As we plan for my daughter Sonam’s upcoming wedding to Andrew, I remember my own nuptials, the traditions and rituals I grew up with. I was born in Kenya and lived among a vibrant Oshwal Community, where I participated in many activities in the community which played a large role in determining who I am today. My husband is also from the same community so there was less pressure of understanding each other’s culture, as our family lifestyles were so similar. When we came to Canada in 1991, we did not know anyone. I contacted an Oshwal family who told the other community members about us. The community embraced us and have since then become part of my extending family. In Kenya, I took the Oshwal community for granted, but here, these gestures have made me think a lot about my identity and what it means for me to be an Oshwal. This quest has taken me to Halar, Osian, Jamnagar, Mumbai, Kenya and the UK to learn more about the Halari community and to subsequently make this film.
In Canada, we are encouraged to be part of a pluralist society where we can embrace our own roots, practice our cultural heritage and still assimilate into the Canadian culture. However, I see Sonam’s lack of connection with the Oshwal community. I still feel a strong thread that ties me to this community but we are only 400 people across Canada and I am concerned that our future generations will inevitably lose these ties. My parents and parents in-law told me so many stories about their childhood but I unfortunately never documented them.. Many of our seniors who hold the connection to our past are passing on so I feel that there is an urgent need to record our stories and histories. If this is not done, our heritage will sadly get lost in transition.
We live in a time of globalization where our lives are more fragmented than ever before and the survival of many small communities are under threat. The spread of love and empathy is most needed today, but intimate communities that emanate these qualities are slowly disappearing. In spite of this, there is a surge in people who want to connect to their past, by learning more about their own roots. Websites such as Ancestry.com have gained popularity in recent years and in Canada, there is a movement towards the First Nations retaining their languages, and teaching it in schools Threads That Tie Us will appeal not only to Oshwals, but also to a wider audience who will recognize the qualities of this community and reflect upon their own. I hope this film initiates a conversation between different generations to discuss the relevance of communities, identity and culture. For the Oshwals, I hope the film reinstates and instills a sense of pride for who they are and will be used for education and posterity. Ultimately, we are all connected by this universal human thread and responsible for each other’s well being.
– Bindu Shah, Director, Threads That Tie Us