Sophia Lalani & Saphina Waters
“It's on the list."
Sophia and Saphina are two 2nd generation individuals from families of diverse backgrounds. While their stories are unique and varied, if there is a common theme outside the relatability of their individual narratives, it would be the idea of choice. Sophia’s intention is very clear and present, and she wishes for her family to experience a connection to her religion, just like she did. Saphina credits her Canadian experience as an individual of mixed descent with providing her the choice on what to bring forward to herself, her family, and her young children. In both cases, we hear gratitude and appreciation for the availability and access of choice in their daily actions, words, and lives - and for that, we too are grateful!
If you’d like to tell us your story or chat about your thoughts on culture, family, and heritage, we always love to chat. Find us on social @rootandseedco and subscribe to our newsletter to never miss a Root & Seed moment.
Hey, my name is Anika Chabra and you are listening to Root & Seed, a podcast about tradition seekers who are sparked to explore, define, and celebrate their family and cultural identity.
Last week we heard from Alex, a parent of a toddler who's being super intentional about bringing family and cultural tradition to his daughter's life. Being a parent is definitely a milestone for many in our community as it relates to inviting in culture. The idea that you're not just responsible for your experience becomes super real for many, often as early as staring into their child's eyes for the first time.
This is especially true when children are younger, particularly before they hit their teen years and their peer choices become more important and more influential. And while this season, we're focusing on how people are honouring their cultures, the way that that is done is varied and the sliding scale is vast...what we love about the next two guests was the relatability of both of their stories.
Sophia and Saphina are both busy working parents who understand the value of understanding their roots and care about the next generation's exposure to their culture. Sophia is driven by reflecting on her upbringing so that she can expose her children to their background, so they too can eventually understand where they came from. Saphina is charting a new path and she reflects on how our upbringing and cultural roots have shaped her and how they will influence her own young family. Saphina believes that how we see ourselves is key to success. She applies this lens of identity as one of the facets of her mindset coaching practice, where she empowers her clients to unleash their gifts and thrive in a life that they desire. In both Saphina and Sophia's cases, it is their extended experiences in their childhood and extended family that has really influenced their experience with culture and how they honour it today.
We begin with Sophia, whose parents were born in East Africa and Mozambique and immigrated to Canada in the 1970s. Sophia is a proud Ismaili Muslim, and reflects on the power of her early experiences in instilling her religious sense of pride.
My relationship with my culture was mostly identified through religion, because this is actually where I was exposed to cultural customs and events, all the fun stuff that you experienced growing up. Growing up we attended our church, which we refer to as our Khane, on a weekly basis, and I had a really big social circle there. Particularly during religious festivities, my parents always involved us in events at our Khane, which helped us build a strong connection with our community and with our culture, which was really great growing up because in contrast, I was living in Newmarket, which was really not culturally diverse at that time. I want to say that I was probably the only Indian kid in my grade that was born and raised in Canada. I was very Canadian, but at a school I almost felt like I was Indian, even though I identified really with both. So it was like having this culture through our religion which gave me a little more sense of belonging, which was nice growing up. The typical things that are preached, like honesty, kindness, dedication, and, one big thing that resonates through our religion, which is preached through our AGA Khan, our spiritual leader, is education. There's a very big stress on education...really trying hard in school and striving for higher education. That's something that I learned a lot through hearing through my parents, through our church, through my grandparents and became ingrained in me and now I'm trying to ingrain it in my children as well.
Sophia and I then speak about the multitude and richness of influences that she and her children are lucky to be exposed to.
We have two different exposures because growing up with my parents I felt like Portuguese was really ingrained in us, through my mom and through her parents, through my grandmother. So for me, it's the Portuguese steak that we had that my mom would make with a fried egg on top of the steak. It is something that really is memorable for me. But then through my in-laws, a biryani, our traditional cultural dish, my kids, honestly, probably ate it every single week for three years straight until now, they are on to the next dish. She makes that for us constantly, which is, which is so great. And my kids, they'll eat the daal, the chicken curry, biryani, and all that because of their grandparents.
Ah, the biryani stories. I love the biryani stories... Everyone has a particular way of making it, and it's not the same getting it at a restaurant. I then asked Sophia if she and her husband, who is also an Ismaili, had any conversations about how they intended to raise their children prior to starting a family.
You know, to be honest, no I think so, just because we have known each other from such a young age. We met through our Khane when we were eight years old and we grew up in a very similar fashion with similar values, beliefs, influences. And so, yeah, I don't think we ever had a conversation because we were brought up the same way. And I don't think there was a question that this is the way our children were going to be brought up. Which is kind of nice because it's something that is already set and done. So honestly, I would love for them to just grow up the way I did, with the same exposure that I had. Unfortunately, that's not really happening because life is just different... things just seem to be more busy. We don't seem to make the time to take them to go to our Khane on a weekly basis, which is something that I would strive for. And it's on the list and I'm hoping we can get to that at some point, so they can connect with community members. But right now, my top priority is at least for religious festivities, is that we can expose them at those times, because to me, those are the most memorable. They were the most fun and exciting and something that we looked forward to. And I want the same for my children. So that's really what we're focusing right now on, and it's not necessarily a weekly commitment, so it's a little bit easier, more like a quarterly or even semi-annually commitment of just participating in, going and enjoying the festivities and eating the food and taking part in cultural traditions. Something is better than nothing, right?
"Something is better than nothing" …such an honest and relatable comment from a busy working parent of three. We have no doubt that because her desire is so strong that when she does have a hot second, that she will be successful in providing her children with the foundation she wishes for.
Our next guest Saphina comes from a mixed background. Unlike Sophia, who is more influenced by her connection to her religion, Saphina is influenced by geography and locational influences, namely her Mauritian, Indian and British background. Saphina was exposed to her cultural background, very strongly from a young age, just like Sophia. Saphina reflects on some of the more vivid moments that she had to work through and the value of our extended experiences and extended family in her self-identity and the role of culture in her life.
Both my parents immigrated to Canada and they met in university, my father who passed away 12 years ago is Mauritian, from the island of Mauritius. A beautiful stunning island in the middle of the Indian ocean. And I have a really strong tie to my family there, the culture, and the island. My mom is British and she came to Canada as a young girl. So I have a really strong affinity for my roots in England as well. I lived there for three years and I connected with some of my best friends, including my husband when I was there. So, really strong ties there. Growing up with immigrant parents, I'd say made it so I had my feet in two worlds, so to speak. So it was always a challenge to balance the external Canadian values with those of my parents who, because of their own lived experience may have felt less secure or less comfortable with their new world.
There was one story that really marked me was with my grandmother, we had a very close relationship. She didn't speak English, she spoke Creole and she spoke both Bhojpuri and Hindi. And we communicated in Creole and mine was not perfect as you can imagine, but I made it work. There was one day we were going to the beach and I was getting ready and I was in my bikini. I was a teenager going to the beach in my bikini. And there was my grandmother and this woman that was helping around the house who had out of the corner of her eye caught sight of me and my bikini and just, I mean, she thought I was indecent in her eyes. And she made a comment to my grandmother in Bhojpuri, which I don't speak. And my grandmother answered her so that I could understand and answered her in Creole and said, you know, “that's her culture. And that's what she wears to the beach and that's fine.” So it was this really elegant, beautiful way of her bringing me into the conversation. And so respectfully telling this lady to leave well enough alone. I will never forget the grace and just the respect for everyone in the situation that she demonstrated in that moment, it was just really touching.
When I was six months old, we went to live in Mauritius. So that's how I learned Creole when I was very, very young. And my parents were deciding on whether they would build their life there or build their life back in Canada. And so for three years, my mom hung out with my grandmother and my aunties and learned everything. And she's an amazing woman as well because she kind of immersed herself and learned the cooking, learned the language, learned the culture, the customs, the pujas that she did, you know, it was just like, I'm so grateful. She's put together like a little cookbook of Mauritian food. So it meant a lot that she did that for me as it's just a close connection to culture. It was my dad and she were a unit in bringing that culture forward.
What we find most insightful about Saphina choosing to tell us the stories of A. her grandmother's reaction and B. her mother's commitment to capturing her husband's culture is that those stories have been etched in Saphina’s mind after doing some real reflection, meaning by bringing them to the forefront, Saphina is surely to have a greater awareness of her own gift to give the world and will help her mindset clients find theirs. We then chatted about how she's resolved being mixed and living in a diverse country like Canada and what that means for her and her children.
And that's actually one of the beautiful parts about being Canadian. That I value. Being Canadian and from two cultural backgrounds, I get to choose and you get to choose, right? We have that luxury because I know that if I was in India or, or in Mauritius, for example, that choice might not be as available. So that is something that I appreciate about being where we are. Here in Canada, I absolutely agree that when you look at your cultural identity, whatever it may be, alongside your values. Because there are practices in Christianity and Catholicism that might not align as well. It's just being cognizant of what resonates with you most and how you want to grow.
I think the biggest piece I'm very cognizant of is that my daughter is blonde with blue eyes and my son is blonde with brown eyes. I grew up with dark hair and darker skin. And so I knew that I had something different in me. And I say different because at that time it was a little bit more different than what was around us. And now I think everything is so much more culturally diverse, which is beautiful. And I love to see it. But it's also a challenge for my kids as little blonde kids to understand that they have a quarter Indian in them. And especially now with my dad having passed away, we don't have that immediate connection to the culture. And so it's going to be proactive on my part. My son loves butter chicken, but I'd love to take it further than that!
Saphina has really identified the role of culture in her own life and now understands a level of exposure she wishes for her own children. Proactive is such a powerful word, and we love that both Saphina and Sophia have laid out their intention to bring cultural experiences to their young children. Being in touch with your cultural background doesn't mean you need to honour it every day. The power comes from acknowledging the positive impact it has on your life and how it has helped you become who you are and help influence the life you're leading forward.
With that in mind, one of the things we're most excited about is the ability of our platform to not only inspire through channels like this podcast, but to also give our community the tools to really capture and document precious families. We've recently launched our Root & Seed conversation tool web app to the public. And we thought it would be fun to ask Sophia a question from the tool. We asked her, “what tradition is she looking to reclaim?” And this is what she said:
One of the traditions that we had growing up was sitting at home together around 7:00 PM in the evening and saying a prayer together...and it seemed so simple and it was so small, but it was just a really nice time. It's almost like, you know, the modern-day thing of having dinner together at the table. So this is like, going one step beyond and sitting down and saying our prayers together. And it was just like meditation, it was forced family time where it didn't matter what you were doing in the day. At that time, the five of us were together. And, it was nice. It was great to just be able to have a calming time with the family... So even if I could do that with my kids once a week or twice a week, you know, heroic thoughts here, but I would love to do that. And that's something that we try to instill, like when COVID started and we did it a little bit and we, we haven't been great, but it's something that now my kids have been exposed to and that hopefully we can continue.
Anika: If you feel inspired to reflect and document your own unique traditions like Sophia visit rootandseed.com to access our conversation tool web app that will help you ask the questions. you've always wanted to know, capture precious stories, and share with loved ones near and far.
Next week, we have a real treat for you. We speak to Jon and he introduces some super interesting ways of expressing one's relationship with culture and family background. It was an eye-opening, mind-expanding experience for us and we're pretty sure you'll agree.
Root & Seed is hosted by me, Anika Chabra, Executive Produced by Jenn Siripong Mandel, and Edited by Camille Blais.
Hosted by: Anika Chabra
Brought to you by: Root & Seed
Executive Producer: Jennifer Siripong Mandel
Edited by: Camille Blais
Music credit: Something 'bout July (Instrumental) by RYYZN
Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0
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