Last year, the Daily North Shore published an article written by LFHS student Maliha Yousuf. She gave us a look into her double life with coalescing her love and connection with Pakistani culture with that of American traditions. Maliha is currently a sophomore at LFHS.
Be sure to check out Maliha’s article from the Daily North Shore to fully understand her story.
What inspired you to write your article for the Daily North Shore?
“Well, it was actually for the Open Doors program and they asked us to write an article that they could possibly get published. I had no idea what to write about, and I just figured that I should write about what I know. So I just started writing and I knew I wanted to keep it positive and tell a story. So that is definitely what I tried to focus on while I was writing. The reaction to the article was super great and it got so many shares on Facebook; the community took it really well. I was super shocked and excited. I had no idea that so many people we going to read it.”
Are there any conflicts or struggles you ever face with your “two worlds” that you mention in your Daily North Shore article?
“I think a lot of it is finding a balance within my life. I like to think that I don’t really live in two worlds, but in my own. My parents have always been super helpful if I ever came across something that I just had no idea how to handle. But I have always been proud of being Pakistani and being a Muslim. It has never been something that I’ve hidden, and I am always listening to Bollywood music or talking about the Desi food I’m super excited to have for dinner.”
Has clothing and establishing a sense of style always been a part of who you are?
“For sure! I have always had an interest in fashion and beauty. I think your sense of style is such a great way to show off your personality and mood. I’ve definitely had great fashion role models in my life, too. My mom has definitely influenced my sense of style and my grandmother is a wedding dress designer in Pakistan. I lived in the city for a couple years before I moved to Lake Forest, and I think it was really great experience to live in a city where there were so many walks of life and people just being themselves without any shame. I definitely take that into account and if I want to wear something, I wear it, no matter how extravagant it is. It is very common to see me wearing an outfit that is Desi-influenced, especially during the summer. I have always been encouraged to celebrate and express myself through my clothing and I hope that I continue to do this when I grow up.”
What is your favorite part about living this so-called double life?
“I think my favorite part is becoming so involved in my Pakistani heritage and culture. Obviously I’m an American, I live in Lake Forest, I work hard in school, hang out with my friends, and that is just my everyday life. But almost every year I get to go to halfway across the world to Pakistan and see what life is like there. I get to eat the best samosas with my daadi jaan (grandma) on the way to her workshop; I get to go to the stalls and shop for jewelry and pashmina scarfs; I watch Bollywood movies with my dada abu (grandpa); I get to indulge myself in a completely different culture, which I think is something that not a lot of people get to do and for that I am so thankful. Over the summer my cousin Kinza had a Pakistani wedding in America, and a lot of my family from Pakistan flew in. For a full 2 weeks we were together and celebrating. American weddings and Pakistani weddings couldn’t be more different. Kinza’s wedding had 6 events, one of those events was the nikkah, which is the formal Islamic wedding.
Despite being Muslim I had never seen one of these happen and it was super beautiful and sweet. The rest of the events were all parties. My whole family, my best friend (I managed to get her to tag along), and I were on the dance floor until 3 am. Everyone was dressed to perfection in Desi clothing, the women were wearing stunning jewelry, Bollywood music was blasting, the colorful decorations surrounded us. Then afterwards we would all head up to one big hotel room, the whole family would just sit on whatever they could find, order food, drink tea, and just talk until even earlier in the morning. The next day we would repeat the same process. This wedding was one of the coolest experiences of my life, and I ended up crashing another Desi wedding a couple weeks later because I had so much fun. I had put photos of these all over my social media, and I got so many questions and compliments. Everyone was wondering where I was and what I was doing, and some people thought that I went to like 7 weddings when I really only went to 2. It was really cool to see that so many people had an interest in what I was doing and they just kept asking questions about the wedding and wanting to know more about the culture. It was super fun being able to share my culture with all of my American friends.”
Describe a little about your “two worlds”?
“I’ve definitely grown up a lot since freshman year, and I would no longer say that I live in two worlds but my own world. As my sense of self has become stronger I really think that I’ve developed my own way of looking at the world. I do a lot of the things that other teens in Lake Forest do, I’m involved at school. I sing, I’m in Human Rights Club, and I work hard in school. I hang out with my friends, over the summer I interned at Karam Foundation and I volunteer a lot with them now. I listen to Bollywood music all the time, and I’ve even managed to get some of my friends hooked on Bollywood movies and music. I’m really close with my cousin Kinza and I talk to her about everything–from makeup tips to making fun of our FOB (Fresh off the boat) dads. But at the end of the day we still love them. I think I’ve really managed to seamlessly blend both cultures into my life really well.”
How have your parents/family influenced your outlook on life and religion?
“I have always identified as a Muslim, and my parents made the decision to raise my siblings and I Muslim before they even got married. I’ve always believed that religion is supposed to guide you in being a good person and to give you something to believe in when you think you have nothing. Islam is often given a bad reputation because the only “Muslims” they see are the ones on the news in a terrorist group. Islam literally means submission into peace, which proves my belief of how these terrorist groups are really not Muslims. The Qur’an teaches you to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, and non-violent. When I was little before I would go to bed my dad and I would always recite a surah (prayer) before bed, to keep away the nightmares. My Farah ChaChi (my aunt) has taught me how to pray has really helped me understand Islam on a whole new level. Though my mom is Catholic, she would try to help me with my Islamic school homework to the best she could and she always encouraged me to learn more about my faith.”
How often do you get to go to Pakistan, and what is usually your reason for going there?
“I go to Pakistan every year during winter break to visit my grandparents. My dad’s family lives over there so every year we come and stay in my grandparents’ home. I look forward to going to Pakistan every year because I always have so much fun there. But it is also really great time to bond with my grandparents because I really only get to see them once a year. WhatsApp can only connect us so much.”
What advice would you give someone that may have a similar situation to you?
“I would just tell someone to just be yourself no matter what. Obviously both of my cultures have influenced who I am, but I have never let them control who I am. I never wanted to conform to a stereotype or expectation of me, if that isn’t what I wanted. A lot of what makes my situation “difficult” is that Pakistani culture and American culture couldn’t be any more different. Then, on top of that being Muslim today is a whole other complication. But it is important to not let anyone else get you down, and you just need to be confident in who you are. I have such amazing people in my life that support, guide, and just are there for me when I need them to be. I would definitely say to find those people in your life that you know will be there for you through thick and thin.”
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
“This is a tough question because I feel like I could end up anywhere. I have a couple passions in my life that I hope I will end up doing at least one of them. I am really into human rights, and I would love to be a human rights lawyer. I really want to help people in need and try to right the wrongs in society to the best of my ability. I could also see myself as a journalist. I really enjoy writing and I think a job based on writing and discovering the truth is really interesting. It would keep me on my toes, and I still would have the option to cover human rights issues. I could also see myself being a singer or actress. I have loved to do that stuff since I was a kid and I just get this amazing rush when I am singing or acting that I really don’t get from anything else. Anyone who knows me knows that I think that Beyoncé is the queen of everything, and who knows maybe in 10 years I’ll be a Desi version of Beyoncé.
I definitely see myself living in a super busy city, preferably New York. I love the atmosphere and the vibe that it gives off. I really like the idea of so many different people from different backgrounds coinciding in one place. I really do believe that only time will tell where I will end up, especially because I can see myself going in so many completely different directions. But I just hope that 10 years from now I am doing something that I enjoy and that makes me happy.”