Why I came back!

I am often asked by various family and friends as to “what” i moved back to Pakistan for, usually in questions like “Why the hell are you still here” and “What is wrong with you” so in order to quell this tide i have decided to express my philosophy of “leave the west to the rest” in the best way i know how, that is through writing.

Let me start by clarifying that i was born and raised in this country and went abroad for my higher studies upon completion of which as it was in the spirit of that time i applied for jobs to various companies and to my surprise was accepted by quite a few. Still i decided to give it all up and move back to good old Pakistan, Karachi to be specific and to this day i do not regret it in the least. No i do not have a screw loose and care as much for the life of my family’s well being as the next human. You see when one is living abroad one gets to see things from a totally different perspective to what it actually is like. Its more difficult in my opinion to live there in the west then to live here simply because in the west we stick out like sore thumbs while here we are one of a crowd.

It comes as no surprise then that most expat Pakistanis totally fail to assimilate in their adopted motherlands. How can they assimilate in a culture that is totally alien from ours? One cannot really help but feel disdain for the pet poodle stuck in a tree on the nightly news when your cousins, sisters brother in law back in Pakistan just got their cell phone or car or anything that was of value to the bandits at the moment snatched live. Thus you can live in a nice swanky home somewhere in the suburbs of Houston or drive your favorite SUV, you may even save enough moolah to take the much vaunted trips all over the nation to see the various Disney lands and other monuments of commercialism at their peak but you can never ever belong! Why? because in that nice stonewall residence of yours on the plasma TV you just bought from “Best Buy” you still watch Geo and Star plus. You cannot relate to things Americana, you do not have the mental illness of commercialism that afflicts that nation. You have in your veins a blood as violent and beautiful as your homeland.

This is the crux of the matter, the notion which when thought off with a cool head makes sense to even a fools paradise like Pakistan. I actually feel a bit sorry for my friends and family still back in the U.S and there are several who are toiling away night after night to win themselves some small part of the “American Dream” but what they do not and i guess probably never will realize is that the American Dream is for Americans not for people with our skin. You must remember dear reader that my views and opinions are all pre 9/11 when the world still thought that the streets of L.A are paved with gold and what not. Even then whilst living and moving about in the American system realization had dawned on me that unless i killed my conscience and fed my values to the dogs of bling bling, I could not survive there. I would not be allowed my freedom of expression be it religious or social because in the west, unless you follow their system you are an outcast. Hence i can mow my manicured lawns on Sunday but I cannot pray on them, or do qurbani(goat cutting) on them. I can bow down and look the other way when my kids party like rock stars and go to proms but i cannot stop them or heaven forbid give them a righteous smack for fear of child services(yes it is ok in our culture to give our kids a smack). I can live in communities made up of almost all Pakistanis like Sugarland referred to as Desi land or Freemont referred to as desi mont but i cannot dream of buying a house in a pre dominantly white affluent neighborhood, why? Well Guv’nor its cause the affluent whites do not want to live next to the curry heads now do they? No No its not written anywhere, must they have a sign which says keep out? But it is inscribed in everything, its in the fine print which none of us bother to read.

So yes I chose to come back to Pakistan, i now live in a city which has exploding bombs on Tuesdays and mouth watering Halwa puri on Sundays. I live in a house tended to by gardeners and have a chauffeur to drive me around the various roads where i jolt my way through potholes to work but I love it. I love it because no one looks at my family when i enter a restaurant with fear or hate, I love it because my children can go to any school or college in this nation without having to explain what they are doing there. They can also make friends with anyone they want because they are all part of one nation. They or me will never be discriminated against or looked down upon or laughed at for being what they are. Most of all I love it because when I die I will be buried in soil that is mine, that is fertile and fragrant even though we in this country have heaped piles of refuse on it. So keep your Hummers and vacations in the caymans to yourself I would rather ride around in a rickshaw and sweat like an average Pakistani, for even if you build a palace out of a graveyard my ex pat friends the spirits will always be there to haunt you.

Published in The Saturday Post on 19/7/2008

  1. Hmm… it depends. Perhaps race and skin color is only forefront in your mind? After moving to the US from Pakistan, I’ve had no problems what so ever assimilating, and even enjoy the culture here many times more than the Pakistani one. As for my brown skin, none of my american friends or people I typically hang out with have any issue with it – and why should they – this is america, land of the immigrants.

    Perhaps Houstan is different – but living in any other major urban center (NYC, SanFran etc), I’ve never felt like a minority despite my skin color

  2. I think you did the right thing….
    A lot of Indians are coming back here because of similar reasons and that has really helped in India’s development in the past.. Has such a trend of ‘reverse brain drain’ started in Pakistan yet?

  3. Faisal, I am sorry you felt that way but my experience has been totally different and I lived in as small city as Colorado Springs(not too small but is in Rocky Mountains) at one time where I did not see any brown other than me but I never had any issue. I would move back one day but not due to the reasons you mentioned but because I want to do some thing for my country. American is a land of money, you can buy any thing any where if you can afford it. It’s non sense to think that you can not buy house in white areas. There are very strict laws against such discrimination. If you have talent then America is a land of opportunity. I feel sorry for people like you who have been here and still spread bad news about American society. This nation is great with excellent moral values. May be their govt is not good but you can’t blame people for that. I have always felt my self much safer here than in Karachi.

  4. If that is the case Obiwan…try buying a house in an affluent neighborhood sometime in the u.s… i did not say just white i said affluent. Try booking a table in the oak room in new york with your accent…once i tried checking into the waldorf estoria…i felt like burning some cash…in one of the best hotels in the world.. i plonked down my paki passport at the counter and guess what? “sorry sir we do not have any vacancies” please…i can understand that like mine your’s in an opinion based on your personal experiences which may have been good but wake up and smell the coffee for gods sakes. And for the love of god…do not start on the moral values of the U.S with me..even 90% of all Americans i know claim there society is degenerating into a maze of porn and self mutilation cheered on by media like jerry springer. Strict laws against discrimination indeed..they were still finding african american heads out on stakes in rural texas as far back as 99.

    Heck forget it all just head to the nearest country club and try getting membership in it..you will find out where you stand quick enough.

  5. I do not know what you are talking about. You can buy house any where and even you do not need to disclose that you are buying house. Lawyers can handle their clients if they don’t want to disclose their identity. America is a capitalist society, show them the money and get what you want. May be some village people would not sell you house but in affluent neighborhoods they really don’t care about any thing but money. May be the hotel really did not have room, what made you think they did not want to give you the room. If you had the proof then you could easily make million dollar by suing them. I would jump over such opportunity given a chance. Many people have sued landlords in past for discrimination and have won cases. And your equating of porn with moral values tell me how do you think. How on earth porn equates with moral values ? And believe me if I had money then I am sure I can get membership of any where in USA.

  6. I would also recommend you to try to buy a place around Agha Khan Jamatkhana (provided you are not Agha Khani) in Karachi and you would know how does it work in our very own Karachi…

  7. @ obiwan what can i say to someone justifying the moral values of the American society. Even if you had the money my friend you could not get into a lot of places in the U.S but i guess we must agree to disagree, and frankly anyone can buy any available land around jamatkhanas…there is no one stopping you from doing that. By the way the Waldorf Estoria can never be full…get some perspective its the second most expensive hotel in the world. I doubt if it is ever full and plus the guy behind me got a room without a reservation buddy..im not flying blind here trust me.

    @ Balu they were coming back in the start of the Mush era with the troubles of living in the U.S growing day by day. However now they are all fleeing to Dubai again due to the current situation ala democracy in Pakistan

    @ Silent Rant thanks

  8. I loved the blog as it helped me to understand. It also made me think about the situation here in England, and how people from other cultures feel about living here. I was at our Twenty20 Finals day at the weekend, which was held right down in the affluent south of the country, and despite many people of Asian origin loving cricket, I saw only white faces. Thankfully, things seem better further north!

  9. Now this is one classic post Faisal bro.. amazing. And so true that no matter what we do, no matter what we make ourselves to be our heart is in our home country. I worked in England and now live in Norway and work as a Project Manager at an international IT company hmm dunno why but despite being one of the most confident people in the business and not to feel pity for myself I realize that we are never going to be taken “seriously” by the west. Although they love the work we do, but deep within it’s just like this is not our place. I really loved this article and would appreciate if you can email me because I was thinking of getting you on air our radio show at http://www.crazefm.com which is every friday and sunday around 11 PM.. would be great to talk on this topic..

  10. Thanks Wakas i appreciate your kind words man..and it really becomes worth writing when people like you comment and understand why I wrote this.

    Would love to be on your show but i am on vacation at the moment and will be back on the 11th…my email is [email protected] give me a buzz around that time and we can work something out?

  11. Faisal your patriotism is infectious!!!! Seriously! I have never ‘lived’ abroad, but everytime I visit any other place away from home, I always ‘know’ that the places are good for a visit, great shopping (yes!) but never, ever, to live there. Na Bijli hai, na paani hai, phir bhee dil Pakistani hai!! 😀

  12. I absolutely adore reading your blog posts, the variety of writing is smashing.This blog as usual was educational, I have had to bookmark your site and subscribe to your feed in ifeed. Your theme looks lovely.

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