My great grandfather was always an extremely happy and warm man. He used to tell all of us stories about his childhood and about his enormous house in his hometown. He used to describe their swimming pool and the beautiful garden, which were a big deal back in the day. The only time I remember him being negative was when he spoke about Pakistanis. He attributed only inferior qualities to them, and blamed them for the partition and the destruction associated with it. He felt no need to show respect towards them.
At first I was taken aback. It angered me that someone from my family could show such hatred and bias towards a group of people. I had never experienced anyone I was related to being racist. What was even more confusing was that nobody ever sounded as shocked as I did at his behavior. This bothered me and I often brought it up with my dad. He always responded saying “You don’t know the full story, he probably has his reasons.” I was never satisfied with this answer, but out of respect from my great grandfather I never questioned it.
Finally I got tired of wondering and my curiosity overcame me. I asked my great grandfather why he disliked Pakistanis. We then sat for 3 hours, while he told me stories and his experiences which made him formulate his opinion and perception of them. My great grandfather lived through the partition. He was alive when the riots happened. His reality was what we studied in school. He grew up hearing live news about a temple being burnt down by Muslims and my great grandmother had to hide in a bomb shelter while she heard her friends being killed and the riots outside her window. This was what they faced as teenagers. This changed his life forever and he said that he could never leave those memories behind. My great grandfather did not grow up in a period of harmony between Indians and Pakistanis and therefore his view of the world is different from mine.
I finally understood where he was coming from and though I may not share his opinion, I do understand it. This changed my relationship with him and strengthened our bond. I stopped thinking of his hatred for Pakistanis as a flaw and more as a world view that was built upon his encounters. This is when I knew my research was complete.
This has taught me to never judge a person’s behavior without knowing the motivation behind it. It made me realize that nobody’s perception of the world will be the same because it the sum of all our individual experiences.