Pakistan As I Once Knew It

I have an interesting relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan and I are often friends, sometimes a little estranged, and at times archenemies. This relationship has soured most in recent times. I feel that we as a people just lost our values somewhere and in that we lost a part of ourselves as well. I want to show my daughter a Pakistan that I saw and alas that is not possible and in that lays my resentment. As a child, I remember seeing my dad stay up on most nights working through his files though he was a government officer. He retired as the Chief Engineer of South Punjab. We often had a government jeep or car parked in our garage but we were never allowed to use the government’s petrol and property. It was a real life lesson in honesty and being righteous.

Our joys back then were simple too. We didn’t need extravagant vacations at exotic locations around the world to feel happy. I am still in awe of the times when it would rain in Lahore, and my family and I would talk about the sweet smell of wet earth while enjoying pakoras with tea, made by my mother, on lawn chairs. We would move the chairs from the lawn to the porch in anticipation of the rain. One of my most beautiful memories from my childhood is related to my grandfather reading my fourth grade Pakistan Studies book. He was well in his eighties at the time. He was oddly sitting on the floor of the doorway that led towards the backyard. I slowly walked towards him to see if everything was OK. “What is he thinking about while reading my little Pakistan Studies book?” I wondered. As I walked closer, I was awestruck by the tears flooding his wrinkled eyes as he read the book. I dare not disturb him right now, I thought. I peeked a while later into his room and he sat there with a sad look in his eyes, staring into the distance. I knew then what Pakistan meant to my grandfather. I never asked him why he was crying that day. I wish I had. What I understood from this event was that Pakistan is something that my grandfather cares deeply about and it was honorable for me to feel the same way about it. I am till date mesmerized by the stories that my grandparents shared with us about our family’s migration from India to Pakistan at the time of partition.

The Pakistan that we dwell in today is rich in corruption, dishonesty, double standards, hypocrisy and the list continues. We seem to adamantly believe that we have a license to judge others while we do not want anyone to judge us. Veena Malik’s Ramadan show’s promotion by Hero TV went viral in almost no time. The citizens of the land of the pure shared venom on many social media sites regarding the expected content of the show, Veena’s expressions in the promo, and her overall character. This raises a lot of questions. Are we in a position to judge her? If we feel so strongly about a point then we should not only engage in idle banter but also do something about it. What saddened me most was that there was such little talk on the same social media networks about legendary Anwar Maqsood’s first ever stage play “Pawnay 14 August”. Veena Malik’s promo, on the other hand, seemed to be the talk of the town. We have begun to focus so much on the negative that whatever little positive dares to come into our lives goes unnoticed.

So what tales shall I share with my little daughter when she grows up? I frankly don’t know. There aren’t many happy moments in families anymore either. The menace of fundamentalism has made relationships more difficult. It’s as if we haven’t been able to really comprehend the essence of what God says in His book. Instead we have been selective in our understanding of God’s words. A rise in fundamentalism combined with limited understanding of the true essence of Islam has led us to forge weapons (not of mass destruction, but of fiery words and actions; words being the most powerful drug used by mankind) to either harm those around us or to protect ourselves from our own fears.

One feels cheated sometimes. People, who are good at fraud, diplomacy, and making a fool out of others, generally get highly rewarded in this country. Scrupulous people who like to play by the book and wouldn’t agree to do shady deals under the table often get punished. The former seem to be rolling in money while the latter are not just relatively poorer but also deemed stupid. The word ‘smart’ is used to represent a ‘clever’ person and ‘stupid’ is the new word for a ‘scrupulous’ person. I have noticed that students have become more materialistic in the last five years. They are more taken by money than ideas. When I was a student in Pakistan in the last millennia, money was supposed to be a byproduct of success and not the other way around. The air at social gatherings is so thick with pretense; you could cut it with a knife.

A voice inside me tells me that if things remain the same, my daughter might not enjoy the bond that I have with this country. Is she to be blamed? We have a responsibility towards this generation to make amends and do things right. I hope they will have beautiful stories of warm winter nights filled with carefree love and laughter that they will share with friends as they grow up. I dream that they too will experience innocence and develop a value system uniquely their own. I pray that they will be wise enough to choose the right path, patient enough to keep on it even when the going gets tough, spiritual enough to believe in what resonates with them, sensitive enough to hear their inner voice and that of others, and determined enough to change the fate of a nation and while doing that undergo a metamorphosis themselves. Amen!

9 Replies to “Pakistan As I Once Knew It”

  1. remember the good & inspiring bits too when we’ve come together as a country & nation:
    1. During 2005 earthquake
    2. During 2010 floods
    3. Restoration of judiciary
    4. Winning T20 world cup

  2. Very well said, Syma.

    That is one reason being away from pakistan is no longer a regret. The pakistan I knew and loved is no more. Atleast here, our mental image of pakistan as we knew it , is not shattered everyday by events that we witness.

    The intolerance in the name of religion, the mind less begums on their quest of the latest designer accessories or the violence or bloodshed of innocents-that is not a place you can call home.

    Wish people of pakistan could post statuses on fb about the latest reason to be proud of their country, rather than their latest exotic holiday destination. At the moment, our identity as pakistani is enough for us to earn suspicious looks. Hope things change and soon or the future is bleak:-(

    1. I think it’s a very sad moment for this country that talented people like you are away and don’t miss it as much as you would miss home. I respect your feelings. Begums are the most irritating and at the same time entertaining lot we have here. There is a tailor, boutique, or beauty parlor around every corner of Lahore and these keep on opening no matter what happens to the economy. Women empowerment is one thing but we are really obsessed here with our looks and clothes… basics really! A very small minority reads books. And your insight on the facebook updates of holidays is interesting. We call them ‘sanity trips’ now. Because the elite of the country has decided that the conditions of this country from loadshedding to the behavior of people to our religious intolerance are so insane that one needs space to breathe and the sanity trips do just that… help us feel a little normal. We probably heal ourselves from the continuous abuse that we face in our homeland on these trips. I keep saying to these friends of mine that this is not the way out! It is also a very expensive way of healing. We have to do something to make our home sane but that is too big a task for most of us. Perhaps the first step is if we get out of our denial and the blame throwing that we love doing.

  3. well Syma this “over emotional” is a sham phrase (sorry for the strong word)…. it has been (mis)used extensively to cover up many things in the past…….. Society!!!!! well if we are a society then by definition , these are sorted out values that prevail now…… we are a ‘democratic’ society (or for any society) , so the building blocks define what the society will look like…… yes it is harder to stand alone for what you believe in, but that is the only way…….

  4. I agree to you. And the solution is that we should all take part and strive for the betterment of this situation. BTW you can tell your daughter ‘I don’t know any good thing in Pakistan but your mother is from Pakistan’.

    1. Well I think and seriously hope that I will have a few really awesome things to tell my daughter about this country and its people.

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