I want to reassure you that no matter the state you’re in, you’ll never be isolated. I know we all have different perspectives, but regardless, I hope to see you all again next time.
All my love,