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Bisma Shahid, a Pakistani Continuing to Prevail Over Tradition

“I want to show them that I took control of my own life and succeeded.”

Zoha Khan

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Overcoming the traditional South Asian culture proves to be a difficult, but not impossible task. Young and independent, seventeen-year-old Bisma Shahid is an example of just that. Shahid strives to stand out of the ‘norm’ of the Pakistani lifestyle and inspire those who are denied the possibility of living the life of which they dream. Her thoughts on today’s society and how we can better ourselves are insightful and motivating, especially to the rising generation in Pakistan.

The tone of Shahid’s voice is passionate and determined as she describes her struggles and what she wants her legacy to be. Being so young with limitless opportunities, Shahid aspires to serve as an example to others.

Q: When and where were you born?

A: “I was born in Sialkot, Pakistan on April 28, 2000.”

Q: What were some significant moments in Pakistan?

A:“I was nine when I came to Virginia and it’s (Pakistan) like a completely different universe compared to America. I was raised in a small village filled with poverty and uneducated people. The lowest of the lowest that you can think of were around me.”

Q: Now that you are entering college, what are your future plans?

A: “My goal right now is to move out from my parents house and become independent; moving in with my best friend and beginning a new chapter of our life together. I’ll be able to finally have the freedom that I lacked before, due to the constant control and supervision of my parents; escaping the hold they had over me mentally and now being able to grow.”

Q: Who or what inspires you?

A: “There’s only been one person who has inspired me and that is my best friend. Ever since we’ve met, there hasn’t been one specific thing- it’s just that I have always been inspired by her personality, the way she thinks and question things, and stands out amongst the crowd without having any fear. She pushes me to become better and more of myself, almost like a caretaker, and she doesn’t even realize it.”

Q: What is your greatest hope?

A: “My greatest hope rests with my relationship with God. Religion has always been different for me. It’s not something my parents forced and has never felt like an obligation to me. It is because of religion that I believe in fate and destiny; the idea that everything is planned and happens for a reason.

Q: What is your greatest fear?

A: “My greatest fear is to fail myself. I don’t want to end up  making mistakes that are so grave…  in which I can’t ever turn back and ruin everything that has been set for my destiny.”

Q: What has been your biggest struggle?

A:  “So far, it has been to get the courage and confidence in myself. Also, believing in the fact that what I am doing is right even though not many people believe so. Taking those risks that contradict others ideals, yet not regretting the outcome.”

Q: What kind of person do you want to return as when you go to Pakistan?

A: “When I came here to America, I felt alienated and like a blank canvas, so I had to make myself again. So, when I return I want to be the kind of person who can serve as an example to others, especially the younger generation because they are at a tender age of growing, experimenting, and exploring with their lives. I want to show them that I took control of my own life and succeeded, rather than listen to those traditional values that adults have been pushing on us, ever since we were kids.”

Q: What is the meaning of family?

A: “The meaning of family to me is anyone who is willing to be by your side, no matter what. Even if you have hurt them, disappointed them, gone against their advice. If they are willing to stick with you through your worst and through your best, that’s family to me.”

Q: How is your relationship with your parents?

A: “My relationship with my parents has always been good, but now that I’m so close to a very big milestone in my life, I can now finally take actions that don’t support their ideals. It has been hard, but I understand from their perspective because they are about 50 years old and have grown up with these values…  I can’t just change it overnight. Our love for one another has been continuously tested. I always think, “Do you love me enough to let me take this risk and challenge myself so I can be happy, even if right now things may not seem alright?”

Q: What has been your happiest memory?

A: “The happiest memory that I have is coming to the realization that I won’t be lonely because I have my best friend. Meeting her in middle school in the most unexpected way and the turnout of those events. It was the thought that having one assurance in my life with no insecurity, whatsoever, and regardless of how things may turn out, I am not alone.”

Q: What would you want to be remembered by?

A: “I want to be remembered as someone who got the courage to go against the people she loves and the traditional values they have placed upon her. Part of rebelling against my own culture is rebelling against a part of my identity because I’ve grown up with these ideals. It’s almost as if I have two identities within me; the nine year girl back in Pakistan that believed everything that was said to her and now, the girl who is becoming an individual of her own.”

Q: What is the biggest flaw in society?

A: “I think the flaw that’s not just in my country, but universally, is that society is so self-centered to the point that we have our own version of what is right and what is wrong,  it’s concrete in our minds that if we encounter anyone who has different beliefs, it is automatically seen as wrong. We need to learn from one another.”

Despite having to face struggles at such a young age and continuing to beat traditional values, Shahid understands that failure is bound to occur. It is a necessity that is a part of everyone’s journey and is an important one to learn. Shahid hopes to exceed the limitations placed on her since she was a child and prove that it is okay to change. In a community where it is difficult to adapt and adjust to different lifestyles, we must learn to keep an open mind, or else the consequences of those actions will lead to a much more costly result. Shahid is only starting to realize her identity while she starts a new chapter, but as she does, she also hopes to achieve a fulfilling life.

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Bisma Shahid, a Pakistani Continuing to Prevail Over Tradition