Grinding Spices

Relationship: Im/migrant

Where are you from? Forty-seven years later, I am still asked this question. “Upper East Side,” I say. “But before that?” “Staten Island.” I am not answering the question. “Yes but before that?” Eventually I relent. “Pakistan.” Why the hesitation? Because I see myself as an American. Yet, anyone crossing paths with me for the first time can tell that once upon a time, I came from a far away land. They can sense the scent of a Pakistani – the fragrance of Jasmine, spices, and rose water still emanates from my being. I came to the US in 1971. Within a few years, shalwar kameez got bookended in my closet as I made room for jeans and tee-shirts, Urdu books were replaced by Colleen McCullough and Mario Puzo, my social calendar got populated by Ann, Mary, and Jenny as the frequency of the aerogram letters to Sameena, Parveen, and Laila became less and less frequent, my politics shifted from the war in Pakistan to the Watergate hearings, and the color of my passport changed from green to blue. What hasn’t changed is the food. Inhaling the aroma of chicken curry, the spicy tinge of succulent kebabs, the whiff of mouth-watering chicken biryani, the syrupy gulab jaman… is pure bliss. Food is the link to the land of my birth—flavored with the fragrance of hospitality, sprinkled with spice of love, and steamed in the warmth of fellowship. It is what nourishes my body and soul. Photo: I am grinding spices. 

Place(s): Pakistan
Year: 1971

– Sabeeha Rehman

Relationship:  Im/migrant Im/migrant