My Abu (‘father’ in Urdu) is my favorite storyteller … I grew up with stories of his childhood in India and later in his life: he and his best friend, Shafi, climbing neem trees in Puna; them trying to get back at a bully, but having their elaborate plan—with one of them crouching behind the bully while the other pushed him over—completely backfire (getting beat-up for a second time!); them tapping people’s heads from atop a wall as the clueless souls walked by not knowing what just happened; traveling by boat from India to Zanzibar, where my uncle was stationed on the hill opposite from the Sultan’s palace; stories of my grandfather, a famous detective who headed up the investigation of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi; my father coming to ‘America’ in 1959 as a Fulbright scholar to study engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and witnessing the burgeoning Civil Rights movement … These were the stories that shaped me, my worldview, and piqued my interest in studying history … And I haven’t even gotten into my mother’s stories of growing up in Peru! (N.B.: ‘Afsanas’ are short stories in Urdu.)

– Omar H. Ali (Historian)