Every time, without fail, when middle-aged men and women sit down together with their post-Iftaar tea, conversation dips down to the lows of being in Pakistan.
Business chaley bhi to kaise chaley?
Corruption, crime, injustice, deen sey kitney duur chalein gaeye hain hum… mad drivers, intolerance, illiteracy, poverty…
…the words keep falling, colliding, combusting, an ever-rising charred pile of despair and disillusionment.
The words that get me the most riled up are: there is no hope. They get me so angry that I want to forget all norms of respect and propriety and yell at everyone, moms, dads, uncles, aunts and all who sit so forlorn and pessimistic in their pretty homes at the top of Pakistani society. Don’t you dare! I want to point at them in the exact way my mom warned me against, “I’m coming back here so don’t you dare tell me I’m coming back to nothing.”
I refrain from giving my mother a heart attack so I just sit and tune out the dialogues of despair. It pains me to think that people in the upper-middle classes can’t see the silver linings that always exist.
In my case, everything I am today I owe to my country, and yes, there are power outages but we’re the class that has those ugly UPS boxes (if not the more colorful, bigger generators) which ensure we always have the light on when we need to pee, we’re the ones in the cars honking at other mad drivers and breaking traffic signals on the pretense that “it’s not safe to stand here at night!”, we’re the ones who have studied in the best colleges and found jobs that keep us comfortably afloat. We’re the ones who sit on top so if we can’t see the stars, then who will?
I’m not blind to the problems that exist but it irks me that we sit and whine so much, because honestly, the whining doesn’t help. It doesn’t lighten the weights on our shoulders, it doesn’t fix or solve or resolve so I don’t want to waste my time indulging in the activity.
I’m an optimist and I cannot wait to be done with my masters so I can come back here and fight the fight. There’s so much to be done and I want to hack away at the iceberg of hopelessness.
We owe it to the land and the people, who live on resiliently, waving green flags and pushing carts laden with brightly colored fruits. I owe it to the people in the northern areas who opened their arms to me and other researchers, knowing full well we offered them nothing but more paperwork. I owe it to the little dusty-haired boy who ran around me on Zamzama, in Karachi, reciting a rap song in his Afghan accent and waving his bunch of roses like a baton. I owe it to the countless men who help me reverse my car out of parking spots, to the women who worked in my dorms in college and laughed at my attempts to speak in Punjabi, I owe it to the land where I feel like I belong (having read and understood what social constructions are and knowing the fragility of ‘belonging’), where grumpy salespersons will always be grumpy salespersons rather than racist individuals, where people will always come out to dance in the monsoon rain, and mangoes taste sweeter than any polished-yellow fruits in America, where my family and my friends are, where I fell in love, where I became who I am today. Where the youth came out on the streets in the 60s, and again in 2007 to fight for their ideals, where there are once again stirrings of resolution and courage, and a slow, concentrated movement against the images that prevail in world media today, no, we’re not all like that, there’s more to us and our country than you can ever understand or see and you’re a dimwit for not trying.
Happy Independence Day, Pakistan. May we all live to see the day when uncles and aunties will be able to sit back and bask in the beauty and goodness of our country.