Category Archives: belonging

my culture, your culture

I came across this quote today by the Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore. Such powerful words and yet such a simple message about culture. 
“Whatever we understand and enjoy in human products instantly becomes ours, wherever they might have their origin.
I am proud of my humanity when I acknowledge the poets and artists of other countries as my own. Let me feel with unalloyed gladness that all the great glories of man are mine.”  
And here is an interesting picture I found today:
BBC, March 6 2008.
An 80-year-old man prays in the middle of the street where Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed. 


Filed under belonging, culture

deeper the roots

A few days ago I went into a Starbucks to get something hot to drink and do some studying.  As I sat down with my hot water with pear & ginger teabag (it shouldn’t deserve to be called ‘tea’) at a small table next to a window, I glanced around the store.  Every store is the same.  The barista was writing about the latest drink special on a chalkboard and I thought, “I bet someone even tells her exactly what to write”.  In a way it is amazing how they can unify all these stores all over the world; the magic of marketing.  But I’m not a Starbucks fan and for many reasons that could be it’s own post.  But as I was looking around, I noticed a new poster that read “THE DEEPER THE ROOTS, THE HIGHER THE TREE”.  Interesting.  Starbucks has tried to market themselves as a socially responsible company and has made an effort to give inspiration to their customers, whether it is from the quotes on the back of the paper cups or the CD’s and books sold in their store.  I suppose they should be given credit for at least trying, but maybe it’s so we don’t feel so bad after overpaying for a cup of coffee.  I found it to be a very interesting phrase and wonder what the origins are:  some marketing whiz in a back corner or another phrase that has been ripped off another culture?   Continue reading

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Filed under America, belonging, popular culture

home & calcutta

Shideh & Manata, I really enjoyed reading your posts. When I think of the places I call “home”, it is defined by the people who are there. In the past 3 years I have lived in 3 different cities. And each time I have left one place, the new place never feels like home even when all my “stuff” is there. There is a cliche that says “home is where the heart is”. I find it very true. I speak of my “homeland” as Pakistan, though I have never lived there for longer than a few weeks. My “home” is still in the small town where I grew up, although I haven’t lived there in 7 years. I feel at “home” when I am with my family & the dear friends I call my ‘family’. For me, it is not the boundaries of our houses or the soil of a nation that make me love a place or make it a home. It is my experiences, the people and my association with that place.

Last summer I went to Calcutta, India as a chaperone for high school students who were traveling to do hospice work with the poor. Calcutta is where my father was born and where my great-grandfather opened the first optics shop that turned into the family business spanning three generations and four countries. Continue reading

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Filed under belonging, calcutta, culture, homeland, India, love, Pakistan


Shideh, your story was lovely. And it really made me think about why it is so hard for us to let go, to free ourselves from attachment to a place, a person or a thing. As a sociologist, I’m constantly being trained to go deeper and question everything. Among all the subjects that we become trained in, culture somehow finds its way into all of them. We’re trained to analyze how culture shapes the meanings that people attach to things, why people from different cultures struggle with each other at times, and ultimately, why culture matters in the first place. Wouldn’t it just be easier to be a “citizen of the world”, having no attachments to nation-states, to boundaries, and to a particular group? The idealist in me says yes, the budding sociologist in me says no.

No because people have a need to feel as if they belong. And they have a need to feel needed. Nationalistic tendencies are just an expression of these needs. While attachments to lands, customs, and beliefs can in fact divide us (as history has shown time and time again), it can also become a uniting force. Imagine what a colorless world it would be if everyone shared one culture, one nation, one custom. There would be limited opportunities to become exposed to another way of life. To open your mind to new possibilities. To have your beliefs challenged. And to come out as a more understanding, intelligent and strong-willed individual.


Cultural exchange in Omani desert. A group of young women from Europe and the Arab world travel through the desert in Oman, in a project aimed at increasing cross-cultural dialogue. BBC News.


Filed under belonging, culture