Perhaps there is no greater milestone then the day of our birth. I heard the story of why I was the only American citizen in my family all the time growing up.
The story begins with how a series of unexpected events led my parents and three older brothers to leave Dubai, U.A.E. where my father had been running his own business for ten years and move to Miami, Florida to join his younger brother’s business. The year was 1980.
My father is a dark skinned South Asian. He would tell us the story of how he walked every day for a mile to and from work in the hot sun of the Arabian desert more than a few times a day. His tan skin darkened over the years, and often when he was in Miami he was mistaken for an African-American.
Shortly after arriving in the U.S., my father decided that he would return to Pakistan with his family. Later he would tell me that he thought it was better to be a first-class citizen in a poor country than a second-class citizen in a rich country. My father also followed the teaching of Islam that all beings, irrespective of caste, color and creed, are equal in front of Allah’s eyes and therefore he was unsettled by the racism he experienced in the U.S.
As my parents prepared to leave, my mother who was newly pregnant with a surprise baby had serious concerns about the health of the baby. Her doctor asked that she remain on bed rest for the rest of her pregnancy and advised against any long travel.
Despite my father’s restlessness to return to Pakistan, my parents had no choice but to stay in Miami until I was born. On the night of August 10, 1981, my mother’s water bag burst and my father drove her to the hospital in the middle of the night. Early the next morning I arrived, dark skinned and dark haired, into a destiny of unorthodox fortune for a girl born in my conservative community. A mere 17 days later my parents took me home to Karachi, Pakistan, not knowing how much U.S. citizenship would shape my entire life.
38 years later, my parents and one of my brothers and his family still live in the same house that I arrived in as a newborn. My children and husband walk the same corridors, drive the same streets and experience much of the same world that I grew up in. For all that has changed, so much has remained the same.
And yet my life now is entirely removed from anything that I knew as a child. As my Shaykh teaches, we often see our lives and make “small” plans for ourselves. We do not know how much grander the design of our lives are and how big our purpose because we manipulate, control and try so hard to plan our own lives. I was lucky, as the Sufis see it, because none of my “small” plans transpired. I learned the hard way to give up and let God be in charge of my affairs.
I never planned to meet an American while traveling and teaching yoga in the mountains of Pakistan. I planned to meet a good Pakistani man who was like me and live in Karachi for the rest of my life. I never planned to teach yoga or travel to be close to nature or be alone in my twenties. I planned to meet my partner young and have all my children before I turned thirty. I definitely did not plan to be born in the U.S. and surprisingly neither did my parents.
When I look back at the milestone of my birth on the cusp of the birth of my third child, I experience waves of wonder in my body. This is the wonder in which I can so easily plant my faith because the seeds for what was to grow into the life I have now had been planted even before I took my first breath in this world.