It’s been over ten years since I’d been in Pakistan, and so much has changed. I have snippets of memory that return when I picture Pakistan, and they’re slowly being replaced. Concrete memories and experiences are forming and I don’t know how I feel about it. Part of me enjoyed the simple childlike memories involving sitting outside and doing homework in December, catching lizards while climbing on large boulders, and having kite wars where we lost our kite immediately.
The first Thursday night I was there, I was sitting and looking out into the darkness that was lit up with thousands of lights I remembered why I went back. I was able to meet my Aunties and Cousins as we sat outside and had BBQ of chicken, beef, and kebab. We sat on top of a hill and it felt new and exciting. I was with family and friends who I had only just met because nothing is more Pakistani than greeting everyone with a hug and a kiss. I was far away from my friends and mother, but I was welcomed with open arms.
The media has created this dark and scary version of Pakistan that isn’t real. My cousins talked about laughing at the news because it has just become so ridiculous. When you picture Pakistan what do you see? Endless desert with men wearing turbans, riding camels maybe, and terrorists? Well it’s not that. It’s people in the comfiest of shalwar kameez, trying to beat the heat, who pray only if they choose to, eat food like it’s the best part of their day, drink delicious chai, and live their lives in relative peace. They don’t rush to work and have a strict schedule all the time. Instead they wake up late and have breakfast, go to work, have afternoon naps, and late dinners. They’re never in a rush, nothing is ever too fast, you’re able to enjoy the day. There is respect and love and it isn’t perfect, but it’s Pakistani.
Before I had even left for the airport a woman stopped me at breakfast when I told her I was flying to Pakistan, and asked me if it was safe. I chuckled a bit and responded with an “Of course.” What I want people to understand is that Pakistan has violence, yes, but so does the United States. You know how people will ask if countries are safe, people did that to me about the United States. “How could you elect Trump?” As if it was my fault. My cousin was supposed to go to university here and chose to go elsewhere because of Trump. Don’t act so patriotic over a country where foreign visitors don’t want to come to anymore because it’s too scary. We have no right to be hateful of “violent nations” when we’re one of them.
Pakistan is a country that is where the United States was in the 50’s. If you see advertisements on the television they’re for sweets and crisps and other unhealthy foods, just as we had. It won’t be surprising if they have an obesity epidemic in a decade or so, just as we had. They’re finding their way, you have to realize that Pakistan is a relatively young country, liberated from Great Britain in 1947. Remember all of the idiotic shit America was doing when it was 70 years old? No, because it was thousands of years ago. We’ve had time to fail and change and advance, Pakistan is doing just that. So remember that when you talk shit about developing countries. Yes, some countries are very dangerous for foreigners, and right now, America is also one of them.
I am lucky because I am Pakistani, if you’re light skinned, yes, the trip would be more dangerous for you, but anyone with dark skin it isn’t safe in most of the United States. It sucks to fear for your safety with something as simple as a traffic stop, doesn’t it? There is prejudice everywhere, but I choose to see Pakistan as a teenager, who is pretending to be grown up but hasn’t quite gotten there yet. There are parts of it’s childhood that still need to grow up before it can be considered an adult.
Pakistan to me is someplace where the sun shines brightly, the call to prayer is a familiar song in the air, and the food is divine. I won’t let Pakistan be slandered because of ignorance. It is simply a country filled with people going about their everyday lives. There are those who are struck by tragedy, but there are also those who go to work everyday to support their families, who will offer lassi on an especially hot day, and those who work for equal treatment of everyone. There are so many misconceptions about Pakistan that I would love to get in to, but for now, remember that this is a young country, near other young countries, and one day, things will balance out, it may not be tomorrow, but progress takes time.
The world is a giant unique sphere of people and places and ideas and religions and art and music and food and love, and we should not limit our exploration because of fear. Earth is meant to be explored and appreciated. Always be smart and be safe, but don’t let things like a bias in the media stop you from seeing certain places. Pakistan isn’t the awful place you assume, give it a chance and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.