You feel most like a stranger when you’re watching your father give your brothers warm hugs and kisses. When you’re watching him tell them that he loves them.
You eagerly put on a mix of vintage Bollywood in the car with him later that day. Anything Lata, Mukesh, or Rafi. You hope that being in the presence of what he adores may rub off. Maybe you’ll get some scraps too.
The songs teleport you to when your father heard them for the first time. It’s the 1960s. You land in his courtyard in Faisalabad, Pakistan. You enter through the giant forest green doors. You see your Dada-Abu ( paternal grandfather) getting up from his chaarpay.
You watch his tirades. You witness his misogyny revealing itself in a harrowing way. You’re watching your father observing him intently and you hear the same songs ominously playing in that landscape.
You want to blindfold the little boy. You wished he was off flying a kite every time this happened. You resent how all of the baggage trickled down generationally. How you’re a second class offspring.
You’re scared your brothers’ daughter will someday be in a car putting on Lupe Fiasco, Nas or Tupac tracks. Your deepest anxiety is that she’ll be playing them not because she wants to learn about our American history through hip hop but because your brothers never unpacked it all.
You don’t want to watch that happen to her. To see yourself in that little girl. Because you know in your heart of hearts that living something isn’t the most painful part. It’s the watching. It was always the watching.