An antique phonograph adorns the bookshelf of my living room. The specific origin is unknown, because it is from a time where there were no borders in South Asia. It is certain that this artifact has traveled through the lands of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India, just like the blood in my veins, before my paternal grandparents finally brought it to their home in New York City. Each time I look this phonograph, a sea of melodies flows through my ears.
My taste in music is perhaps the subconscious offspring of the CDs my father always played in the car during long rides. I remember as a child, I would join my father in humming to classics such as “Catch a Falling a Star” by Perry Como and “Que Sera Sera” by Doris Day. Today, these melodies now characterize my childhood as they must have also influenced my father when he was growing up in Islamabad and Damascus, a child of Foreign Service parents.
My mother’s favorite songs direct my ears to South Asia. The mellifluous voices of Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar are hallmarks of Bollywood’s golden age. The poetic verses of Rabindra Sangeet, the songs composed by Bengal’s Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, incites existential discourses within me. On a more mystical side, the qawwalis of Nusrat and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan transport me to the most picturesque hills of northern Pakistan and Kashmir.