The Traveling Shawl

The shawl after 50+ years of alterations
The shawl after 50+ years of alterations

I carry all the women of my family inside of me. During the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, my Great- grandmother and her family decided to migrate to the newly formed Islamic Republic of Pakistan for a shot at survival. Their town in India had been plundered by the Hindu and the Sikh majority. There seemed to be nothing left to do but make the trek over. The journey itself was riddled with obstacles. My Great- grandpa worried for the younger children and urged his wife to leave them to some of their loyal Hindu friends. This was about survival for them and he promised they would return after the tensions had eased. My Great- grandma refused, and instead vowed to keep her children near her throughout the journey of a month on foot. The youngest daughter, one of my Great- aunts was only about a year old. To protect her from the blistering heat and to provide cover for the other kids at night, she used this bright orange shawl that was given to her at her wedding as a symbol of protection. Once it made it Islamabad, the shawl was tattered but it made it through and became a symbol of survival and strength. Since then, all the women have gotten to add their own touch to it. When it came to my mom, she added embroidered flowers and brought it over to the States as she too, was making the journey to a new land to provide for a better life for her kids. It represents the bravery my ancestors had and something my family prides itself upon. The traveling shawl is immensely treasured and I am thankful for all that has been sacrificed for me to be here, like this, today. 

Place(s): Pakistan, India
Year: 1947

– Emaan Choudhry

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more