An aspect of the show that really struck me in a way that I wasn’t prepared for was the depiction of the partition. This piece of history has impacted so many South Asians, yet not many people outside of the subcontinent actually know about it. Although it was the largest mass human migration in history, it was never mentioned in my public school education. But then again, Ramadan was barely taught at school. It was really only talked about when my teachers saw I wasn’t eating during lunch for a consecutive period of time, and I’d have to teach them about a holiday that is celebrated by billions. If my biggest holiday was never discussed, then why would a fairly recent, extremely deadly migration be taught?
Ms. Marvel’s fifth episode really made me look back into my own family history with the partition and uncover what happened to my own lineage 75 years ago. The answer is simple: both sides of my family got lucky. While my dad’s family did work in Bombay (now called Mumbai), both my mom and dad’s family just happened to reside in present-day Lahore, Pakistan. The house my dad grew up in and still owns has had 200 years of family reside in it; I actually got to stay in this home during a recent visit to Pakistan and could feel history brewing inside its vibrantly colored walls.
In 1947 when the British Raj left India and the country was split, people had to decide where to go: the Muslim majority Pakistan or the Hindu majority India. Mind you there was a whole mix of Sikhs, Christians, and other religions that had to find their place in this, for lack of a better word, mess. As the show depicts, people rushed to the trains, and it ended up being a hard and bloody migration.
Luckily neither side of my family had to do the dangerous and treacherous trek across the border. However I learned that my uncle, who I had always assumed was blood-related, was a child of the partition and allegedly made the journey across. He was found sick and alone, and my grandmother took him in. She tried to help him find his family, which proved to be an impossible task, so she adopted and raised him like one of her sons. That uncle ended up passing away in 2020 while visiting Pakistan – the country that took him in when he had nowhere else to go.
While the show made me nostalgic for my own upbringing, it also made me appreciate my roots, religion, and culture even more. It had me talking to my own parents about our history, the root of my name (which isn’t typically Pakistani, like Kamala’s!), and the sacrifices they made. If the show gets a season two, I hope we get to see more rich history right alongside those “normal things” like Kamala fasting during Ramadan, wearing leggings under her shorts while playing basketball, getting her eyebrows threaded not waxed, or having to change a boy’s name to a Muslim girl’s in her phone.
I caught the first two episodes of Ms. Marvel at the New York premiere in June and ended up getting home pretty late that night. As I tiptoed through my front door toward my room I thought to myself, “Nice, my parents are asleep.” Except when I opened my door I found my mom sitting on my bed with her arms crossed, waiting up for me. She berated me that I needed to find a husband and I shouldn’t be out so late (again, I am 30). I couldn’t help but laugh, as this literally mimicked a scene at the end of the first episode. My heart swelled with pride as I was getting scolded — I realized I’m now living in a world where there’s a Marvel show that captures not only the culture I come from and the traumatic events that shaped our history, but the funny, frustrating, delightful nuances of our lives, too.