If the question “Where are you from?” and the expiration of a passport can signal identify theft, there is nothing like the meeting up of like minds in the form of TCK’s that can symbolize identity recovery.
A couple of weeks ago I had this experience at the wedding of a friend in England. A German raised in Pakistan, now living back in Germany after many travels across the globe; an Australian, raised in Pakistan married to a French/Belgian woman who was raised in both Pakistan and Germany; a Brit raised in Pakistan by a Lebanese mom and Scottish dad, now living in Britain working as a doctor; another German raised in Pakistan living in New Delhi, were among the many who came together to celebrate the bride, who also has a cross-cultural past. And in celebrating I discovered a bit more about identity and connection.
Despite only vague memories from over twenty years ago and generational spans of greater than 20 years, the conversation and connection was life-giving and immediate. None of the potential awkward moments of meeting strangers, or people who you attempt to engage in small talk, only to feel exhausted after 2 minutes of conversation. All of us had, at one point or another, been a part of Murree Christian School, a small boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains in Pakistan so talk centered around when we each left Pakistan, the pain of departure and discomfort of awkward adjustment in the countries of our diaspora, what we had done since then, memories from the boarding school that served as familiar territory to all of us,and stories – the “do you remember?” stories and others. Stories that were full of humor of our own bumbling attempts at living between worlds, and tales that were angering or just plain sad.
The connection that is Murree Christian School is a unique one. Meeting up with former students and staff from MCS is like going to a family reunion, where you realize that there is a relationship with everyone in the room, for good or for ill. Everyone knows and laughs about the weird uncle and understands the culture and language of the family. In this case it is the language of boarding school, home, and furlough – the feastings and midnight feasts; sports day in the spring; monsoon weather that made our clothes smell of mold and mildew; the big green board in the main school that highlights athletic achievements through the years; tea time at 4pm; bus rides from the train station in Rawalpindi, where we gathered after spending winter breaks in more isolated areas, to the school that was our common ground with always at least one of us throwing up from car sickness on the way; periodic furloughs that took us to far away places; and long separations from parents. Everyone also knows that our lives were significantly different from our peers in our home countries, occasionally leading to isolation,loneliness and a questioning of who we were. This makes the connection and sense of place and identity more significant.
It was these similarities and not having to explain our lives and backgrounds that made this gathering so welcome and refreshing. It was like arriving parched and dehydrated, and immediately being given a cold, refreshing drink served in crystal glass taking away the thirst and bringing in its place energy, revival, and recovery.
- Identity Theft (communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com)
- Chai, Chai, Garam Chai! (communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com)
- ‘Cricket diplomacy’ is fine, but India and Pakistan will need more than that | Ian Jack (guardian.co.uk)