This is for my best friend. A best friend is the one person whom you can’t imagine your life without or wonder how you lived at all before meeting them. They are the ones you are so thankful for every moment. Kulsum Shaikh is that one person for me. Unfortunately, we are not one of those childhood friends but we made up for the lost time very quickly. We actually met 6 years ago this month. Now, we are not only best friends, but also sisters and partners in crime.
Some friends are two peas in a pod. Kulsum and I are two pods from the same stem. We are so different, yet so similar. I absolutely hate cleaning where as Kulsum loves cleaning. I love cooking and baking where she does it out of necessity. She likes things neat and I love organized chaos. She can only study in absolute quietness and I chose the most crowded place on campus to study. We have different ethnicities, upbringings, interests, hobbies, dreams and more but these don’t make a difference. Well, sometimes it does. Like the one time I watched her dump sugar into a cup of Turkish coffee or the time I prepared her Turkish breakfast and she tried to mix cheese with the strawberry jam. Any other Turkish person would have kicked her out of the house for the last one but instead I took away the cheese from her and pointed to the butter instead. Then, I cringed as she spread butter, jam and honey… on the same bread. It is not common for Turkish people to mix flavors like that. After 6 years, I am proud to say that I can now mix a little bit of Indian curry with rice without cringing and somewhat tolerate all the spices used at the Shaikh residence. But, we have learned more than just eating habits and cuisines from each other.
Our friendship is at a place where I can casually walk out of my house in a saree or salwar kameez without any questioning. I remember the first time I went to an all Desi party. Everyone, including me, was quite confused. I think some assumed that I was desi but didn’t speak any urdu. Some knew right away that I was Turkish. Regardless, I think it is safe to say that everyone now expects me to be at all the Shaikh family dinner parties just as my parents no longer get surprised to coming home and finding Kulsum in our living room. While I am slowly building my collection of Desi clothes, Kulsum has a collection Turkish clothes and hijabs. When I tell my family and friends in Turkey about my Indian best friend, they are always so shocked that 1) I have an Indian friend, and 2) We get along. I always tell them that the best part of moving to the States was the opportunity to meet and learn from people of different backgrounds. I have become a better person for it and Kulsum played a big role it in.
Aside from my love and appreciation for Kulsum, there is another message I hope I was able to convey through our story. Unfortunately, we live in a society where racism is still very much prevalent in our lives. There is so much hate towards Muslims, African-Americans, Hispanics and other groups. In addition, although racism has no place in Islam, it becomes rampant in relation to marriage and making friends. Being raised in opposite sides of the world, into different cultures, and different personalities, Kulsum and I have very little in common. We actually laugh about this from time and wonder how we ever became friends. I’ll tell you. We share the same values and respect each other; These are the only important components of any relationships, not the color of your skin, the language you speak, or your passport. Go out of your way to meet someone different. It will make a great impact in your life, I promise.