"Desi" Kids at ACL

Austin is lucky to be home to Austin City Limits (ACL), a music festival famous all over USA.  Music lovers fly in from all over to attend it.  Not only adults, but also high school and college going students are seen participating in the fun.  In fact, the excitement for ACL begins when kids start high school.  Favorite bands come and perform in the ever so popular Zilker Park.  The trend for Desi (local term for South Asian) high school kids to enjoy ACL has been on the low side, but who ever goes comes back with only the best memories of the grand finale, food stalls, being with friends and swaying to the music. 

The Austin South Asian asked four Desi moms their thoughts about sending Desi kids to ACL.  Lubna Ashraf , the mother of a junior in Westlake High was in favor of sending her musically inclined daughter to ACL.   She encouraged everyone to support local music and hear new bands.  She added that the best way to let kids go is in groups where they have a good time with friends.  She cautioned that kids do separate and cell phones don’t always work so a meeting point must be decided ahead of time.

Seema Azam, the mother of a freshman in college, goes to ACL every year and loves the fact that ACL is all out doors and lively.  She thought October is a good month for the festival because kids in college need a break after their first tests at the University.  She cautioned that she would not recommend kids below eighteen to venture to ACL because of all the smoking and drinking that happens along with the music. 

Samara Qureshi, who grew up in Pakistan said, ‘When we were growing … we had our musical inspirations and our kids are growing up here have their own music icons.  My ‘desi’ kids are broadening my musical horizons.’ She felt lucky that ACL is so accessible to our kids and families.  Her high school sophomore spent the day at ACL and navigated herself pretty well.  

With all the positive responses, one wonders why the festival has not been a ‘must go’ for the Desi community.  Small groups of friends in the Desi community do go, but it is something they might do once in a few years.  Maheen Baqai, a mother of three kids in different ages, qualified the reasons why some parents and kids are reluctant although all three kids of hers (sophomore at UT, junior at high school and seventh grader) have been to ACL.  She said that if the kids are into music, they must make full use of ACL once they are at an age where they can be responsible and know what things to avoid at ACL.  But ACL is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Many kids with allergies are unhappy with the setup and would rather go to a covered concert.

My own opinion about ACL has softened over the years probably because ACL has become less chaotic and more organized over the years.  In our home, we started going to ACL eight years ago and have been going almost every year.  My 9th grader went for the whole day with friends.  A parent dropped the girls and we were assigned to pick them up. I remember waiting with my husband by the grand ACL sign scanning the people exiting to find my child and feeling relieved and happy when the girls came our way all excited and happy.  Since then we too have gone whenever we can.  We just have become smarter about drop off, pick up, meeting points, targeting our favorite bands and knowing when it’s time to head home. We have always managed to enjoy.  No place is perfect and weirdness does happen, but the big question is can our kids navigate through it.  We will never know unless we let them have that experience while we are still a text away.