Stories about identity

Don’t label me ‘Mohajir’

Being a first generation Mohajir might have felt like stepping into an exciting new territory full of adventures in reassertion of identity, a deeper assimilation into the national fabric and finding a voice in a country teeming with provincialism. However, as a second generation Mohajir reflecting over the three decades that have transpired since, it seems that these were nothing short of a fool’s dreams that at least I could have survived without. Objectively, I feel that having chased these dreams has actually left me more devoid in numerous avenues than empowered. Retrospectively, I find it hard to understand why we ...

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Losing our culture and identity, one drama at a time

Gone are the days when families would sit together and watch Pakistani dramas. Instead, today we get to see the ‘not-so-moving’ storylines that seem to be inspired by Indian soaps. What is worse is that our TV channels show things that are in direct contradiction with our cultural and social values. From pregnancies to abortions, from extra-marital affairs to illegitimate children and elopements, we have been exposed to all kinds and degrees of absurd content in these dramas in the name of modern entertainment. Even respectable relationships are not spared. I have seen countless dramas where a guy falls in love with ...

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Can’t a Pakistani and Indian live in harmony? We used to…

Like most Pakistani’s, I too experienced an overload of nationalistic fervour when I left Pakistan and that too for India. India evoked a psychological barrier and conjured the dreaded feeling of being ‘the other’ even though I had spent my formative years away from the jingoistic identity formation of the Zia years and had been brought up with the tolerant outlook of my parents (although my Kashmiri father did have staunch nationalist ideals). In hindsight, it was a sad, instinctive conditioning. I remember our Indian neighbours in the UK, where I spent most of my childhood, and despite the exchange of formal pleasantries ...

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Is Urdu just a servant’s language today?

Recently, a comment made on the language that is a part of our identity, Urdu, left me in utter shock. A friend of mine told me about an incident that took place with his sister, who’s an Urdu teacher for grade one and two in Lahore. A student, in one of her classes, was refusing to speak in Urdu during the period. When she asked him as to why he was being so difficult, his response was nothing less than shocking and disappointing. ‘My mom told me that Urdu is a servant’s language’ Please take a moment, sit back and let that ...

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Dear Imran Khan, where were you when my church was attacked?

Dear Khan Sahib, My name is Fouzia*. Other important facets of my identity are that I am a Christian school teacher, born in Peshawar and I incidentally happen to be a Pakistani. To a politician, the fact that I am Pakistani should be most the important, yet in a country ravaged by militancy, where religious extremists have usurped the limited secular space, my faith perhaps carries more weight and authenticity. After this brief introduction, Mr Imran Khan, I want to tell you my story, but I must warn you in the beginning that it is a tale of anguish and pain. ...

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I am not your sister, mother or wife; I carry my own identity

Ripley’s believe it or not (the Pakistani version) A woman physically attacked a man in a restaurant because he intruded her personal space. She tried to make him back down. There was a sense of injustice that spurred this violence because she wanted to drive home the fact that she has the same claim to her personal space as he did to his, both in public and private domains. She too is a human being and her claim to her space remains valid regardless of her gender. It turns out the concept of being human is elusive, almost faded beyond ...

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As Pakistani as you

This past summer I met with a prominent lawyer, one who supposedly fights for human rights and women’s activism in Pakistan. Before I met her, I believed her to be a symbol of the fact that women can bring change in Pakistan. However, when I confessed to her my desire to live in Pakistan and engage actively in civil society, I was snapped at and told crudely that my “misplaced sense of patriotism” was unwelcome. Unfortunately, her crass “holier than thou” attitude is not unique to her. There are hordes of Lahoris, Karachiites and more, itching to tell me that ...

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My blue passport doesn’t make me American

There was an incredible comment I read on one of my previous posts about how it’s impossible to live on in the oblivion of being both Pakistani and American. I don’t remember who wrote that to me, but if you’re reading this, thank you. You are a small part of the motivation that inspired this topic you are reading today. I was born in Karachi and lived the first nine years of my life moving back and forth between Karachi and Lahore before moving to the US. Though I can’t recall what the people, culture and society were like ...

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On being Pakistani

With 14th of August around the corner, festive fever is on the rise. Civic organizations, student groups, and social, electronic and print media are joining the swelling ranks of celebratory brigades. And that’s where some of the problems with ill-informed, obsessive nationalism begin. Have you been confused by invitations to ‘no ethnic identities welcome’ events? If yes, read on.   This past week, I received a few invitations for Independence Day walks and seminars. The proposition, ‘No Sindhi, No Punjabi, No Pathan, and No Balochi – Only Pakistani Welcome’ made them distasteful. Honestly, who’s left then? With the exception of a few citizens ...

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Pakistan’s underrated luxury brands

Pre-historic or post-modern, in peace or in trauma, human beings have always been inclined towards the creation of beauty and self-expression as means of their personal survival and identity. Modern Pakistanis, too, are heavily invested in the creation of tools of aesthetic indulgence; it’s a sound business enterprise as the need for pleasing surroundings and luxurious products is one that does not diminish; it hasn’t faltered since the Neanderthals wore pigment-stained seashell necklaces around their necks. It’s what we draw solace from in a world that has been consistently unpredictable. Brands are identity- national identity There are imported products and there are ...

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