A Little Backstory
My father was born in India. His family migrated to Pakistan a few years after it separated from India. My mother was born in Pakistan. Her parents had also migrated there from India after the partition. I believe that my parents are distant relatives but I’m not quite sure how. Best to my knowledge my mother’s great aunt was related to some person who was my Dad’s uncle twice removed......... okay, I’m being a bit silly here, but not really. Like I said, my parents are distant relatives in some way or another. They grew up in Pakistan, had an arranged marriage, then my Dad migrated to the U.S. in the early 1960s. Interesting sidenote: My Dad didn’t have a birth certificate when he applied for immigration. Birth certificates weren’t the norm when he was born, at least not in his village/town. I don’t think he was even born in a hospital. He may have been delivered at home. Anyway, a birth certificate was required as part of the immigration paperwork so he (and his younger brother and some of his relatives who were also applying for immigration at that time) decided to have the birth certificates drafted. None of the young men knew their actual birthdates. Age was tracked by elder relatives who “remembered” events that occurred during a child’s birth. “How old is little Akbar? Hmmmm? I remember that the weather was warm and Cousin Ali was getting married. And it was monsoon season. How long has that been? Must be 21 or 22 years? Yes. That makes Little Akbar approximately 21-22 years old.” So when it came time to declare their dates of birth, my Dad and the gaggle of young men pondered what to declare. One of them thought it a good idea to choose a date that was popular in the U.S. so they could remember it better. They chose December 25th because that was apparently “a very big holiday in Umreekah for some reason”. As for the year, someone shouted out a year that was 22-ish years in the past and they all wrote that same year down. So, that is how it came to pass that on their official documentation, my Dad and his YOUNGER brother were the exact same age according to their birth certificates even though my uncle was actually three...four...maybe five years younger than my Dad? I don’t honestly know. I don’t think anyone knows anymore. The birth certificate weirdness didn’t stop there. Of course not. This is my family after all. Nothing is that simple. The immigration application asked for a first, a middle, and a last name, but that was NOT how people in the old country structured their names. I think almost every one of them was either named Mohammad or Syed as their first or last name (because every family claims to be THE direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad or of some important ancient bigwig Syed). This gets confusing because each family had their own way of naming their kids. The kids all had a “known-by” name, in my Dad’s case, Ifzal. Then they also had their fathers’ first names added into the mix somewhere. To fill out the application, they all chose either Mohammad or Syed as their first name. They used their known-by names as their middle names. They each chose a different and somewhat uncommon name for their last names, their rationale being that choosing a common name might get them associated with the masses of other immigrants of the same name trying to get visas into the U.S. and that they would be rejected outright. They wrote a list of odd names and chose at random. My father chose R****. My Dad (and his group) were all approved. My Dad immigrated to the states in the early 1960s. He sponsored and got approved to bring my Mom to the states. She immigrated in the late 1960s. They lived in an apartment building in Chicago. My Dad was working on his engineering degree while my Mom was a stay at home wife.