Pakistan may be poor, but it has a rich culture – much richer than any country in the west

Published: February 28, 2017

I would come back to my motherland and help make a difference because home is where the heart is; and my heart is always in Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

As I grew up in the 90s, every couple of months I would see my mom and dad pack up their bags and go on official tours around the world; America, Europe, you name it.

My sister and I would eagerly await their return, not because we wanted to see our parents, but because we wanted to open up their suitcases full of goodies. They would be stuffed with clothes, toys, chocolates and things that we apparently couldn’t buy in Pakistan. We would wear these international clothes with pride and we felt “better” than everyone else, because we had more expensive things.

My whole life I was told,

Beta baray ho kay Amreeka jana hai”.

(You have to go America when you grow up).

Relatives would tell me,

Wahan toh chotay chotay bachey bhi angraizi boltay hain”.

(Even little children speak in English over there).

That would leave me in a state of awe. As time passed, I looked at my culture and the system and thought the “gora” does it so much better. Why are we so backward? I would question how we have not evolved with time and why still wear shalwar kameez? We still eat “disgusting” desi food. In my teens, every chance I got, I would go to Pizza Hut, McDonalds, KFC because this food was so much better than the desi alternatives. With my mind set only on one thing all times,

Dekho gora hum say kitna behtar hai”.

(Look, the foreigners are just so much better than us).

By the age of 19, I was thoroughly sick of my country. Then six-years-ago when it was time, I applied to different universities around the world in hopes of a “better” life. As fate had it, I got accepted to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. It was a city most of the people around me hadn’t even heard of, because all you hear about on TV and social media are Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

I still remember being awestruck by the clear blue smog free sky when I got off the bus outside my university, for the very first time. Everything was new, all that I had dreamt of was better than everything I had ever come across. The people were polite, who would hold the door for you and even say sorry for the times they accidentally did not do so. Drivers barely ever used their horns to honk, and there was virtually no smell of car exhausts. Everyone was treated equally, no matter their social status. It made me really happy that I was finally in a place that had so much positivity. In short, life was good.

However, as the years passed by, the magic I was once fascinated with began to fade. This is where the bubble started to burst for me.

But let’s rewind back to history. Our sense of inferiority began when the British invaded us. So I question, what is the best way to suppress a culture? It is to make the people believe that everything about another culture is better than what you have. You constantly believe that your culture is backward, your skin colour makes you inferior and everything that comes with being “white” skinned is superior. Our ancestors were made to believe that they looked better if they had a lighter skin tone, with western clothing, and that the bench mark of success was the western way of life. Even a thousand years of history had not produced  some of the biggest advancements of human existence; chess, mathematical theories and even shampoo, to name a few. Well unfortunately, this inferiority complex was stuck and has been passed on over to generations.

The emergence of skin whitening creams, the overwhelming cluster of people at fast food chains and adopting western clothing over our own shows how we still live in this inferiority complex. You know how they say,

Angraiz toh chalay gaye par tumhein peechay chor gaye”.

(The British went away but left you behind).

This phrase embodies perfectly the inferiority complex I am talking about.

So after a few years, I went back to visit my family in Pakistan. I was hanging out with some friends when someone asked me the following question,

“What is the difference you see in Pakistan and Canada? And are you happier there than you were in Pakistan?”

At that point, I truly didn’t understand the premise of the question and responded with,

“Yes, they are so much better than us and I am truly happier”.

However now I sit here, with the question still stuck in my head?

“Are they really better than us? Am I truly happier?”

Well here is my answer.

In Pakistan, we talk about being Muslim and how we are somehow better than the non-Muslims just on the basis of religion we were fateful enough to be born in. We are stuck in longer beards and shalwars above our ankles but it is the “gora” who truly embodies Islam. They unknowingly embody the true values of equality, justice and love for all. They are more organised and educated than us and that’s their power.

But really, that is all there is. They have zero culture, they are so stuck in the concept of individualism that they forget that a culture is what makes you powerful as a nation, the very same thing we run away from. I realise the culture we so often run away from is our strength and our happiness. You see, what we don’t realise is that we are sitting on a goldmine and we have so much potential as a nation, which is being wasted away only because we refuse to look past the glitz and glamour of the west. We continue to admire the western way of life and complain about how this way of life should also look the same for us.

Here is where I will burst this bubble.

Almost half the year everything is draped in snow, so life is virtually at a standstill. Sure, they’ve found a way around this but it’s still unbearable to go out in -25 degrees Celsius and people are mostly stuck indoors. The nights in Canada are long in the winter, sunrises and sunsets come and go without being noticed, which is why their winters are highly correlated to depression. Their food is bland and there is nothing you can identify as purely “Canadian”. They have Poutine, sure, a local dish that has fries, gravy and cheese, which really isn’t food if you ask me.

The average house is made of plywood, costing a fortune to live in. Your food choices are already made for you because their super markets are stocked with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) infused tasteless fruits and food. Even the clothing, we ogle over from across the ocean, is made in our countries, labelled and retailed on a much higher price.

There is no depth to life here.

Let’s compare this to Pakistan, where there are four seasons and everything is produced naturally. The food has flavour, the people are diverse, the languages are beautiful and rich and the land is fertile. There are rivers, beaches, mountains and deserts. There are plains and plateaus. The diversity in culture across the land is so much, yet we don’t value it. Our local people are warm and welcoming. The clothing is beautiful, especially the handmade ones and are of much higher quality.

The richness of our culture is unmatched. We are blessed with everything a nation can hope for. Unfortunately, because we view the west from our rose tinted glasses, and propaganda we see on western television makes us believe the west is a little piece on heaven on earth.

The point I am trying make is this; the life that most people dream of achieving by going abroad is basically a fassad (pun intended). Trust me, it only looks good on the surface. Don’t get me wrong, I am not ungrateful for what this country has given me because it has helped me grow immensely as a human being, as a person and as a professional. I owe a lot of my success to this amazing country but this is only because they have a better education system and equal opportunities for everyone.

Imagine for a second, if most of our population was educated and our people and politicians made the right choices, we would realise that there is no better country to live in than Pakistan. The love we share for our people and the unity we have as a nation is amazing. A gold mine of culture awaits to be used as a strength. Imagine if we stopped ogling over the west and looked inside, the things we could achieve are immeasurable. Trust me, this is not fantasy, because we are the people of the Indus Valley civilisation, the people of Mohenjo-Daro.

Our ancestors did figure out these secrets and used them as our strengths and ruled the world for centuries. I dream that we will also realise that the “gora” is not better than us. We should believe that we have it in us to be the best in the world. We just need to realise that education is important, that everyone is made equal and should be treated as such.

As Allama Iqbal said,

Nahin Hai Na-Umeed Iqbal Apni Kisht-e-Weeran Se
Zara Nam Ho To Ye Mitti Bohat Zarkhaiz Hai Saqi”.

But of his barren acres Iqbal will not despair:
A little rain and harvests shall wave at last, oh Saqi!

One day I hope that we will rise above it all. We will be the nation Jinnah dreamt of. We will unlock the secrets of success and the potential Jinnah and Iqbal saw in us. One day, I hope when I accomplish my goals in education, I come back to my motherland and help make a difference because home is where the heart is; and my heart is always in Pakistan. Bleed green till the day I die.

Pakistan Zindabad!

Ahmed Hayat

Ahmed Hayat

The author studies Developmental Psychology and works for the University of Alberta. He is an advocate of equality and love. Although far from home, his love for his country is undying. He tweets @ah_med_hayat (twitter.com/ah_med_hayat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • gypsy soul

    Indeed , does bleed green…mighty force in the making , as if living the poets dream itself ..Recommend

  • Najeeb A Khan

    Every religion teaches honesty,hard work ,and truthfulness,and the goras have learnt these values due to certain socio -cultural historical happenings.Recommend

  • Ramesh Kumar

    Mr.Ahmed would live permanently in USA, with undying love for Pakistan, notwithstanding. “I would lead luxurious life here, you feel proud of your culture.”
    Well done, Mr Ahmed.Recommend

  • auginpk

    Reclaiming its culture is excellent.Recommend

  • Rohan

    It’s richest in Jehad cultureRecommend

  • Sharath Chandra

    Yes , this culture burns Christians alive, Promotes terrorists.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    Pakistan has been around for 70 years. What is Pakistan’s culture grounded upon? Is it Arabic, Turkic or Indian? What its citizens are taught in schools is vastly different from reality.Recommend

  • jay

    Pakistan has a culture ? wow that some news !Recommend

  • Ahmed Hayat

    A very small subset of people that uneducated . Hence my point about education. Recommend

  • Stopit

    I am sick and tired of people who go overseas, live in a ghetto with other desi people, never get to mingle with Anglo people because they smell like oil and pickle and then few years later become expert at “white culture” and criticise it but never leave. This article is a waste of space.Recommend

  • Gayle

    Do not listen to these inferiority complexed indian trolls who were ruled by muslims for 800 years and british for 200 years. Bollywood is even being conquered by pakistani girls @ Raees. and they have no clue what to do.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    yawn who cares about culture these days
    I means whos gonna visit lahore fort in scrotching heat in 45 degree celcius?

    I’d rather adapt western culture and watch netflix instead in my centrally air conditioned roomRecommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Excellent summation.Recommend

  • Bozair Iftikhar

    you’re dont know the difference between culture and geography.Recommend

  • Bozair Iftikhar

    Well saidRecommend

  • Amir

    Yes this is a lame article and comparison is not justifiable. Where I do agree where people who could afford it, they sent their kids abroad for better education, to escape the issues faced here..crime, political turmoil, violence, law and order, terrorism, religious intolerance, drugs, etc

    Every country has a rich culture and tradition, went to upheaval, learned from it, and respect each other. Here it is the opposite. Such comparison has been going on for ages by people living in western countries, and comparing how they miss Pakistan and it’s rich culture. Than come back please.

    In the late 80s, I remember when I was studying in Texas, USA, the Pakistani Association were hosting the independence day celebration, and the there was a top 10 list why Pakistan was better than US. If I recall number 3 was Religious tolerance in Pakistan. And number 1, Pakistan does not have aids. We live in our own Utopia world.Recommend

  • CULTURELESS COLONIALIST

    You’re just homesick for the bombings and bloodshed.Recommend

  • Muzaffar

    Just a small correction to your translation of Allama Iqbal’s couplet:
    “A little rain and harvests will wave at last, pourer of my drink.” ( Saqi…..bartender.)
    Recommend

  • Hoshiar Singh Gill

    Each country of the World has a unique culture. You just need a open heart !Recommend

  • Ahmed Hayat

    WOW. DID you even read it? because its an admittance of me saying the way I used to think was wrong.Recommend

  • Ahmed Hayat

    Yaar baat suno meri. First of all. Change your name from Mr.Rolls Royce to your real name and have a conversation with. I am more than willing to have a conversation with but I have a few rules:

    1.Read the article and understand what I ACTUALLY wrote and don’t make assumptions.

    2. Stop hiding behind that smoke screen of a fake name, lets converse and argue like adults.

    3. I am open to changing my points of view but yeh jo attack mode hai na isn’t really working.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    You practice the Religion of invaders(Muslims), celebrate their culture as yours, use their script to write and read(Arabic) and you say Indians have baggage.

    You do realize, your ancestors were killed/looted by raiders from Afghanistan. Punjab and Sindh have been targeted several times!

    At least we practice our own Religion, culture, festivals and read/write in our own language. Not of invaders.Recommend

  • Farha

    “I am certain it won’t pass the censors”

    Well. Your observations are as accurate as they always are, I must say.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    My comment has passed the censors! You can find my detailed answer in the blog comments.
    I would love to continue the debate till its settled.Recommend

  • Farha

    (sigh) so much propaganda and misunderstandings… here goes:

    “Farsi is not even an Indian language! Who cares if nobody speaks it.”

    Who decides what is and isn’t and Indian language? It has been spoken in India for a pretty long time and has a long history. English isn’t an Indian language either.

    “You can’t blame it on Congress or India.”
    I really do have to spell everything out for you don’t I… I was taking of the partition of East Punjab into (Punjabi speaking) Punjab and (Hindi speaking) Haryana.This should have been obvious. If Pakistan actually created an Urdustan you would never have let it go but I guess it’s kosher when India uses the language card for division (or the religion card for that matter).

    As far as partition is concerned, Jinnah was against the division of Punjab and was open to the Cabinet mission plan and a united Bengal. Even Congress stalwart, Maulana Abdul Kalam thought that Congress negotiated very badly with the League.

    “In 1946, Jinnah blackmailed Congress and said “We will divide India or destroy it”.”

    This is a fabricated quote. Jinnah never said this. What he actually said was that if peace was not reached “We will either have a divided India or a destroyed India.””. This un-modified carries a very different message and was in essence was a call to peace to warn against violence. It was no different than Gandhi’s claim that “”If India wants bloodbath she shall have it … if a bloodbath was necessary, it would come about in spite of non-violence””. In-fact Gandhi’s comments are even more bellicose since it speaks of a bloodbath but no one ever claimed that he was blackmailing the British.

    In any case Jinnah always emphasized peace and said ““I enjoin upon the Muslims to carry out the instructions and abide by them strictly and conduct themselves peacefully and in a disciplined manner.”” Violence broke out yes, but this was no different than violence during the Congress non-cooperation for example the Chauri Chura incident or the Moplah rebellion during the Khilafat movement.

    Most authorities agree that “Jinnah had called for peaceful demonstrations all over India on Direct Action Day, and most of India, including the Muslim majority provinces of the Punjab and Sind (in the latter the Muslim League was part of a coalition government) remained calm.”

    I have seen your previous comments and the Direct action manifesto you hold as a smoking gun actually contradicts your claim.

    For example it speaks of:
    “Complete hartal and general strike in all
    spheres of civic, commercial and industrial life save
    and except the essential services of water works,
    hospitals, physicians’ clinics, maternity centres, light,
    electricity, gas and postal services.”

    “Processions, “Kafelas” and “Akharas” with
    music bands”

    “Joint mass rally and meeting”

    “Representatives of minorities, suppressed and
    oppressed people”…”fight for the equal freedom of the
    Muslims, the Hindus”…etc

    It speaks of a peaceful non-cooperation protest which was exactly what Satyagarha was. The few references of Jihad are symbolic and not even part of the main plan. I could go on but this is not the place to discuss the Calcutta riots which I may remind you led to mostly Muslim deaths and being described as a “large pogrom against poor Muslims by Hindu toughs, with one smaller pogrom against poor Hindus by Muslim toughs”. Something even Congress agreed upon with Sardar Patel claiming ““This [The Calcutta Killings] will be a good lesson for the League,
    because I hear that the proportion of Muslims who have suffered death is much larger.””.

    “Jinnah was so clueless, he allied with Feudals(Union Party)”

    The Unionist party was actually pro-Congress . From what I recall this has been debunked by another commentor long ago when responding to you. I can’t be bothered to dig up the past but suffice to say the “Unionist leader Sir Sikandar remained undisputed in the Punjab and he
    remained the Punjab’s Premier (Chief Minister) from 1937 to 1942, in alliance with the Indian National Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal despite Jinnah’s opposition to both parties , preventing both Jinnah and Sir Muhammad Iqbal from gaining the support of a majority of Punjabi Muslims..”

    They hurried to join the League when it became apparent that the Muslim League was becoming popular in the Punjab but this actually led to its destruction due to opposition from Sikh and Hindu feudals. It is true that Punjabi feudals nowdays try to pretend that they supported the Muslim League since it is convenient but the truth really is otherwise.

    ” Urdu is not even a Language, its a dialect of Hindi.”

    I’m not interested in these childish Hindi/Urdu, Farsi/Dari, etc debates so I will refrain from denigrating Hindi in response. It’s pretty clear that both languages have a long history and have developed uniquely. Claiming that Urdu is a form of Hindi would be like claiming English is a form of German and French. There are historical roots but languages eventually evolve.

    “India has more than 23 official languages.”

    Yes “State official languages” but as far as the constitution goes “The Constitution of India designates the official language of the Government of India as Hindi written in the Devanagari script, as well as English.” Even Pakistan has what you say at the provincial level. For example the Sindhi language is the official language of Sindh.

    “If you can discriminate against Ahmadis and tell them you don’t belong to the Islamic sect, why do you have problems with Savarkar saying Muslims don’t belong to India?”

    Now this is just absurd. Firstly as repeated multiple times, I am against the declaration of Ahmedis as non-Muslims. So was Jinnah. The Congress supporting Majlis-e-Ahrar was the most anti Ahmediyya party at the time.

    Secondly, there is a very big difference between excluding someone from a religion and excluding someone from a nation. The equivalent of Savarkar would have been if Pakistan stripped Ahmedis of their citizenship. No one has ever said they don’t belong to Pakistan.

    ” There was no invasion. There was a harmonious mixing of cultures, new languages were born, new customs were born, all indigenous to India.”

    I never said there was one as mentioned above. But surely “harmonious mixing of cultures”… is quite an exaggeration. There were certainly periods of violence as well. The warrior kingdoms of ancient India didn’t exist to shower each other with flowers.

    “I am quoting and presenting proof.”
    “http://archaeologyonline.net/

    Your “proof” is exactly what I am talking about. I know it’s rude to judge an article by its site but can you really blame me for having doubts about such an obvious pro-Hindu site full with adds for miracles of the Bhagwad-gita? How is this different from pro-Islamic sites that try to put a scientific veneer on the miracles of Islam?

    As for the article itself, yes genetic data is inconclusive but the primary problem for Aryan-migration revisionists is that they have no plausible alternative model. The only one they have is the out-of-India theory which is not respected by most academics to put it lightly.

    I’m not an nativist or but the fact that someone who is one, would defend North Indian Vedic culture while deploring others for not being nativist is ironic to say the least.Recommend