Having been born from the rural areas in Pakistan, I would have thought that life in the entire world would be as it was in the remote areas. I thought that restrictions and religion always characterized life. With my parents and extended family staunch believers in the Islamic religion, I was introduced to the faith at a tender age, which made me believe that all people were Muslims. However, I would later learn that different cultures exist and that the Pakistan way of life differs from the way of life in the United States and elsewhere in the world. My sociological autobiography entailed conducting an interview with my parents to understand their experiences as they were born and bought up and their various experiences through life.
My parents were from Pakistan and had lived almost half of their life there until they relocated to the United States. The culture of the people living in Pakistan was very not very different when my parents were young and in my upbringing. However, my father’s traveling from Pakistan to the US and the subsequent transfer of the rest of the family in the US accorded me a different experience in life. I would later be socialized into appreciating freedom for all genders, and the access to education for the girls as was not the norm in Pakistan.
Interview with my Parents
Just as the custom in Pakistan was, my parents had an arranged marriage just as the rest of the people in my local culture in, Pakistan. My father’s family went to my mother’s house and asked for her hand in marriage. My mother told me that the first time she saw my dad was on the wedding night. She never even talked to him, leave alone meeting him. You would only get to know your life partner after marriage. They got married in 1991, after which my first-born sister was born in 1992, later I was born in 1993. As a third world country, life in Pakistan has not been easy, and that was why my parents relocated to the US in search of a better life.
Besides, the cultural system esteemed the boys more than the girls, which would explain why a first born son was more celebrated than a girl. Due to lack of resources, my dad had to go out of the country in search of employment so that he could provide for the family. My dad had lived in the US before getting married too. He only flew back from U.S to participate in his wedding and left after a few months. Then he came when my sister was born and left again after spending some few months. When I was born, he came but could not go back because he did not have money to go back. My dad ended up staying with us and started working in Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan was for lower class families, and my dad used to do construction work where he could only get a little money.
My dad had an extended family, so he did not just have to take care of us; he had to support his extended family too. When I interviewed my mother, I realized the many sacrifices my mother and dad had made for us. In Pakistan, women are not allowed to work as mom always wanted. Thus, my mom only stayed at home and took care of us. My mom always wanted to work, but she never got permission from the family, as dictated by the culture. I belonged to the village, and people there have not changed much. The social class had a great effect on us, at least when I was a kid. However, my mom always showed resilience and strength even when the family lacked the daily supplies. I would always find something to learn from my parents’ determination to cater for the family amidst all the challenges.
Life as a Child and the Social Forces
I was born and raised in Sialkot city of Pakistan. My extended family had at least 20 other people in my house. My uncle and aunts lived with us in the same house. Being born in a large family meant less privacy as someone would always be in the proximity. I never experienced the situation of living alone or being alone at home at any one time. It also meant that if my mom had to go to shopping or anywhere, there were other people to take care of us. The elderly women in the family shared duties; everyone knew their expectations. They all had turns to wash clothes, cook, and do the general cleaning. The cost of living was relatively high; therefore, it was hard for my parents to take care of all the family members and facilitate a luxurious living. Therefore, when growing up, I had to share a room with my mom, sister, and grandmother. Indeed, life in the presence of many people implied less privacy and increased sharing of products and other basics in the family. Such would form the foundation of the socialization process into generosity as a virtue in the Islamic culture. Increased interaction would also socialize us into living in unity and upholding good morals while interacting with others.
Pakistan’s traditional culture practices the ancient way of life, even at the current generation. The men and women must wear long Shalwar Kameez, a long shirt and a trouser. Urdu is the popular language of the Pakistan people, but they show strategic differences through various ways such as occupations and in cultural heritage as indicated by other factors and not the language. The most important norm is never to talk back to an elder or even talk loudly to them, and such was considered a taboo (Giddens 43). Therefore, the culture emphasizes on respecting the elderly, and all people would be socialized into such ways of life. Besides, the culture is male chauvinist in that men rank higher than women. In fact, a woman is not allowed to talk to any man while outside the house. Therefore, as a woman, my early years of development were characterized by interactions with the opposite sex, but as I grew up, I would be restricted and had to interact with women only. While the practices were unique to the Muslim culture in the country, I would always find them being oppressive and undesirable. I would always question why a different gender would be perceived as superior to the other.
Another cultural concern was that whenever the men were around, women would not be allowed to go out alone without the company of a man. However, the culture was not the only inhibiting factor; the society was unsafe for women. Therefore, only when a man was around would we be allowed to go out. I loved and played cricket with my older cousins as a young girl. That was my favorite sport ever, whereas my other cousins and my sister used to play with dolls. Therefore, my young age was fancy with the company of my cousins. Everyone called me a tomboy because of my love to interact with the boys and play the “men” sports. For instance, I loved flying kites and riding bikes together with the boys instead of concentrating on the other games that the girls commonly played. Therefore, I would love to spend the whole day playing in the streets with the boys and do more outdoor activities than indoor ones. Nevertheless, as time passed, I started spending more and more time in the house as the forces of the culture dictated. The culture puts it that if one is a girl, she is not supposed to play with the boys after a certain age. As such, what other people think is very important in our society. Everyone tried to maintain a good image in the presence of others and would even sacrifice their happiness for others.
Social Norms and Religion
In the culture, the norms involved love and marriage relations (Giddens 51). Accordingly, none of the girls would have the liberty to form a relationship that would lead to marriage with any man. Instead, the parents were wholly responsible for choosing the marriage partner for their daughters. Nevertheless, the limitations of interactions would change after marriage. The system would dictate that while the parents were to take care of the young ones, whenever the children became of age, they were expected to take care of the parents. Therefore, the cultural system dictated that a family would always stick together. In essence, as the parents cared for the children when they were young, the same aspect was expected of the children to care for their parents at old age. If you are a man, your parents will choose your wife for you, and then you would live with your wife in your parent’s house. In fact, it rarely happened that you would live separately from your parents. If you were a girl, then your parents would choose the marriage partner for you, and then you would move out with your husband to his family. Therefore, as a wife, you were supposed to take care of your husband and his family.
In terms of religion, it is worth noting that Pakistan is an Islamic country, and thus, the majority of the population is Muslims. In fact, the people are such religious that there is a mosque in almost every locality. The religious foundation dictates that every parent must teach the children the doctrines of the Quran right from a very tender age. In addition, the local education system emphasized the role of two kinds of education, which included a mastery of the Quran, the religious teachings, and the formal education.
Life in the US
After my father had struggled for many years without getting a stable source of income to sustain the entire family, he decided to shift to the United States. Consequently, he promised to take us to the United States as well. The education systems in the US were different, and that is how my family’s girls would access education. After my dad went to USA, things got better, he could provide everything we required. In 2008, my dad made the required arrangements, and we transferred to the U.S. This was the first time I saw my dad in eight years, and he stayed away from Pakistan. I was happy to see my dad because I had lived almost half of my life without seeing him in the house. When I got to the US in 2008, I started attending high school. It was a different experience because I had hardly studied English. After the first day, I decided not to go back the following day until my mom forced me. Besides, as a Muslim, the culture was so much engraved in my mind that I would go to school with my head covered, and that would make the other students make fun and harass me. At one time, I felt offended and engaged one student in a fight, and I got a suspension from the school. After I had resumed schooling, I decided not to wear the scarf again, and my studies took a smooth flow. Nevertheless, the influence of peers made me engage in bad behaviors without my parents’ knowledge, which contributed to poor academic performance.
Another effect of a culture that affected my upbringing, even in the US, was the restrictions on working. Although boys my age would work and supplement the father’s income, my family restricted me from working, as they believed that only men should work for the families’ upkeep. In fact, when I convinced my parents, and they allowed me to start working, I felt a sense of relief as that would enable me to support my siblings, a situation that would lessen the burden my parents. Therefore, unlike in Pakistan, where I would not be allowed to move out as I wanted, I had full responsibility in the US and, therefore, could easily move out and with the company of my choice. However, in the events that I moved out of the track, I got the guidance of my parents and friends and would, therefore, be rectified. During my graduation from high school in 2012, my parents would not contain their joy for the great achievement as not many of my age mate girls from my local home in Pakistan had acquired the education. Besides, the family perceived my acquisition of formal education as a great step towards the family empowerment and social change.
Empowerment Through the Formal Education
Having survived the social and cultural injustices of my rural home in Pakistan and acquired education, I have always been determined to lobby for a change in the modern systems, especially those aspects that are discriminatory to the women. While many Muslim societies still hold on to such beliefs that women are not to be empowered and that they are meant for household chores, my relocation to the US has had a great impact in changing my values. I have had great role models in such women leaders like Hilary Clinton, and I aspire to rise to such greatness in championing for the common good of all. Although traditions indicate that we can never run away from our cultures, I ascribe to the opinions that the bad cultures are not worth holding. When women get empowered, then the society will be better because they will equally participate in improving the society together with the men. Women should, therefore, get such rights as the rights to education, rights to interaction, rights to participate in decision-making, rights to formal employment, and even rights to political participation. Stereotype systems that discriminate against gender and systems of faith should, therefore, not remain if the society was to function in the best way possible (Giddens 298).
My transition from the rural Pakistan life to the United States as a teenager had a great impact on my social development as well as in my education. Although the first few years were challenging in adapting to the systems and structures in a developed world, I would always look back with appreciation because of the person I have become. I may not be sure of my status if I remained in Pakistan, but I am almost certain that I would not have been educated by now. Furthermore, my family would be languishing in poverty, and a sense of desperation ensued. However, relocating to the US has had the effect of changing our way of living and also influencing the way I perceive the society. While the nature of life in Pakistan was limiting to a woman, the systems in the United States are empowering and, therefore, more desirable. Although I may desire to be back to Pakistan, I would wish to contribute positively towards the change of social systems in the country, and hope to inspire the women and girls.
The formal education and enlightenment have enabled me to appreciate life and the modern technology. Unlike in Pakistan, where even using a telephone was problematic, life in the United States would nearly be unrealistic without a phone as a basic means of communication. I have, therefore, been able to develop even in the cognitive capacity to use such technology as the mobile telephone, the computer, and the internet, as well as a satisfactory command of English than would have developed in Pakistan. Other elements have been together with the ability to appreciate other cultures in the society because the US has various cultures and systems of beliefs. While Pakistan was predominantly a Muslim country, the US represents all other religions and systems of faith. One would, therefore, hardly interact with people with the same system of faith, and the shared values that made life more interesting.
As is evident from the bibliography, my socialization process has been influenced by various factors, including the family, the cultural systems, the education systems, as well as the change of geographic location from Pakistan to the United States. In the beginning, my life as a young girl had much influence from the family system of values, which influenced how I perceived the social systems. Gradually, I was introduced to the religious studies through the informal education system, which contributed to my understanding, especially in the Muslim-dominated society in Pakistan. Later, I was introduced to the formal system of education through which I learned much, especially about the career life. Therefore, I would regard life as a buildup of various systems and factors throughout my life.
Giddens, Anthony. Essentials of Sociology, 5 Ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013. Print.