Stories Of Youth and Growing Up

All the Difference

 As a kid, you never think about race too much. Everyone’s just someone you can play with, look at, or just talk to. But as one gets older, you come to understand the differences between people. Theres always that one vent that sticks in our heads where we finally understood the concept. For example, my family is from South Asia, most notably Pakistan and India. Growing up the word that I would use for certain things around the house would be in the native language, Urdu. Water would be Pani, and so forth. I thought there was no other word for it, because at that point I didn’t know any better. I would go to restaurants with my family and ask the waiter’s for Pani, and they would just look at me confused. As a kid, I just thought they were stupid or didn’t know what I was saying, but eventually I went to school and saw kids talking about things I had grown up with and calling the different names. Water, Pomegranate, Apples, Pencils. It was so confusing to me because I knew what those were and what they did, but the names they said didn’t make sense. That’s when I realized, everyone grows up differently. Some people grow up with a qalam, some with a pen, some with a lapiz. It’s like that folktale with the greek, turk, and persian. They found a coin, and when they were trying to find something to eat they all said the word grapes in their language, but none of them understood the other, so they fought each other over no disagreement at all.


My friends and I finally managed to do it. The impenetrable wall that held us from eternal happiness could now be overcome. As we scaled the wall using the old football cleats that we found in the dusty bin in my garage, a sense of pride and accomplishment washed over us. We could finally play basketball at the courts which for as far as we remembered, were surrounded by an impenetrable fortress. I guess you could say we finally came of age. We were grown-up, and those bigger kids that used to tease had nothing on us. We were on top of the world.


The day started off normally, I went to school, ate lunch with my friends, and then went home. But something different would happen today, forever changing my life. I was getting a haircut. It wasn’t a normal haircut, the kind you dread and when its done you feel like pulling your hair out. This would be different. It would look like those pictures online. As I sat down in the chair, The barber took out his clippers and I could feel the tingle of the blade along my skin. Then, as he pulled out the mirror, I could feel the difference. It was like looking at a different person. The lines were all straight, the hair a perfect length on my head. The first thing my dad said was look at you all grown up. I felt so proud. The next day was all different, I felt like the man. All the girls were eyeing my way, all the boys sending jealous looks, but I didn’t care, I just smiled and waved.


My older cousin was coming over. My parents didn’t like him much. I mean, they loved him of course, he was family. But theres loving someone for them and loving someone for their actions. My cousin wasn’t the greatest influence ever. He stayed out late, he didn’t get straight A’s. But he was nice, exciting. He was the only one who would play basketball with me, who would let me watch scary movies. As the young kid I was, he seemed like the only one who understood. After mosque on fridays he would take all the cousins to get Shawarma at the food truck down the street.

Stuck On The Inside

It was a hard time to be hopeful. We’d been stuck inside for over two months now, and the loud faces on the news were telling us the end was not near yet, we had just started the beginning. It was never-ending. I hadn’t seen those close to me for a while, yet I couldn’t because of this barrier that was separating us. Then I remembered- today was a Friday, and tonight we would be together in an online setting, playing the things that made us forget the troubles we were going through outside, and made us feel like we really were together again. Yes, it may seem childish, but it was what gave me joy in those trying times. My PS4 may have been the only thing keeping me sane, as outlandish as that sounds.

Out Of Place

Have you ever had that feeling that you are different somehow, that you just can’t blend in? I mean of course its good to stand out, but sometimes I just want to be on my own, to go where the crowd takes me. Just be invisible, a ghost. Be the background character. Be like the little groves in between the bricks, be something nobody notices. I guess thats why I love driving so much. Everyone is living their own life trying to get from one place to another. You can disappear a little bit. Forget about your friends, your social pressures, your peers, your teachers, your grades, your coaches, all the rude things that you get on a daily basis, the pressure to return compliments so it doesn’t turn into rude remarks. But thats just the way life works. You can’t disappear. You have to face the world head on otherwise you’ll find yourself going backwards on the race track. You need to find your safe spaces, your coping mechanisms, good friends, and most of all, a good home.

The Angel Of Death

 I had never really thought about death. For us, death wasn’t the end, it was just a step between this world and the next. the details were still covered in shrouds. My great-Uncle had just passed, and it was a big deal for our whole family. Back home, here, in so many countries around the world. So important, that my dad started booking plane tickets. “What are you doing?” I said. “Going to the funeral. You know what, you’ve never been back home, why dont you come as well.” And so it went. The next weekend I was packing my bags for India. Of course, its never just India. We needed to pick some people up, gifts, condolences, and the like. We stopped in Saudi Arabia, a land I was totally unfamiliar with. The air was hot, the wind dry, and the people spoke a language I was only mildly familiar with. It was alot to take in just stepping off of a 17-hour flight. But I made it through. My little Arabic that I knew sufficed for our time there, and then came the biggest shock- India. No more drinking tap water, my dad said. No fruits, no vegetables, nothing that hasn’t been cooked, boiled, or thoroughly cleaned. I didn’t really understand, but I said ok and moved on. I just wanted to sleep and get over my 10,000 mile journey. Then came the funeral. I stepped out in my black shalwar kameez and stood in a row giving my prayers to the deceased, then stood in line to do the ritual three cups of dirt on the lowered body in the grave. It was all so new, so unusual. The man that lay there had once walked, in fact everyone in this graveyard had there own stories, own memories, own lives. How insignificant are we as individuals? How petty are our desires, our complaints, in the end we all will end up 6 feet under. I was in my head thinking and watching them bury the body and cover the surface with clay to indicate the grave. Laying next to him was my Great,great grandfather, and his father, and his father before him.

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