Idea Endorsed by Large Community Turnout at Picnic
Silicon Valley Craves for a Pak Cultural Center
By Amjad Noorani

 


A group of students with Urdu teacher Afsheen Afzal at PACC

If the USA is the melting pot of the world, Silicon Valley is a key ingredient of that clichéd concoction called cultural diversity.
The Valley rightfully boasts of an impressive Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose serving the Latino community, while the relatively younger India Community Center (ICC) claims bragging rights on its own merits.
Now in its new Milpitas location with another ICC in Sunnyvale and smaller satellite centers spread over the Bay Area, the ICC website banner message proudly reads: Enriching Lives, Building Communities.
That’s exactly what Farrukh Shah Khan of Campbell feels is needed – a Pakistani American Culture Center (PACC) – to identify, enrich and sustain the Pakistani community, with cultural activities and fun programs, driven by the interest of its members.
"It's about time to have a place of our own," proclaims Farrukh, “a place where children can learn our languages, a place to relax and have fun, a center which offers counseling and services for seniors”.
For about a year now, Farrukh and like-minded professionals have been meeting and improving on the idea for a center. Networking with other groups who subscribe to similar ideas of a ‘center’ is a path strewn with challenges. Often, hidden turf wars can surface and healthy rivalry among the groups can lead to disagreements and factions.
But the core founding group of PACC are patiently going about their business and willing to listen to and work with anyone interested in the goal of community enrichment.
“The ideal location for the center has to serve a critical mass of the community”, says Asghar Aboobaker, another trustee who feels the South Bay provides easy reach to most surrounding communities. “Of a total population of 10,000 Pakistani’s in the service area, we could draw from about half that many”.
“Teaching Urdu has to be made interesting and inter-active for our kids and we plan to do just that”, chimed in Hasan Abbas, Secretary of PACC and founder of a web-based Urdu learning program for kids. “This fall, we are launching a unique and first-ever completely web-based interactive/animated Urdu learning program which will be ideal for the expatriate Pakistani and Indian kids. We are also working on an interactive curriculum especially for teenagers. Besides, there’s very strong desire among non-Pakistani’s for learning Urdu, especially those interested in shaa’iree and music”.


A group of Pakistanis at the PACC picnic

Will a Pakistani culture center draw people away from masajid? Or can masajid and a culture center be complementary to each other, one focusing on religion and the other on culture, without any conflict?
"People have to live. What choices do people have after work or on weekends? To some, the mosque is all you need. But there is more to life than just faith." said Abdulrahman Rafiq of San Jose. “Take music, for example”, he adds. “Mosques don't offer entertainment. A cultural center could provide a perfect venue for Pakistanis who yearn for musical entertainment”.
For Sabahat Ashraf of Fremont, the mosque does not meet all the needs in a child’s development. "We need to do more around the Pakistani identity," he says, “because our kids are saying:`You did a good job teaching us religion, but not much about our culture’.”
The PACC message and mission were publicly unveiled on March 23rd Pakistan Day at (what else) a community center in Cupertino. During the fun evening of nostalgic music by Alamgir and delicious Pakistani food, a young rapper – Zaki Syed, stole the hearts of 200 guests with his own Pakistan Zindabad lyrics. It was good to see the wide range of talent and entertainment, after thought-provoking TCF presentations highlighting the need to support education for underprivileged children in Pakistan.
August 18 was the most recent milestone for PACC when Pakistan and US flags fluttered side by side for the 60th Independence Day community celebrations picnic at scenic Baylands Park in Sunnyvale, attracting 400 PACC supporters and holiday revelers. Good food, lively music and a good time were enjoyed by all, as the happy pictures testify. By its presence and obvious enjoyment, the community was there to support the idea of a center for Pakistani culture!
Like a proud parent, Farrukh joyfully described the successful family picnic. “This is the first time that Pakistani-Americans in the South Bay celebrated Pakistan’s Independence Day with a major event like the PACC picnic. It seems everyone felt like this was their own, carefree family picnic. We had fun activities for children, with prizes for just taking part in the games – winners got bigger prizes, of course. Traditional Pakistani food was served. We even had a surprise guest, a gentleman from India who recently walked 700 miles from Delhi to Multan in a Peace march yatra, describing his experiences of warm hospitality and brotherhood in Pakistan.”
“We plan to make the picnic an annual event around 14th of August and also continue with a March 23rd Pakistan Day banquet. We are looking for a bigger building with a longer lease and we are organizing fundraising drives in the community to support a new location.”
In addition to the main anchors – Asghar, Farrukh and Abbas – PACC has the support of several Silicon Valley community leaders like Dr. Waheed Siddiqui, Javed Khan and Tashie Zaheer who have consented to be on the Board of Trustees and to help promote the center.
Pakistani American Culture Center (PACC) is a non-profit, non-religious and non-political organization providing education in Pakistani languages, history and culture to Pakistani Americans and open to all communities. Please visit www.PACC-CA.org for more information, or call (408) 426-4481.
Amjad.Noorani@tcfusa.org


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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