Filmmaker Sadia Shepard’s desire to unearth her family’s roots was sparked by the discovery that her South Asian grandmother was Jewish, from the Bene Israel community of India. What began as a research and documentary project into that community, however, became a deeply personal exploration of that dwindling Jewish culture and its fate in religiously partitioned India and Pakistan, and ultimately a quest to grasp her own complicated identity.
Shepard brings an extraordinary perspective as the Boston-born child of a Protestant American father and a Muslim mother from Pakistan. Writing as one might to a friend, she confides her fears and uncertainties as she travels to India and Pakistan, gradually if only temporarily becoming a part of the world she came to investigate. Her story draws together many strands: not only the historical and cultural details, but also her deep feelings for her grandmother, her sense of wonder as she travels in India and Pakistan, her feelings for a man who befriends her, and her search to understand the meaning of home.
Enriched by many evocative observations, including her experiences of Jewish holidays and celebrations in India, Shepard’s account is particularly affecting because of its emotional honesty and vulnerability.