Gender & Identity, Life

I’m afraid of forgetting my Mauritian culture

I apply henna as I used to, but on white strangers’ hands.

Somehow, while living in the United States away from my parents’ rulebook, I’ve broken some serious rules rather blatantly while clinging fervently to some others.

I’ve been breaking some trivial rules as well, such as not washing my mug or spoon or bowl immediately after using it, sometimes washing it more than a week later (!), only doing my laundry when I run out of clean underwear (and socks), making my bed once a month, if at all. Though those are not really serious infringements, my parents, especially my mom, would highly disapprove of this way of living.

[bctt tweet=”I’ve broken some serious rules rather blatantly while clinging to some others.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I wonder if I’m defining a new me, is this how I really, actually am? Am I creating the template for my future life right now? Is this the way I will live even after I graduate and live on my own, and after I get married, if some poor soul does ever make the lapse in judgment to agree to be my husband? Will I be this sloppy, untidiness-loving, rule-breaking girl for the rest of my life? Or is this just a rebellious phase of my life as I begin to live on my own for the first time and there’s no one to nag me about my carelessness and laziness? Will I someday finally realize The Need to live in a tidy and neat and clean environment? When I transform from a grown girl to a full-fledged Womb-an? How will the senior year Nidaa be?

As I attempt to retrace the worn footsteps of my kin before me, I can see myself bringing a new, perhaps westernized twist to it. This hit me the other day while I was cooking traditional Mauritian Rougail in a foreign country, with the same vegetables which looked different, with foreign friends, while listening to American songs. I was trying to recreate the familiar feel of home, maybe because I miss it, but without realizing that I will never be able to experience that moment exactly ever again, not even when I go back home next year, since even though I will then be following the rules again, I will have known the feeling of being wild and free, one I’ve never known before.

[bctt tweet=”Am I creating the template for my future life right now? ” username=”wearethetempest”]

I make my usual cup of Mauritian black tea, but in a Creighton University mug. I apply henna as I used to, but on white strangers’ hands. I pray just as I’ve always had, but alone in a female Muslim prayer room, on a new prayer rug. I have my usual crazy crushes on guys, but this time they are people from wholly different cultures than mine, people I cannot claim to fully understand. I have friends, close ones, but they cannot communicate with me in my native language.

So am I in the process of becoming one of those new-age women that I used to be intrigued by and disdained at the same time? People who retrace the longstanding marks of tradition but water it down to the point that I used to feel it disrespected the original practice. But isn’t that exactly what I’m doing right now? A younger me would scoff at this – why pretend to be fulfilling a custom if you’re not going the whole way? Why call yourself a Muslim proudly and openly if you’re not going to follow everything that the religion prescribes?

[bctt tweet=” I have friends, but they cannot communicate with me in my native language.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Now I get that it’s not that simple. It’s not always easy or convenient for someone to fulfill every last norm or ritual à la lettre. That you sometimes have to make adjustments. That what Mauritian Muslims believe and participate in may not necessarily be true for other ones. That you sometimes have to decide for yourself to which extent you’re willing to implement religion in your life, and making that choice may not necessarily make you a bad person, or a hypocrite, as I used to think. I always used to say that religion cannot be thrust upon someone, you have to let them freely choose which aspects of it they want to incorporate in their lives. This was back when my own parents used to drill religion into me.

Now I’m actually living that truth and making those kinds of choices every day. And so I will for the rest of my life.

[bctt tweet=”This was back when my own parents used to drill religion into me.” username=”wearethetempest”]

So will I be the kind of mom who allows her daughter to eat whatever she wants but makes her pray alongside with her? I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to. A new-age mom, I will inevitably be, I certainly will not, cannot, be the same type of mother that my own mom has been to me, not now that I’ll be staying so many years on my own, making my own choices and creating new identities, negotiating bridges between traditions and my own godless desires, perpetually trying to placate God with dubious compromises.

[bctt tweet=”The only question is, will I want to be?” username=”wearethetempest”]

But it depresses me all the same to know that each day, I go a little farther from the conventions I’ve grown up with, sometimes not necessarily by choice. But so did my dad while living in Russia all those years, and he still came back to be a mostly traditional Mauritian. So I guess at the end of the day, I will have a choice, living away from my country does not necessarily mean that I will forget how to be Mauritian.

The only question is, will I want to be?