When he told his parents he has met and fallen in love with a Palestinian Christian girl they were forthcoming.
“I told her I’m leaving [for New York] day after tomorrow and we have to meet before that,” Saks recalls.
He also did a “very Pakistani thing” to assure Suzie that he is not “crazy” — he told her that they should both bring a friend along and do a “group thing”.
Both Suzie and Saks recognise that they could not have led this life in their respective home countries, but maintain that they are still “very much Arab and Pakistani”. You have to love Pakistan,” Suzie says.“I think we both wanted to absorb and learn as much as we could about each other’s cultures,” Saks adds. Being open to different cultures is the only way to fight racism, they believe.“I don’t use the word ‘assimilated’, because it means you’ve lost something,” the comic says. “That is like you pick and choose, like cafeteria style.”The couple has built a life for themselves and their son, despite their detractors’ predictions that it wouldn’t work.
Suzie recalls, “For the longest time they [her family] were waiting to see if Saks turns out to be the ‘big, bad Muslim on TV’.
She believes these experiences have informed her career choice.
“That’s why I became a civil rights lawyer, and even within that I focused on criminal justice for so long, because I think that’s how racism is perpetrated primarily in the United States,” the Philadelphia-based attorney says.
This is where Chaudhry was born and brought up.“There were very few South Asian immigrants in town; they mostly came later in the 80s,” she says.
Being different she, “experienced and witnessed a lot of discrimination from childhood through adulthood”.
He began taking Arabic lessons from a teacher he fondly refers to as “an institution”. They decided it was time to get the families involved. His father’s job as a PIA pilot meant that the family spent a significant chunk of their lives in different countries, exposed to new cultures.