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Fram Haveliwala Oral History Interview

The interview was conducted as part of SAADA's ACFP 2021-2022. This interviewee described his migration experience to the United States from Karachi, Pakistan. As a very young child, his migration experience was described based upon family conversations and memories he remembers of coming to Houston, Texas. He describes his experience of growing up in the Zoroastrian community of Texas, differences in attending school in Pakistan and United States, coming out to his family and friends regarding his sexual orientation.

In this slideshow, you will see:
A photograph of Fram with his parents at his wedding near Austin, Texas in August 2019. Fram shared his stories of how accepting his family was when he came out to them. They are his guiding light and role models. The parents are dressed in traditional Parsi wedding attire on his wedding day.

A photograph of Fram with his parents, older brother, and younger sister at his wedding near Austin, Texas in August 2019. Fram shared his stories of how accepting his family was when he came out to them. He described in the interview the community his parents and family built for him and his siblings in Texas.

Fram Haveliwala, his husband, and their pup, Sophie.

A Farohar necklace Fram wears and was gifted to him by his grandparents when he was young. Fram wears it everyday as it reinforces his Zoroastrian faith, keeps a guardian angel close, and reminds him to live by the three main principles of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.

Gender & Sexuality, Immigration, Education, Memory & Remembrance, Faith, Family

Duration: 00:43:37

Date: April 16, 2022
Subject(s): Fram Haveliwala
Type: Oral History
Source: Archival Creators Fellowship Program
Creator: Sharmeen Mehri
Contributor: Fram Haveliwala
Location: Buffalo, NY

Transcribed by Shirin Mehri

Sharmeen Mehri: Today is April 3, 2022. The time is 8:16pm EST. My name is Sharmeen Mehri and I'm interviewing Fram Haveliwala online from Buffalo, New York for the SAADA archival creators fellowship project about South Zoroastrian South Asian migration to the United States. Fram, would you spell your full name for us?

Fram Haveliwala: Sure, it's F R A M H A V E L I W A L A.

SM: If comfortable sharing, could you share your current location or address and how long you've lived there?

FH: Yep, I'm in San Francisco, California and lived here for about two years.

SM: Uh and if comfortable sharing, could you tell us your age or birth date?

FH: I'm 29.

SM: Okay. So we'll begin with a few questions about your past, getting to know you and your background in your home country; so the first question for you is using three nouns, how would you describe yourself?

FH: Yep, I would say three nouns would be the Zoroastrian American, family man, and careerist.

SM: Okay. Perfect. Thank you. And uh are there any other additional parts of your identity that are key to you and you identify yourself as well?

FH: No

SM: Okay, so where were you born Fram?

FH: Karachi

SM: Karachi, Pakistan, right?

FH: Yep. Karachi, Pakistan. Okay.

SM: Could you describe your childhood home for us there?

FH: Sure lived in, I would say more of a flat style. You know, either condos are very similar to an apartment style, you know, kind of a Parsi community, that's where I grew up.

SM: And do you have any important memories from there or things that always come up when you think of that neighborhood?

FH: I do. We, I remember making a lot of good friends in our community area where we played outside a lot. And I was only, I lived there until I was about seven or eight years old. So a lot of my childhood memories were actually in America. But yep, I do remember going to my grandparents house and having different events at that community center that they had.

SM: I see. Do you remember the name of the neighborhood?

FH: Yes, I lived in Jamshed Baugh.

SM: Okay. Jamshed Baugh, okay. I mean, you were very young, but was the I you know, identifying yourself as a Zoroastrian and part of that upbringing there. Did that add on to your identity of, you know, identifying yourself as a Zarathushtri?

FH: Very much so, you know, growing up in a community and a family with very strong religious beliefs, going to the agyiary all the time, and I didn't have my Navjote until I was in Houston. But still growing up in a big Zarathushtri household definitely played a role in that.

SM: And so who was in your household, except you?

FH: Dad, Mom, my older brother and my younger sister. Okay, so I was in the middle.

SM: Okay, and where are your siblings now?

FH: Both siblings are in Houston along with my mom and dad.

SM: Okay. And can you describe for me, what do you do for a living or work?

FH: Sure, sure. I'm a HR professional and my title is an HR business partner, for a energy company.

SM: Okay. And do you belong to any organizations that represent those same interests or, you know, part of your Zoroastrian community as well?

FH: No, not at the moment other than, you know, working on you mean Congress committees, North American Zoroastrian Congress committees, other than that, no.

SM: Okay. And so what kind of committees were you part of?

FH: I was part of the, the youth representative for the North Americans Zoroastrian Congress that was going to be held in Houston, pre COVID. So we were planning for that, and I was one of the co-leads for that subcommittee.

SM: Okay. Can you describe a little bit about the purpose of that organization or even the particular committee?

FH: Sure. So we were putting on a Zoroastrian Congress that was going to be hosted in Houston. And they carve out different committees for different functions that of the Congress. And so I was a co lead with another individual for the youth committee. And really, our responsibility was around focusing on the youth breakout sessions and what kind of interactive talks and seminars we would have for specifically related to the youth group. The other committee that we were in charge of under the youth section was our mixer and our outings committee to give them a flavor of Houston, Texas as well. So we were in charge of kind of planning, the breakout sessions and the events for all of the youth related events.

SM: And what made you interested in being part of this committee?

FH: Yeah, I really just wanted to give back to a organization and a community that's given me a really good childhood. And there was an opportunity to lead one of the groups and have, really put some structure and organization around how we can actually bring something like this to life that takes a lot of planning, kind of interested in, that's what interested me is really helping out the community.

SM: What are your favorite things about your community?

FH: Yeah, I, I think the, you know, the best way I would put it is fellowship, you know, having an entire community who, you know, we understand each other, right? We understand our upbringing, we understand the kind of similar types of household we grew up in. And we really understand kind of our background and who we are today as people because not a lot of people know about Zoroastrianism. So it's, it's always great having a common bond with people that you've grown up with, and have that upbringing the same way.

SM: So, talking now more about your travel here. So you migrated at a very young age, right? So where did you, where did you come first, which state were you living in for most of your time in the US?

FH: Yeah, so my family applied to, applied for their visas and all of our visas back I think, in the 80s, or 90s. And we got approved, actually, in 2001, six months before 9/11 occurred, which was pretty incredible from that standpoint, because we were very grateful, we were able to get approved and come to the States and we actually first came to Houston, Texas, from Karachi.

SM: And what made y'all decide to come to Houston?

FH: My massi and masa. So my aunt and uncle lived here. And so that's why we uh, we knew this was the first place to come?

SM: Did you have any expectations? How were you feeling in that moment, when you knew you were going to get on a plane and be living somewhere completely different?

FH: Yeah, that's a good question. I think being only seven years old, I honestly couldn't even recall what my mind was going through at that point. I'm sure you know, I remember being slightly sad. And we're going to a lot of dinners and saying goodbye to family. But I don't think my mind was comprehending what truly what's happening from a life standpoint. So I wish I remembered that feeling, when I was so young,

SM: yeah, but no, that's pretty interesting, right? I think, um I would still want to know, like, what are certain things that you do remember, so that the goodbyes are something you do remember, you know, I think that's also important.

FM: I do. I do. I remember a lot of people putting, you know, like the the haars on us and wishing us congratulations and giving us pareekas because I remember that as a kid, I remember going to dinners at our family friend’s homes, and, and just celebrating, but I can't really remember the feeling I had of was I sad, scared, happy, and probably was confused.

SM: And this, do you remember your parents? How would they do they remember any moment of them being emotional in any sense of leaving?

FH: I think so. And we, we've talked to them about it too, more. So throughout the years, you know, how was it trying to pack an entire family and your upbringing and livelihood and move halfway across the world right. And I remember, you know, it was, it was tense, right? It was very stressful for a family of five to have to pack up, sell everything they can and try to relocate to a completely foreign country. So I'm sure they had mentioned that it was very tense and stressful, but they were, they were hopeful.

SM: And so do you know what first prompted, prompted them to come to the United States?

FH: Yes, they really they they always told us, you know, it was for better education, just better opportunities for us as their kids. So my brother and my sister and I have always been really grateful for that.

SM: And so, in Houston, did you live in a similar type of community? Or was it very different than your Parsi neighborhood in Karachi?

FH: Very different. So first, when we moved here for a few months, we lived with my aunt and uncle in their home, and then my parents got their, you know, we got our own apartment. But not in a you know, Parsi community, was just a normal apartment complex. And then I we lived there for a few years and then we purchased our first home in Houston.

SM: I mean, can you remember or describe moments that you like were like, Okay, this is America or this is United States and I'm living that, you know, which was, is very different than maybe the lifestyle I remember back in Karachi or something like that.

FH: Yeah, I would say not even so much the I think just driving down the roads, right? You see less air pollution, you see more greenery, you see, just very different the aesthetics of when you're driving in from the airport, I remember, like, wow, this is such a clean, like, very utopian place right, based on what you're used to seeing. And then I think the biggest difference was the school. Just seeing how laid back the school was, you know, I don't have to wear a uniform anymore going to a very strict Parsi school. So just those those are some of the key differences, I remember when I moved here.

SM: And so how was it attending school here? Was it all more positive? Or were there certain challenges as well?

FH: I think there were a few challenges, I think the easiest challenge I had to overcome was teachers assuming that because it stated I was from Pakistan, that I didn't speak proper English. And, you know, I grew up speaking English just as much as Gujarati when I was younger, so they actually put me in ESL, which is the English second language course in school. And I remember feeling so proud that I immediately tested out of that. So just challenges from that standpoint of people assuming that you either look different or are you know, are different that you can't acclimate as well as an American kid would?

SM: What have been your strategies to be able to kind of accept that and move on from that and still, you know, hold the space for yourself?

FH: Yeah, a lot of it was, you know, and I wish I got to hold on to it more, both my sister and I regret this as keeping our language of Gujarati just spoken more, because we understand everything when spoken to us. But now all of our responses back are in English, right. And I think a lot of that was starting school. For me in the third grade here and my sister in kindergarten, you grew up in a English schooling system. So you tend to speak English at home, you respond in English. So that's one thing I wish we were able to keep. But that was a challenge I remember, as my parents sort of expected us to speak in Gurjarati, even more and more, as we grew up, kept responding back in English.

SM: I wanted to talk more about also you joining then and being part of the Zoroastrian community in Houston. So, do you remember those days? When did it start? Did your parents maybe, you know, consciously start going to the community center there interacting with others Zoroastrians?

FH: Yes, I definitely remember that when we moved here. Because my aunt and uncle were already pretty well connected with the Zoroastrian Community Center in Houston, it was seamless for us to go to their events, there are Navroze functions, the Ghambars, you know, when anytime they had a Christmas party, and that's where I remember making the strong group of Parsi friends that I have now all from there, and we would even attend Sunday school every month, because they had it once a month. And I very specifically remember transitioning from the the, you know, the elementary group to the middle group to the youth group. So those are some always good memories of the Parsi center that I had.

SM: And so you also had your Navjote there, right?

FH: Yes, we had our Navjote, I believe, a year after coming in, after coming here.

SM: And how was that like? Do you remember anything from that?

FH: I do. I do. I remember, I had to share that day with my sister, because we were about three years or three years apart. So me and my sister had our no joke together, I remember both of us have doing our custody prayers in the bathroom drinking the you know, we of course, we didn't have the official, whatever they use.

SM: the Nirang, right?

FH: Yeah the Nirang. But we drank like the pomegranate juice or green juice or something. So I remember very specific memories. And some of the friends we started to make I remember them and their parents, as well.

SM: Was that do you think anything different to people had to adjust to being in America doing the Navjote ceremony? Or was it very much the way it would have been back home in Karachi?

FH: Yeah, I, from talking to my parents, it seemed very similar. Now, of course, we didn't have a full on Agyiari. Like we had a prayer room in our center that we kind of did it there, you know, with the Atash and everything, but I know normally it would be in an agyiary but other than that, I think the ceremony, all that stuff was pretty, pretty similar.

SM: And so what year was this again, if I if you don't mind me asking?

FH: This would have been 2002.

SM: 2002. Okay. And so again, I just want to go back to your comment about even moving right before 9/11 had that impacted your life in any way in Houston. Especially when you're growing up as a young boy?

FH: No, I think that's a really good question. For me, because even though you know, my friends knew I was from Pakistan and they thought that was really cool, my, my skin tone the way I talked my hair, everything almost blended in really because I was very fair skinned as a kid, I almost blended in pretty well. And I could speak to my friends in English too. So I remember I didn't feel like a foreigner coming into America, right? I almost acclimated very well, with with the friends I made here. So no, I didn't have any challenges making friends.

SM: Then I would assume and correct me if I'm wrong. Did you, uh kind of uplift your American identity more than your South Asian identity? Or was that equally there, representative of your narrative?

FH: Yeah, I would say my growing up, especially in middle school, high school type, my American identity definitely stepped over and took more than the Zoroastrian identity.

SM: Okay, and so has that changed since then? How has it changed?

FH: Definitely, I think I think it was those, you know, teenage puberty years where you're trying to fit in and I definitely remember during kind of elementary, middle through high school feeling more Americanized, and trying to fit in more and then immediately going to college. And afterwards and even now, it's like, no, I'm a Zoroastrian. Yeah, sure. I had my more Zoroastrian American now. So I'm feeling more proud of it now than I did growing up.

SM: So you don't associate that a lot with the Pakistani side or anything to do in terms of South Asia? Is that just more in terms of the religious aspects?

FH: No, no, absolutely not. I, my nationality when people ask I always say Pakistani okay, but I always explain it like you know, there's a sect of Zoroastrians Persians that live in Pakistan. And so I always explain it, but no, I always claim and even people at work know that I'm from Pakistan.

SM: Are there any favorite dishes of yours that you even miss maybe from back from Pakistan? Or have you had that in Houston for you?

FH: No, my absolute all time favorite dish is yellow, dal chawal. So I, I love it. I eat it. I mean, I get it from my birthday all the time. And luckily, my mom, my mom is an incredible cook. And so I have kind of gotten her love of and gene of cooking too. So I actually now know how to make it myself with the macchi and all that, so

SM: Oh, that sounds amazing. That's great. Yeah

FH: So that's my favorite, favorite dish, but of course, any Pakistani dish. You know, Karahi, Jalfrezi. I mean, I love that is by far my favorite cuisine is Indian, Pakistani, like desi cuisine.

SM: I particularly want to again, go back to you know, different parts of your identity. And how important is that Zarthoshti part in your relation to your migration to the US and just being an American, right? Like when you introduce yourself as a Zoroastrian? What are some of the reactions or perceptions you receive?

FH: Sure, sure. So to answer your first part of the question, you know, transitioning and migrating from Pakistan to America to Houston as a, as a Zarthoshti, I think it definitely molded and completely shaped my childhood and who I am today, right? Having that background, and having a community that's already built and established here and finding, like, uh, you know, like I mentioned, similar minded people, similar upbringings and having that community to already fall on. I actually really love that, it, it, it really gave us a sense of purpose. And it gave us a sense of faith, right? Uh Going to Sunday school too and Sunday schools a little bit more about the history, and they teach you a lot of that. But I think growing up with parents who teach you the faith, I think was the most important and that that's really shaped me to who I am today. So I definitely think that's been a huge part of my journey here.

SM: How long did you live in Houston for and then have you lived in other places as well in the United States?

FH: Yeah, so no, I pretty much lived in Houston up from when we moved here up until I went to college. So that was a good, what almost, almost, you know, 15 years, I would say 12 to 15 years. And then I went to college, at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, which was about two hours away. And then I lived in Houston again for work for a few years, and then relocated to California about two years ago.

SM: So have you been able to find that community in California?

FH: No, I haven't. And that's primarily because of COVID. Yeah, because we moved right in the middle of COVID.

SM: Okay, well, do you expect to or If you think you're going to most probably join and seek that community there soon?

FH: You know, I don't think, so I think if I made friends who told me, hey, come to the center, check it out, I would be absolutely down for that. But me actively seeking and making friends through there to do that. I just, I don't see myself doing that, honestly.

SM: And is it because you have that already, you know, tight knit group, since your childhood that you've created in Houston?

FH: I would say, yes, that too. But honestly, a lot of it is just proximity to where I live, I think the closest one to me is an hour, hour and a half away. So that is fine. Because it's not so much in San Francisco or the East Bay where I live, it's more so I believe San Jose,

SM: Then in Houston, how far away was the center? For you?

FH: Uh from my house, It was about seven minutes.

SM: I mean, I know again, you were very young. But while settling down in the US, was there one particular very difficult change you had to make in your lifestyle or your thinking that you remember.

FH: Yeah, I mean, I would say, you know, unrelated to Zoroastrianism but or actually no, it could, it could definitely be related to Zoroastrianism, but me being, uh you know, gay now and me being gay all my life, but growing up in a Zoroastrian community where that was not widely known, nor did I have any friends who went through or experienced that. So I did feel I was going through that journey by myself and had no one to share or discuss that with.

SM: Okay, well, thanks for sharing that. And so have you been able to find that in the Zoroastrian community since you've grown up?

FH: Not really, but I've been able to find a ton of support, right, I, you know, I think you grew up in a Parsi community and Parsi household that is always worried about their image, right, and what others are going to think and I and I don't even know if that is necessarily Parsi, but I feel like it's just human nature to always worry about and be anxious about, well, what are others going to think of me or my family. So I remember that none of my friends had ever come out or, you know, said that they're gay. So, me going through journey in life was just be being myself and always kind of keeping it in. And then once I started coming out in college, shared with my parents, shared with my friends, and essentially, they all accepted and loved me for who I am that that made it very easy.

SM: In addition to that question, then, has there been any occasion where you have felt you were treated unfairly because of your non American origin? Or other identifying parts of yourself?

FH: No, I will say, I've been very grateful for being treated as an equal and not having my race or ethnicity or anything come in the way of any opportunities in my life. So I've been very grateful of that.

SM: And I mean, this is something I'm personally interested in, because a lot of the other interviewees who were, I would say, much older, they were very conscious of their names right either Iranian names or Parsi names, and some of them have family members who changed it when they migrated to America and things like that. So was that ever an issue or was it always

FH: 100%? I, I did, I do remember very clearly growing up in America thinking everyone thought Fram was either such a different weird or unique name right? And again, kind of going through that same trajectory of Elementary-Middle-High School, it was like, I hate my name. I wish it was something more Americanized and then immediately going to college and you know, you just gain more maturity you. You just people think you're unique for who you are. And everyone's like, Wow, no, Fram has such a unique name. And always last name to whether it was in school and assembly anywhere. People always butchered my last name. So I do remember wishing I had a different first and last name, especially when my brother's name is Kevin.

SM: Can I know what Fram means?

FH: Sure. It means merciful. It was my, it was my grandpa's name. So when I was born, he, he was passing away or already passed away. And his name was Framaroze, so my parents named me after him.

SM: For you just growing up in Houston and growing up in the United States, how has time changed your perspective of living here? And especially growing up as a Zoroastrian in Houston and then moving as well.

FH: I am still pretty well linked with our Houston community and all my friends there. I think the biggest change that we see happening in front of our eyes is the the emphasis of going to an Agyiary and celebrating all of the rituals that we grew up celebrating, right? You know, we our community just recently built a brand new Atashgah there. That's, that's a huge deal. And we were all really proud and grateful for it. But we always ask, right? It's, well, well, what what happens in the next 30 to 50 years? Are we going to upkeep it? Are we gonna go to it? Are we going to take our kids to it? So I do see that kind of shift in mentality of, of actually, the physical presence of going to the center and going to the Agyiary sort of diminishing a little bit.

SM: Do you, do you personally think that's a good thing? Bad thing?

FH: That's a good question. I, part of me is, I feel indifferent. It's a, it's a very weird feeling it to me, it feels like, I feel sad that one day, you know, all the work and effort our parents and family friends have put to share the emphasis of such a huge thing, like having an Atashgah there for us, it's such a grand and very, very great thing to have for our community. And then part of me feels kind of sad that one day it may not even be fully utilized like it is today, right, just based on the the interest of the younger generation going to a physical Agyiari.

SM: In regards to this, then you've been talking about how much the emphasis of rituals and being physically there is important. So is there a particular direction principle or tradition that has been, that has meant the most to you? And why?

FH: Yeah, I, I thought about this. And, you know, I think the, the Navjote is a, I would say, it's a very critical, you know, what's, what's that phrase, where you're taking that life passage, right, or rite of passage, because you are willingly putting in the effort. And granted, you are young, right when most people have their Navjote, they're pretty young, they’re children. But you are taking the effort to actively learn the prayers have that slight sense of faith built into, provide that you have that religious purpose you, you get those things ingrained in you and they sort of may or may not stick with you as you grow. But at least you have that rite of passage to say that now I am actively taking on the faith, I'm taking the responsibility to be as a Zoroastrian. So I think that's definitely stuck with me. And I would hope one day my my kid would go through that too.

SM: Do you remember certain traditions or beliefs that changed after you and your family migrated to the US? Or has it been typically the same? Or kept the same?

FH: That's hard for me to answer because I wouldn't remember a lot of the mechanics of the ceremonies and rituals in Karachi, but you know, my, my parents still do a Jashan at their home. So that's, that's been great. You know, we still go to Ghambars here. We you know, I'm trying to, we do Hambandagi during Navroze that I don't even know if we actually did that in Karachi or went to that. So a lot of the stuff I believe has been kept the same. It's just the the attendance and how many people go, I feel like it's getting less and less.

SM: Is there anything in terms of family life that you noticed, or your family members have noticed, since migrating to the US that has been affected in terms of relationships with parents, you know, or even family back in Pakistan? Or even developing various relationships here?

FH: No, I, you know, I, my parents, always were very tight knit with their families. And I know it was tough for them to have to leave them behind. Now, my grandma from my mom's side, right? My nani, actually came, she migrated with us. And then she shortly passed away about about almost a year after or six months after we moved. So I know that was tough, but no, I think for them, having my aunt and uncle as sort of a bridge in the community was a really nice way for them to make their friends and acclimate well, to a brand new environment.

SM: How do you think South Asians are perceived in the US?

FH: I think the term South Asian is is kind of broad. So I would probably break that up a little bit more and go one more step at a micro level, right? And say, if you look at South Asia, and basically from my knowledge and viewpoint I would, I know there's more countries, but if I just look at it, one from the Indian side, and then one from the Pakistani side, I think Pakistanis definitely have a harder reputation to build, just because of the incidents, external incidents that have occurred such as 9/11 right, and all of the other terrorist attacks and different things that, whatever the media publishes, I think it does put a really bad name, which is why you know, sometimes when I even talk to individuals and I, you know, I tell them oh, I'm from Pakistan, they automatically assume I'm Muslim. And I have to I have to say, oh, no, I'm not. I'm actually Persian as a Zoroastrian. And it's like, I have to preface that so that they don't create a preconceived notion or bias about my upbringing or background. And I think India is more different because even from a travel and tourism standpoint, right, India is more well known for tourists and travel, like no one just says, Oh, I think I'm going to take a vacation to Karachi or Islamabad, like or Lahore, right, I, if you're local to that area, sure, you would, but I think, of course, Delhi, Mumbai, to see the Taj Mahal, whatever, big landmarks, it's just Bollywood, it's more well known for India. And so I think the stereotypes are just very different for both of those South Asian countries.

SM: How important is it for you to stand out or fit in here, particularly in relation to your Astron identity, or just being from Pakistan?

FH: I think if you asked me this 10 years ago, I would say my answer would be to blend in and now, you know, over the last few years, especially after college, it's very much so, I think it's a great, unique thing, right? Because when people you know, when people ask what religion my or what ethnicity, am I, you know, and claiming on the Zoroastrian, they're very interested in it. And even in school, people would say, oh, I kind of remember learning it in world history, you know, for 10 minutes. So I think that was, that's always interesting having the conversation about Zoroastrian, but no, I think more so now, I think it's a unique identifier for myself.

SM: And you bring up college a lot and so can you describe maybe particular memories or moments where that has been a very positive influence in your life?

FH: Yeah, I wow, yeah, that's very intuitive of you. Uh college had been the best six years of my life. And it was six, because I did my Bachelor's and Master's. So no, I got my business degree from Texas A&M. And then I got my Masters in Human Resources, which is, you know what I do now. And I can honestly, honestly say, the, some of the best memories, the best, my best friends to this day, the people who stood next to me by my wedding, all of those, my, my, my husband, all of those opportunities College had given me so that is why I always say, I had some of the best years of my life there.

SM: Are there experiences you've had that you didn't want to tell your family members or other loved ones about just growing up, again, and if you are comfortable sharing them with me here?

FH: I grew up in a, and very grateful to have a great family, a great childhood. No, of course, everyone has challenges that they kind of go through, but nothing that was major life changing challenges. And of course, every teenager has their challenges they go through, but nothing that was so extraordinary or life changing, that I would say yes, this was a huge making for me. And I think, again, college was kind of a defining moment, because that's where I kind of stopped hiding who I was, right. And I was able to share with my friends, a huge part about me, you know, my, my orientation about a sexual orientation. And that's where, I think was also a huge area of growth and maturity for me too, because I finally felt open and free to share that with my family and my Zoroastrian community, because they did not know in high school either.

SM: Do you think it was being away from your hometown that opened up that space for you?

FH: I think it was definitely that it. It allowed me the freedom, it allowed me, you know, not having the pressure of having the community right there either, being, you know, two hours away, and just being around a completely different set of individuals, non-Parsi, obviously, right, these were, I didn't have a lot of Zoroastrian friends when I first started in college, I did when we graduated. And just, I think that that did help that distance from home.

SM: You tell if your parents struggled with thinking about, hey, my children are going to be born away from Pakistan, from that tight knit community, the different set of social and religious practices.

FH: I remember talking to talking about this when we were younger with our parents, I think the biggest thing that they worried is, you know how much there you know, how much of our grandparents we would remember how much of our neighborhood community we'd remember and how much Gujrati we’d remember, I remember that's something they talked about, but no, I think, you know, I think they they expected us and we actually wanted us to just acclimate to our friends and culture here, which we did. So I don't think there was a huge disappointment or expectation there.

SM: And I'm asking to get a better understanding from my interviewees about the Irani-Parsi divide, but do you have have any thoughts on it, especially in the US? How do you see that divide between policies or actions in Iran user actions in the community?

FH: I see it quite a bit, actually. Even in Houston, who, you know, growing up, and even now, when we were younger, they would always say, Oh, well, he or she is Irani, they're not Parsee. And I remember saying, well, they’re Zoroastrian, they had their Navjote, isn't that the same thing? And people would be like, no, they're just, they're different. They're Irani. And I always thought of it, you know, based on the tone as a negative connotation. And I really don't know, maybe the history behind it or why it's like that. But I always had a sense that there has been a divide, and even, Sharmeen, even more so from India and Pakistan divide, I definitely see that in the Houston community, I think most people understand, hey, your family's from Karachi, your family's from India, whatever. But there are individuals in Houston that are very vocal about oh, well, you're from Pakistan, so you are different. And then you're from India, so you're different.

SM: Has anybody particularly spoken about it to you? Has there been discrimination in that sense?

FH: Very much so, not not, not specifically to me. But yeah, this this is actually in, it's very sad. I will say that there are certain in our community there, and they're very vocal about it. So it's not just their vocal about it to certain individuals, they're just openly vocal that they would never identify themselves as a Pakistani, Parsi or Pakistanis Zoroastrian because of Muslims right and it's very sad. And even people in our community who, you know, we think would kind of be unified and stand together, create that divide, and it's just because of their personal beliefs or their what they see in the media, that they feel that way. So I do feel that's very sad.

SM: Did you make a lot of Irani Zoroastrian friends? Or is are the communities even very separated when they need for events, prayers and things like that?

FH: The communities are very separated and I don't know if there's a huge population of Irani-Parsees out there and there may be but they don't, necessarily a lot of them come to our center. And I would say, I can probably count on one hand how many Irani Parsis friends I have, so it's very, very minimal.

SM: Do you imagine yourself moving back to South Asia?

FH: No. And that's, uh, we always ask my parents that question to know as well.

SM: Why do they say no? Is it because you know, everything’s here?

FH: You know, it when you get accustomed to different lifestyle and ease and accessor for everything. And, you know, the challenges that they face? They're from a just ease of life, right? They're used to it now. And they wouldn't even want to move back.

SM: When was the last time you visited focus on? This was in 2012. Do you want to share your experiences from then?

FH: Yeah, so being back in being back in the States, we've only gotten to well, we meaning myself, I've only gotten to go pack twice. One just because it's very expensive to fly a family of five and two, right, we went back in 2012 for my fui, my aunt's wedding. So she gotten married there. And then, you know, a few days before the wedding, my dadi, my grandma actually passed away. So we were, we were there for that as well. And the experience was good, because, one I loved the food, so we got to go to a lot of the good restaurants and eat out and, and see a lot of our extended family that we haven't seen in years. But also uncomfortable at times, right? Because you you build a sense of safety around you and then you you walk out and you see people carrying machine guns, and there's always a feeling of uneasiness, uneasiness when you're walking in the streets, because now you do feel like the outsider. Different hair, different skin color, different clothes. So you're always you know, I remember walking with a lot of uneasiness of people are watching.

SM: Did you visit any Parsi neighborhoods while you were there?

FH: Yes, So my my grandparents lived in Pakistan Chowk so I remember going there. We met up with some family members and relatives in Panchad Wadi, so we went there. We didn't go to Jamshed Baugh.

SM: Okay. I was wondering.

FH: Yeah, no, we didn't go to Jamshed Baugh. Well, we went to Mehrabad, yeah, we have some relatives that live in that neighborhood. The one thing I forgot to tell you that you know, you mentioned you know, what has changed from a time perspective in the Zoroastrian community. I think the other thing is the amount of interracial relationships that we see with our friends and I would say more than now it's become more than 50% of my Parsi friends are all either dating or engaged or married to a non-Zoroastrian spouse.

SM: I know you're still young, but I just wanted to ask you what would you like to convey to the following direction generations?

FH: Yeah, I would, you know, I would say don't lose, don't lose touch with the faith. And and what I mean by that is, I think it's going to be inevitable for the majority of people, even if they get their Navjote done to, like, you know, like you mentioned the stop wearing their Sudreh Kusti. But that doesn't mean you stop being an American, or I'm sorry, when you stop being a Zoroastrian when you stop wearing the clothing or the artifacts, right? I think it's more so about the faith and the the lessons of good thoughts, good words, good deeds, and how you can live your life as a good human being and a good Zoroastrian, is what I would want to convey one day to my kids and to the future generation.

SM: If you could put three things you own in a time capsule, what would they be? These can be things that have also been passed down to you, since your migration journey to the US or just family kind of, you know, historical connections.

FH: I read through this question, when you sent this email, when you sent the email, I said, wow, what a great question, I'm gonna think about it. And then I forgot to think about it.

SM: No worries.

FH: But I do remember, the first thing that popped up in my head was a topi. I would definitely put, I don't know why that popped up. First thing in my head, I think as a as a symbol of our faith, our rituals, you know, even my husband, all of the rituals we could, he always wears is still be just as a sign of respect, and just something that we always grew up doing. And again, that faith, of Zoroastrian, that Zoroastrian faith is something I would want to potentially look back in 50 years and say wow, how cool. Yeah, I would say the other thing that I didn't even think of, is the Farohar that I've been wearing for the longest time, and I hope to wear that every day. But I would definitely want to put the Farohar in there as well. And then I think the most, the other thing would just a snapshot of my kind of entire family, along with, you know, my spouse, and my siblings, spouses as well, all in a photo just to kind of take a look back, because at the end of the day, that's what matters most, is your family. So those would be the three things.

SM: And then last but not least, I just wanted to ask you, what is home for you? And how do you define home?

FH: Home for home, this is easy home to me is my parents home. So it's anywhere where my mom and dad are, that would be home for me. So now it would be Houston.

SM: Do you miss Houston a lot being in California.

FH: You know, I miss? It's funny. We my husband and I always his name is Dustin, we always talk about this. We only miss the three F's of Houston, we miss family, food and friends. All right. Other than that, Houston is not an exciting city, especially when you live in, near San Francisco. And there's so many outdoor things to do. So I think we miss Houston because both of our families are, my family's in Houston, his family's close to Houston. But other than that, and our friends are there too. But I think quality of life and the stuff we love to do is kind of keeping us in California a little bit longer.

SM: Thank you for sharing all of this, Fram. Before I end the interview. Is there something you would like to share that we haven't touched upon? Talk about anything I've left out?

FH: No, no. I'm just really grateful that you, you chose me as one of your interviewees. So thank you for taking the time and doing that.

SM: Thank you. so then let me stop recording.

Collection: Sharmeen Mehri Fellowship Project
Donor: Fram Haveliwala
Item History: 2022-06-10 (created); 2022-06-29 (modified)

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