As inclusive as Seattle

Seattle is a big city and diverse as any other major city in the world. With origins from almost every part of the globe, Seattleites make the city one of its kind, what many call a hyper-diverse city.

For a year and half that I have been living in the Greater Seattle area, I have found the people very welcoming and appreciating of what I am and where I come from.

Every Seattleite, no matter where they originally come from, feel and think alike about how to keep Seattle what it always is, a hyper-diverse city. One that has all tastes and cultures from across the globe.

To show the inclusiveness of the city and provide the connect the people here with their origins, Common Language Project, a non-profit journalistic organization housed in University of Washington’s Department of Communication, has been making efforts in recent years to connect communities here with people and their issues across the globe.

The Seattle Globalist

Today, I had the opportunity to participate in an event of the CLP in which the nonprofit launched one of latest journalistic ventures – Seattle Globalist.

Seattle Globalist is a new initiative from the CLP. It’s a blog that covers “the connections between Seattle and the rest of the globe.” The blog mentions itself as a place “where Seattle meets the world.”

What I learned

Like every other human being, I have my own stereotypes about people I come across every day. But with the passage of time, I have come to understand that what we term as our stereotypes are actually the paradigms that we are born into. We view the world around in a way that we have been repeatedly told to over years, that by our parents, teachers, the society and whatnot. We stereotype and get stereotyped every single day.

At the Seattle Globalist’s launch party, I had the opportunity to meet and network with this amazing, young woman of Iranian descent. Initially, I took Roxana Norouzi, a social worker with a local non-profit, as a Muslim, as anyone who comes from my part of the world would. But the fact is that she is not; she is a Jew of Iranian descent. I unfortunately come from a part of the world where every single individual is trying to make their neighborhood, city or country exclusive. Iran as a country has been no different.

In a write-up on the Seattle Globalist earlier this year, Norouzi wrote how being a Jew of Iranian descent presented her with a complex situation of dueling identities amid recent war-mongering rhetoric from Iranian and Israeli leaders.

If we put our stereotypes aside, we will find that all people of the world are one whole, no matter where they belong to. In societies like here in the US, this wholeness or ‘globalness’ becomes more evident. Whether one is traveling in a public transport, walking on a sidewalk in a crowded city or sitting in coffee shop, the babbles around may sound different but every single of them makes the same sense that in our own language(s), it would make to us. Our differences could be of color, appearance, beliefs, ideas, language, etc., but we all are alike despite all these difference. We are all made of the same fabric.

The Seattle Globalists and The Baloch Hal

I was fascinated by the idea of the Seattle Globalist. It tries to connect the community here with people living elsewhere in different parts of the world who have a common bond with Seattleites. The Globalist for sure will make these bonds stronger.

I also find a lot of similarity between the Globalist and The Baloch Hal. What we do at The Baloch Hal and what the folks at the Globalist do has lots in common. For instance, we try to connect the rest of the world with a region and its issues that hardly get any coverage in local Pakistani media, let alone in any international media outlet. Whereas, the Globalists try to bring stories to the communities here that otherwise would not reach them through other sources. We call ours a ‘hyperlocal news site; the Globalists term theirs a ‘hyperglobal blog’.


Remembering Huda Bakhsh, the ‘chah khor’

Huda Bakhsh, more commonly known as Tughu among my family members, has remained the apple of every household’s eyes in our neighborhood for as long as I can remember. Sadly, that’s not because who he is but rather so because of what he’s been doing for so many years: Helping clean garbage of houses, doing different chores of each house in the neighborhood and doing everyday purchasing of grocery from nearby shops.

In return, he would have very minimal demands; five rupees that would get him a packet of naswar, or snuff. “Gudan mani nas e zar a bede,” he would request after completing the assigned chores, asking that he be paid the money that would get him some snuff.

He could compromise on not being paid five rupees, which would get him a packet of snuff only. But there’s something that he could hardly compromise on: He definitely wanted to be served a kettle full of black tea, or siah chah, as it is called locally, once he’s done with his work. His chah khori, or tea-drinking habit, is talked of in every household of the neighborhood.

Tughu, as I call him out of sheer respect and reverence for his services for so many families over years, and I have had many things in common: He’s as obstinate as I am, but that’s not the reason that prompted me to write a blog post on him (If Tughu once made up his mind that he would not do something on a given day, for sure he would not do it). But I am referring to him here just because of his tea-drinking habit as his would compliment mine and could hardly outmatch mine.

A habit of mine that would earn me the name of gwanden Tughu, or Tughu the junior, tea-drinking played a significant role in my developing a habit of being an avid reader, which subsequently ended up as my passion for becoming a writer.

During long, frosty winter nights, with blanket slightly tucked over my head, my eyes would remain fixed on pages of children’s books that I would buy from the one and only bookstore in the only big market of the town. Black tea would ensure I would not succumb to sleep.

In the morning, during the first period at school, my eyes would be sore, glaringly as red as the slit throat of an innocent sheep mercilessly ‘sacrificed’ on the occasion of bigger Eid, the day when Muslims around the world kill hundreds of thousands of animal to accomplish the rite of some man that had lived in distant past.

However, for the past one year or so, I have completely quit my habit of drinking black tea. I am living in a city whose residents are celebrated for their habit of drinking coffee. So, I guess it would have been difficult to survive here had I stuck to my old habit. Now, I enjoy a cup of coffee as much I did a kettle-full black tea.

The idea of writing this blog post originated from a Facebook status update of mine in which I had mentioned that I had made some good black tea for myself after a long time. This, obviously, prompted comments from family members and close friends who are familiar with my erstwhile tea-drinking habit. As a matter of fact, it came a surprise to them that I have quit being a chah khor.

I wish I had a picture of Mr. Tughu to supplement this post. Unlike me, I am sure he will never be able to quit his tea-drinking habit despite the soaring prices of sugar in Pakistan.