Photography by Silja Pietilä, 17, Finland
Photography by Safia Henniche, 16, Boston
Dear Readers and Contributors,
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Founder, Nonfiction Editor in Chief
The Elysian Muse Youth Literary Magazine
Generational differences have always been an odd thing. I’m sure you’ve seen the little quirks and remarks manifest themselves in your parents or grandparents as you go throughout your day. If you grew up in the United States and have a boomer dad maybe he is hounding you for your reliance and abuse of the internet. Or, it could be questions like, “how have you done so little with your life! When I was twenty-two I graduated from college, was married, got a job, and did woodworking as a side hobby!”
To be blunt, I’m not trying to attack or ridicule the way of life back then; I’m simply trying to establish that life was different compared to contemporary living. For me, the situation illustrated previously simply does not encapsulate the full image of the generational differences I described above. Why? Well, my parents are immigrants. Those of you who are first generation settlers (in my case American) just internally groaned; you know exactly what I am talking about. Those of you are not… well you’ll see soon enough.
Let's start with establishing a few facts about me. In terms of race my family is extremely diverse. We hail from all parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. This weird mix of races eventually decided to settle in a country called Pakistan, which was formerly a part of the country India, which itself was British colony. Yup, some of my fellow Indians and Pakistanis know exactly where this is going. The purpose of Pakistan was to be a purely Muslim nation for all those Muslim Indians who had been opprosed and persecuted by the Indian government after Britain had colonized the country and deliberately increased tensions between religious factions.
During the breakaway of Pakistan from India there was bloodshed. Now, these words have been used to describe numerous tragedies in human history: the Holocaust? Bloodshed; the Rwanadan Genocide? Bloodshed; the war in Syria? Bloodshed. I want you to truly understand why prejudice between both sides exists at such an alarming degree so much, so I’ll tell you a short story from my grandmother's childhood.
During the breakaway of Pakistan from India, my grandmother, who was Muslim, was boarding the train that would take her to Pakistan from India. We might as well call this train The Train of Death. Why? Because anti-Muslims would hide themselves in the train and amongst the Muslim people, and once the train started moving they would slaughter all of the locomotive’s inhabitants. Keep in mind trains were the only way to get to Pakistan from India. While on the train my grandmother experienced unimaginable horrors: sisters raped and decapitated, fathers decapitated, children being cannibalized by their own family (forced by Indian soldiers), siblings and parents forced to have sex with one another (once again unwillingly). One particularly gruesome game was hide and seek. The soldiers would let a Muslim go under the condition they hide from them. If the Muslums is found then he/she will have a limb chopped off. They will continue to play this game until either the train reaches Pakistan or the person died of blood loss. Those who lost all their limbs during the game would also lose their ears, nose, genitals, or whatever the person felt he/she wanted to remove in order to keep the game going. During these gruesome events, my grandmother feigned as a dead body amongst the pile of corpses.
By the time the train reached Pakistan it was blood red. In fact, my grandmother showed me a newspaper article of the train she came from, and at first I thought some ink bled on the newspaper and that's why there were black dots everywhere. “No, Jibran; that's the blood of my people.” How do you continue to live after seeing this? “Remember Jibran, we were not broken; just bent. And how do you fix the bent you ask? Use the flames of hatred spewed of upon you by your enemies, the heat emanating from your palms, the burn tattooed into your cartilage to heat up the iron bar that is your heart and meld it into a great image of who you will be. Remember the source of the heat that burns the embers inside your heart, Jibran. Hate. Never forget what they did, never forgive and continue to live in spite of them.”
As the third generation, I was expected to inherit this prejudice, and I can sadly say there were rare moments in my childhood where I was filled with such a disgusting emotion. This is where the generational differences begin: I argue that this rift between us, Pakistanis and Indians, no longer needs to exist. There was a time when the Muslims lived in peace in south asia and it was a prosperous nation, where such emotions did not exist. We can heal the rift between the two people and make this hate only remembered by the pages of history textbooks.
A sizable portion of my fellow Pakistanis argue against this. The atrocities cannot be forgotten. The Indians caused us this pain. “No, they didn't, it was caused by colonial rule.” My words are in vain. Sometimes other Pakistanis call me a Hindu Indian as an insult when I express these ideals. The rare moments that I side with my fellow Pakistanis and embrace the hate are the moments I feel the best. The ability to know who your enemies are and direct all your hate at them feels so therapeutic. Other times in my childhood I was wrapped in guilt. How can I blame someone else for these problems? It's morally incorrect.
To clarify, these two states of mind I discussed above are actually rare. Only in moments of extreme grief or excitement do I truly feel like this. In actuality, I feel alone. I cannot condone the past actions of Indians who committed such atrocities, but I cannot condone my grandmother’s resolution or the hate passed onto generations. On the same token, I can say the same about American society. There are many aspects I disapprove of: substance use, information abuse, and the philosophical outlook on life. I accept that the US is where I live and my race is one that has a diverse and tragic history, but I refuse to let these facts define who I am. I reject America and I reject Pakistani ideals.
My sister says that I can take the best of both worlds: I can be a Pakistani-American. But I simply cannot bring myself to label myself this way. In Islam we have a Propet by the name of Ibrahim (Peace Be Upon him) who is described as someone who is his own ummah (nation or people) and his good deeds were tantamount to that of an entire nation’s. That is who I am: my own nation, my own people. My environment and my lineage will not define me, only identify me. Pakistan is my past, America is my present, and I will mold my own ideals in accordance to past lessons.
The following poem is called The Epitaph by Bahadur Zafar Shah. The author was the last emperor of the Mughal Empire before he was exiled by the British into Burma. On his deathbed he wrote this poem to convey the grievances of all who lived under the British, regardless of race, class, creed, or color.
My heart has no repose in this despoiled land
Who has ever felt fulfilled in this futile world?
The nightingale complains about neither the sentinel nor the hunter
Fate had decreed imprisonment during the harvest of spring
Tell these longings to go dwell elsewhere
What space is there for them in this besmirched heart?
Sitting on a branch of flowers, the nightingale rejoices
It has strewn thorns in the garden of my heart
I asked for a long life, I received four days
Two passed in desire, two in waiting.
The days of life are over, evening has fallen
I shall sleep, legs outstretched, in my tomb
How unfortunate is Zafar! For his burial
Not even two yards of land were to be had, in the land of his beloved.
My name is Jibran Abbasi, I'm 17 years old, and I'm from New Jersey! Currently, I am a staff writer for the newspaper "The Signal" and have published two articles alongside the organization and two poems independently! I love MMA and have been doing combat sports for thirteen years!