A conversation between Zain Alam, Dorothy Dhillonn, Bibi Dhillonn, Ravi Dhillonn, and Michelle Caswell

Michelle: Bibi, when you were growing up, do you remember your father taking home movies? 
Bibi: Photographs yes, but not home movies. We had this closet in our house, which my Mom lived in for 55 years, full of boxes of pictures. My Dad was a big photographer, and I finally just started going through the closet, and I found these reels and I had no idea what they were. The first reel I found was a sound-only recording of my parents' wedding, but then later I had dug through some more, and I found the actual moving image footage. 
Michelle: What format was it in? Were you able to watch it right away? 
Bibi: No, I couldn’t watch it, it was Super 8. I worked at UCLA and I thought surely someone at UCLA can help me digitize it. I got referred around a bunch of places and Snowden Becker in the moving images archives program helped me digitize it and then I finally found out about SAADA through one of her students. 
Michelle: What was your reaction when you saw the home movies for the first time? 

Bibi: That was really emotional because I had no idea what was on them. I saw my grandmother, who I was really close to, but I didn't even know we had any moving images of her. So it was a real shock and just really, really emotional to see her, but also to see my brother, because he passed away as well. It was really moving. I was so happy that we had these moving images of all of us in our old house. It was pretty exciting.

Michelle: Had you thought at all that the footage would be of interest to people outside of your family?

Bibi: No, I did not.

Michelle: So what did you first think about when I approached you to ask if you would be interested in having the materials included in the South Asian American Digital Archive?

Bibi: Well I wasn't sure what SAADA was. So I did some research and looked it up and then I thought, yeah, that's actually fine. I'm happy to contribute to that, but I was surprised it would be of interest to anybody else.

Michelle: Zain, what was your reaction to seeing the footage for the first time?

Zain: You know, for me it was exactly the same as Bibi describes, the sense of joy and fulfillment and rediscovery. That's the way I felt when I went to India the first time my senior year in undergrad, and began digging up these stories and writings and photos of my grandparents and even my parents when they were much younger and easily able to cross the India-Pakistan border. I think there's like a two-layered sense of, oh, it's really cool to find something personal that you feel connected to and that you there is a lineage and that you're a part of. But it was actually really fascinating in the longer historical trajectory too.… In a similar way, when I came across the [Dhillonn] videos, it put a lot of things into perspective for me. I grew up in Kennesaw, Georgia post-9/11. Seeing the videos made me realize not only are we not the first, but there were other people who were even deeper in the heartland of America, who are having the experience of being American for the first time and asking, “Do we assimilate, do we integrate, do we resist?”  It really put things into context, especially given what was happening politically at the time that I discovered the videos. So there's such a long arc of history, both personal and on a much larger scale.

Bibi: You brought up an interesting point about whether to assimilate or to resist. My dad, when he was at university, I think it was easier to maintain his identity because the university setting is so different. I think he was much more appreciated for his differences at the university. Then when he left the university, he experienced a lot more discrimination and that's when I think he felt like he had to cut his hair and lose his turban and everything.

Michelle: You can see those changes over the course of the home movie footage. It's remarkable to see the passage of time from the wedding, to after, having a few kids and cutting his hair. When I first saw the footage, I think I started jumping up and down and I had to call Samip [Mallick, the Executive Director SAADA] immediately. I'm not South Asian, but I've worked with these materials for a while now and we don't have any moving images from this time period. Seeing the film for the first time, I had an emotional reaction to it, thinking “the records exist, we just have to do the work of finding them. These histories existed prior to 1965.” The footage is so beautiful, full color, it's just gorgeous. And your parents are gorgeous, Bibi. I got very, very excited in seeing it. Zain, how did you come to find the footage in SAADA?

Zain: I remember when we began the fellowship and we were just kind of looking over the materials. My entry into archives is as somebody who is very sensitive to sound and focused on sound and voices and as someone who did oral histories in India and Pakistan. And then at that moment I think I was talking to you guys a little bit too about maybe instead getting inspiration from some of the written pieces or the photos that were in the archive. But then I came across the Dhillonn video. It was just that initial instinctual state of connection of like, well, what is this? Not only is this a story that I find fascinating, but almost hearkening back to what you were saying, Michelle. There are the colors, the people, and the way that I found them very beautiful and really interesting to look at, both the family in Oklahoma and then the family that came to the wedding. There is just something aesthetically that I really loved about the texture of the materials that was unique amongst everything else I was coming across. I wanted to sit with all this stuff for a little while before making a decision as to what I wanted to really directly engage with, but whenever I would look back on all this stuff, I think there was just no question. It is strange to say, but it's almost like a spiritual connection in a sense. It's like, I think, Michelle, you know what I'm saying? Like whenever you're going through materials, a big collection or archive, sometimes there is just that spark that emerges. And I think, again, looking back on it you can impose a lot of reasons and logic as to why I latched onto this one so intensely, but, that spark was unique and it didn't happen to such a degree with any of the other materials. And I think then at that point I started talking with you and Samip about what would be an interesting way of me using this using this material.  Could I… is it okay to cut it down from the hours that we have to something that's shorter? Is it okay to score my own music to this? All those questions naturally have always been a part of my work. In many ways it felt like a really natural fit from the beginning.

Michelle: Bibi, what was your reaction to seeing “Lavaan” for the first time? 

Bibi: I'm probably going to get emotional talking about it, so get ready. It was just so beautiful seeing the moving images of my family with music and the super imposing of the images in the background. I don't even really have the words. I've watched it again and again, and it just feels, you mentioned the word spiritual.  There's something, deeply deeply inside me that got moved by watching it. I shared it on Facebook because I wanted my family and friends to see it. I'm so excited about it and I've watched it so many times and every single time I'm so moved by it. I'm also struck by the beauty of my parents. Every time I see them on their wedding day, it's so emotional because they're so young and so beautiful and hopeful. I can hear the sound in my head because I've heard the audio so many times too. I never get tired of watching it. And by the way, the music is really beautiful.

Michelle: It's incredibly beautiful. I've showed it to many of my classes. I show it in conference presentations. Samip and I just showed it at a SAADA event at UCLA two weeks ago. And there are always tears. There's always crying. And laughter, too. People react to it very viscerally. Zain, as an artist, when you were creating it, did you think about how people would respond to it?  If so, what were your hopes or fears for how they might respond?

Zain: When I was cutting it, I was thinking about you, Bibi, and about your family in general. When I got towards the end of the piece, when it addresses the contemporary moment, I definitely wondered, as somebody who is not of Sikh background, as somebody who is not Punjabi, and somebody who has not grown up in the Midwest, is this going to affect people emotionally in a way that feels bad? Is this doing something that feels very off-putting? Is it something that feels disrespectful to the traditions or to the communities?... But I also think there are two different things: the intellectual, self-critical, judgment-based mind and the aesthetic creative mind. They shouldn't be really jumbled into one another and, in terms of process, they definitely should not be a tangled in with one another. But that also doesn't mean that they should be a mutually exclusive part of the process. I think a lot of times when there's conversations about appropriation, or about stepping outside of one's traditions, it tends to fall along one of those lines and in a very simplistic way. So for me, it was like, look, I feel like I found something beautiful and I'm going talk to Samip and Michelle about whether or not it's okay to use, and I'm really going to go as far as I can dedicate myself to really sitting with this material for a long time. I'm a simmering on it for as long as I can and really trying to just see how this video speaks to me, what it's telling to me. And then accordingly build a world out of all that, that first and foremost, I think I find beautiful, that I find resonates with me, and that hopefully through whatever creativity and sound I put to this, somebody else will be able to connect to it in a similar way, which perhaps might not necessarily be the case if they were just to see the full two hours silent footage.

Once I felt like I'd answered those questions and once I felt like I devoted myself to the material as it had been presented to me in the archive, I thought afterwards, okay, let me go back and really now evaluate these creative decisions I made both on a gut and intuitive basis. Can I really sense that there's something that could be really be offensive here? Is there something that feels tasteless? But that had to come afterwards rather than before. 

After we showed that video the first time [at the SAADA Where We Belong symposium], there was an elderly Sikh woman who came up to me and was also in tears. She was the first person who I had seen after we showed it. She had that emotional of a reaction to it. And in my mind, I immediately went to like both of those parts of my brain, the judgmental part was just like, oh my God, I really screwed something up. And then the other part of me was just like, oh no, she's just really deeply connecting to it. And the same way that I felt when I first encountered the material, these two parts of my brain, of our brains as human beings, don't need to be mutually exclusive. There's a degree to which this is always going to be an art and not a science. I don't want us to ever lose the magic of that. 

Michelle: Bibi, how did you feel watching the parts at the end of “Lavaan” where Zain is intermixing your family footage with the news clippings from that attack on the Oak Creek Gurdwara and have other hate crimes?

Bibi: I remember when that [attack] happened, it actually made me think about what my father must have experienced. It made me sad that I wasn't able to talk to him ever about what he must have gone through. It just really made me think about that, what South Asians must've gone through. What Indians, especially with turbans, must have gone through. They're still going through it. It made me sad that I couldn't talk to my dad about it.

Bibi: I'm curious from Zain, were there specific parts of the video that really jumped out at you? 

Zain: When I was home in January, I took it upon myself to try to begin converting all of the VHS that we have at home and it's really intense. It's really, really beautiful and really, really intense. A lot of us don't really identify ideas of beauty or of care or have really emotional connections with our fathers. For me to see the videos my dad took of us, like 1991 in Connecticut, in 1994 in Marietta, Georgia, in 1995, me celebrating my birthday in a mosque, the amount of real, real, pure love and sensitivity you see. The way he's taking his time recording things, the way that he's focusing on things, things that in the moment honestly must have seemed so quotidian and pedestrian to my mother. Seeing how much care there is for what's going on. I really felt like I got that too from your family videos, Bibi. The way these everyday moments of you guys eating ice cream, celebrating the birthday with all the other kids. I started to see some of these arcs, these little visual arcs and motifs, that became very interesting to me. Those are what guided my decisions on what footage I wanted to include and then how to string it together. But first and foremost, I think the thing I felt most attached to was this world that your father really loved. Your father really being careful and trying to capture the beauty that he was observing. And that's everyday life.

Another thing that I find really beautiful about these videos is these micro histories are able to tell us a huge amount by virtue of them offering a source of knowledge that is very, very different from what is otherwise commonly narrated about who is represented the 60s and the 70s. Encountering these videos changed my imagination of those decades and of this community in a way that had not been done before. I might've known on a numeric basis that maybe there were ten Indians in 1955 in Oklahoma, maybe a few thousand in California, but it didn't, it doesn't really strike you in the same way as I think, a very visceral micro history of this kind filled with moments and landscapes that we can very much relate to regardless of where we live or what time we're in now. It does so much work of widening the field I had, of imagining what is the South Asian experience in the United States. 

Michelle: Bibi, you mentioned that the first thing you found was in fact the sound recording of  your parents’ wedding day. Have you been able to listen to that sound? 

Bibi: I transferred the sound to DVD as a Christmas present to my mother. I didn't tell her what it was. I just gathered everybody around in our family room and I said, this is your present. And I played it for her. She didn't recognize it. She was like, oh no, I have no idea what this is. Wow. To my sister, I'm like, listen, you have to listen because my dad’s and my mom's voices are so beautiful. There's some man going around interviewing all the guests and getting their reaction. It's just a whole different way of experiencing that day then just watching the silent video. 

Michelle: I am so excited to hear it and I’m just so excited to think of what Zain might do with it.

Zain: The possibilities are already just spiraling all over the place right now.

Michelle: It's amazing to me what this record is enabling. That footage is an object and a digital object now. But what's most important is that it is enabling conversations and connections between people that weren't there before. That makes the job of an archivist worthwhile.

Bibi: That’s particularly meaningful to me because, when my dad gave me this beautiful scrapbook, which is on the SAADA website now, and when I saw it, I said, hey, let me redo this for you. It was falling apart. So he gave it to me and years went by and I didn't do anything and he was so disappointed. He would constantly comment, “Oh, you never did anything with all those materials I gave you.” So I feel like if only he could see this now and see what actually ended up happening with everything he created, he would be proud. 

Michelle: Bibi, do you have any words of advice for other people who have materials like this in their house who might not consider that their materials are important to anybody else, or might not want to open them up to the kind of exposure in including them in SAADA?

Bibi: When I first saw Zain’s video, I was like, “Hey, wait, this is me, this is my family.” Then I realized, I gave them permission to do this. And also it was still incredibly beautiful. I can see how some people may not want to share things that feel personal, maybe even painful. But I never imagined in a million years anybody else would even care about this. It still kind of surprises me. So I would say don't ever make that assumption. And of course in this day and age it's so easy to get things transferred. Even if you have Super 8 film, there's no reason not to do it. People might be surprised like I was by what they see and it ended up having so much meaning for me. In the case of things related to South Asians, I think it's really important knowing now what I know about how little record there is from the 1950s and 1960s, I personally find it really important for more and more information to be made available. 

Michelle: I think part of the beauty and the value of these records, the home movies and also the scrapbooks, is that they provide a counterbalance to the kind of bureaucratic records that we might have. They tell us a very different story than seeing a passport or a greencard. 

Zain: In the dream world, we would have academic books made by somebody like Michelle. We have the actual historical record from somebody like your family, Bibi. And then on the other side we have an artist who is able to put some kind of aesthetic, emotional touch on at all. And again, all the work that we are doing is not mutually exclusive. 

Michelle: In the future we have no idea, Zain, how people might use these materials. There's room for infinite interpretation and reuse.

Michelle: Dorothy, what do you remember about your wedding day? 

Dorothy: I remember that we were married at the home of a professor. He and his wife were good friends of ours. It was a pretty simple wedding. We had a Unitarian minister who came from Oklahoma City, which was 20 miles away from us, and it was fairly simple ceremony. I wore a sari and I had a friend who was a maid of honor and another friend who was the best man. We had fellow Indian students as guests too, mostly young Indian men. One of them was the camera man, I can't remember his name.

Ravi: There was some audio taken at the wedding and after the wedding where my father and some of his buddies are talking and reciting some poetry in Urdu. Most of their conversation was typical male celebration after the wedding with a little bit of drinking. 

Michelle: Dorothy, why do you think your husband had the video ceremony recorded? 

Dorothy: It was for everybody's memory and record and probably for him to be able to show his family or tell his family about it. He was very interested in photography and he took a lot of photographs but at that time he hadn't yet gotten into movie making. That's why he had one of his fellow graduate students do it for him.

Michelle: Why do you think he took home movies of the kids growing up? 

Dorothy: Same reason. He enjoyed photography and he enjoyed taking pictures and he just wanted to have the record of our family. 

Ravi: I remember us watching them as kids and growing up on that old fashioned screen that you open up, it's really heavy, and that old fashioned slide projector. My father had all kinds of camera equipment. He was really into photography and he built a darkroom in our garage. I remember helping him, he was teaching me about all of the differences between chemicals and how film develops.

Dorothy: Yes, he did a lot of photo developing and in those days and later years, he took a lot of pictures overseas, when we went to Europe. Once he wanted to get a picture of the Eiffel Tower at night. They had started lighting it at nighttime. He was walking some distance and he was getting really tired of carrying all his photographic equipment and as he walked all the way up, getting close to getting ready to take the picture, all of a sudden the lights went off. 

Ravi: I remember all that heavy equipment. Bibi has thrown out so many trays of slides. He just took way too many pictures of scenery and buildings. Thank goodness Bibi went through the closet and found these old reel-to-reel tapes and this old footage and old audio recordings. Otherwise we never would've seen it.

Michelle: When was the last time you had seen it before Bibi took it out of the closet? 

Ravi: I never had seen the wedding video then. 

Dorothy: It had been decades since I had seen it too. 

Ravi: I look at the footage and I think, who were these people? Their faces are so young and they look so different from the faces I remember growing up, there were smiles on them, not knowing what the future would hold. It's incredible how beautiful you both are, a beautiful couple, with his turban and her sari. 

Michelle: Did you know that Bibi was digitizing the materials? 

Ravi: Well, the first thing that she did was get the audio digitized, and she said, I have a special present for mom. She told me about it on her birthday some years back. That was the first time I heard it and I was still surprised to hear how high my father's voice sounded and how happy he sounded. That's not the father I knew; he was so serious, and so, so burdened down. And when I look at that early footage of us as kids, Bhagat and me playing, I realized that there was this happiness we had. We had a happy childhood for a while, you know?

Michelle: Did seeing the footage change how you think about your childhood?

Ravi: It does. Of course as you get older and you become an adult, you come to see your parents in a different way. But in looking at it as an outsider, I could just see them as this couple and knowing the history that I know, assess everything differently. You know what I mean? It just allows a person to have a different perspective when you see the footage yourself. It's a sort of disembodied kind of experience. I don't know how to explain it, but I have felt different ever since I've looked at it. And I have to say also that watching the footage, initially just the silent footage, was one thing, but seeing it with Zain’s music and the political context and the artistry with which he edited it together, it brought tears to my eyes. I became very emotional and it was a completely different experience. I am so interested to hear what your reaction was, when you first saw Zain’s piece, mom. 

Dorothy: When I first saw Zain’s piece, I thought it was very nice. I appreciated it. I don't think I had the same feelings Ravi did, but I really appreciated what it added to the footage. The whole piece brought it together, and he had a different outlook from what I did in my memory. It was interesting to see the way he put it together and, and there's something about his music. It just evokes emotion. 

Ravi: Seeing my childhood memories, some, I don't remember, I have little blips of remembrance. Being 57 years old now and seeing me as a little kid, a toddler learning to walk, with the music, and with the perceptions now of Sikhs in America. I remember as a kid in school, an adult asking me, “Oh, you're half Indian, what tribe?” And I said, “No, my father is from India.” And he just kept insisting, “What tribe?” It was a pretty hardcore white conservative community that we grew up in because my father was a chemical engineer. He worked out at Borax and so we were surrounded by white people, very American white people.
Daddy became very Americanized. He cooked porterhouse steaks on the weekends and smoked Marlboro cigarettes. But Zain's overlay just makes me compare and contrast the time then and the time now. Bibi might've told you about how my dad cried when he got his haircut. There were things my father went through here that I have no idea he went through and, he went through a lot of trauma before he left India. That was the days of the partition. There was a lot of violence. He saw his best friend stabbed to death. And I never knew that about him. He never mentioned that my whole life. It was when I went to India [that I found out]. He didn't talk about things like that. I came to know my father differently when I went to India as an adult.  We had been back and forth as kids, but when I went to India as an adult, in an education abroad program, I stayed a year and stayed with my relatives. That's when I really came to understand him differently. That's when I found out that his best friend for his whole life, they were 14 years old, he saw him killed right in front of his eyes. 

His father had four wives. My father's mother was the first wife. The later wives didn't have the status of the first, official wife. The other wives tried to poison her when she was pregnant with my dad. My grandmother escaped. She called her brother who came on a motorcycle with money to rescue her. Imagine him taking her back over the Himalayas, pregnant. It's like a novel.

Dorothy: She [my mother-in-law] was a very beautiful person at heart. I learned sometime after we were married, my husband told me, that as soon as we knew were getting married, he wrote and told her that he found a bride. She had already chosen a bride for him in his hometown. I never knew about that and she never once mentioned it to me or ever said anything negative to me. 

Ravi: Mom and Manji became very close and I learned how to cook Indian food from her and thank God for that because let me tell you, there's nothing, nothing like these recipes that have been passed down. My father could cook too. Back in the days, [my grandmother] came and stayed about a year each time with us, three or four times. She used to make this bread, missi roti. It was a delicious bread. She used to make it just for mom.

Michelle: Dorothy, what was it like for you raising four kids in an interracial marriage in Norman, Oklahoma, and then Lancaster, California? 

Dorothy: It was pretty tiring because I worked most of the time. I worked in offices, doing secretarial work or clerical work, because in spite of the fact that [my husband] was from a well to-do family, he was something of a rebel. And he didn't get very much support when he told them he wanted to come here…. 

Ravi: But what was it like mom? Did you encounter a lot of like racism against your family?

Dorothy: Some, not a lot. Once people got to know your father, they pretty much accepted him. He had a very strong personality and presence and an authority about him too. He had a royal air. If he walked into a room and everybody would want to know him. 

Ravi: My dad had this very strong presence. You can't describe it if you haven't felt it, you know? But I've often wondered, mom, what it was like for you. I used to feel good when that happened because wherever we went, I always felt safe and protected because he has such a strong presence. But that gas station incident, was that because daddy was foreign? There was an incident where a man was violent to my dad at a gas station in a remote place. 

Dorothy: It was in Barstow, California. Back in Barstow he was just driving around in our station wagon Dodge Dart, you and Bhagat were in the back. You were just little tykes. You were sleeping in the back and we had forgotten to put the gas cap on after we filled up at some station. We went back there to get our gas cap. At that time my husband was wearing a turban, he had a mustache and beard and he had the complexion of an Indian, and this is white man's land back in those days. This man just started running after him and attacking him and he was outside and I was in the car with the kids asleep in the back of the station wagon and your dad had to hide behind a big stack of oil cans because he was after him and we had no idea why, there hadn't even been a verbal exchange, and I figured it must have been that he was obviously a foreigner. 

Ravi: Mom, did he ever talk to you about discrimination at work? 

Dorothy: He never had any discrimination at work that I know of. I think I would have known if he had it. No. People always respected him.

Michelle: Prior to Bibi giving digital copies of the home movies to SAADA, have you ever thought about your family's story as being history, as being important to people outside of your family?

Dorothy: No.

Ravi: I have. I've written bits and pieces of it through my whole life. I'm studying English literature now and I recognize that stories are everything. Whether it comes from your doctor or the news or your preacher or whatever. Our stories are in the end, all we have, really of ourselves. Take away all the material things, and we have our stories. I think it's a very important for us to understand where we came from, what things were like then, different historical contexts, and why people behaved in certain ways, in certain contexts and, and how it's different now. 

Michelle: What do you think your dad would feel about his movies being in SAADA and being used in Zain’s work?

Ravi:  I think he would've liked to take part in it. I think he'd be honored. 

Dorothy: I think it would be a mixed bag because there are some things that he was private about. But remember, he was a very good photographer and won awards in the local photography contests.

Ravi: Yes. He had a sense of, I don't know, what would you call it? A propriety, not advertising things about the family. Certain things you are careful about telling because they might use it against you….

Michelle: What did you think when you were watching “Lavaan,” about the interspersing of the newsreel footage from the white supremacist attack on the gurdwara with footage of your family?

Ravi: I have to tell you that my cousin Arjun came here from India and he was traveling alone, maybe nine, 10 years ago. He was spat on and insulted on a bus because he was wearing a turban. I asked him specifically because at first he didn't [want to say], he is so polite, they didn't want to talk about unpleasant things. And I said, I just want to know, has anything happened to you in the States? He said, nothing's happened except one time. And that's when he told me about that. And I said, how did you handle it? And it just made me burn because Arjun is the sweetest, kindest, most generous-hearted, giving person you'd ever meet. I mean, he's a man of service. It just made me burn hearing about that. I could have killed that guy. I wish I was there, I would've given him a piece of my mind. I'll tell you, it wouldn't have ended there. So when I saw that news footage, interspersed with my family’s footage, it's personal. It's personal. 

Zain: I was wondering, Ravi, you mentioned earlier the word disembodiment to describe when you were initially seeing some of this footage from your personal archives. My interpretation and reimagination of all that material, how did that affect you, and that feeling you described as disembodiment? 

Ravi: Well, the politicization produced the very opposite feeling. I felt it was closer to home. I felt it was more personal. That disembodiment feeling of seeing myself as a little kid, it felt like I was looking at a stranger, you know, the same way I felt when I was looking at the faces of my parents when I was seeing the wedding footage, if felt like, who are these people? We were not strangers but it felt like looking at strangers. You walk along through life and you think you know this person, you know these people, and then you see this footage and that changes, especially, with the backdrop of music, which of course is very emotional, especially your music, that particular piece. It changes, it changes your view.

Zain: It's so interesting to hear that because, as a musician, we have a very common practice of remixing one song into another. And I just really latched onto this word you used, disembodiment, because sometimes when I hear my own voice or my songs remixed by somebody else, initially I get that feeling of disembodiment, in which I feel like, oh my God, I never would have heard my voice this way or I never would have pitched it up and down. But then after a while, figuring out that it is able to take on a new life in this other world that somebody else has invented. There's almost a kind of reembodiment. There's a new life that my voice has been able to take on in someone else's work. I was wondering if you had a similar feeling when seeing how this footage that you're in, that your father and your father's friend had created, was put into service. I have this vision of my own that I had with the piece.

Ravi: I had a professor who said in writing class that once you put that poem out there, it's no longer yours. It doesn't belong to you anymore. Now it's everybody else's. Same with the any art, I guess. Whatever you put out there.
I'm so glad that [Lavaan] is out there and that people are interested because otherwise it would be such a waste. And I feel like there's so much, there's so much more. I mean, we could talk for days and like I said before, our stories are all we really have and they're very important. And I think that's why it's important to stay truthful about them. And I think that whether it's video, whether it's music, whether it's art [being produced with the original material], it's not taking any of the truth away, or the originality away, it’s just looking at it from a new perspective and seeing that old footage in the context of today. Seeing it as new is really beautiful, yeah. 

Zain: I also almost felt similarly when I first encountered the footage, I felt that I was almost seeing the history of South Asians and the story of South Asians in America completely differently by virtue of the fact that your videos and your family's story push the timeline back a decade from really what I had imagined.

Ravi: Imagine Zain, imagine how it must have been from people who came before my dad.

Zain: Yeah, of course. I think this exchange, both that we're having, and the exchange of archival material, the reuse of the old, putting the old into conversation with the new, to exchange and to interact and to engage in a conversation, we're almost being able to see ourselves in new lights despite differences of time and space. What more can you ask for?...

Michelle: I am so grateful to all of you for making these materials accessible and for reusing them. We have shown “Lavaan” at SAADA events, I show it at conferences and in my classroom, and the audience always tears up. 

Zain: Every time I hear that, it makes me want to tear up too. I think the first time I saw the material I had the initial moment of just like, oh my God, it's so beautiful. It's so warm, it's so lovingly shot. It is opening my mind to a world of in the US that I never could have imagined. And then working through it over and over again, I still have that love, but it's really wonderful to hear also that people who might not have as direct of a relation to the history are still able to pick out something that really resonates with them and have that emotional reaction to it. 

Ravi: I want to add one last thing. We were talking about the missy roti that Manji, my grandmother, made for my mom. The day Manji died, my mom smelled missi roti when she was taking a shower. Manji was in India, and we got a cable later that same day that she died at that time. I'm not a mystical type person, but, I remember that. 

Dorothy: I'm not either, but that was the most intense smell, there's nothing else that smells like that, you know? And, and it was lunchtime. That's when she always made it for me and I was in the shower and I suddenly smelled that bread very strong. And then we got the telegram later that she had died.

Ravi: I wanted to share this just because there may be energies that prevail that science has not yet explained, but I just wanted to close with the way things carry across the ocean, whether it's through video or music or energy waves. It's great to be part of that.