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