Expat bhai, Pakistan is Pakistan yaar!

Published: December 24, 2012
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We might fight frequently and as time has passed we have become quite indifferent, but I know from deep within that it’s just a matter of time before we reunite again. PHOTO: AFP

I feel sorry for Pakistani kids who grew up abroad. I realised this when my nine-year-old cousin was doing a heritage project in school, about Pakistan. She had to talk about her ancestry and how she ended up in America. It was going to be a typical project.

She was going to narrate the cliché, sappy story of how her parents were looking for a better life for their children and thus migrated to America. Then, she would talk about how when she was three she visited her grandparents’ farm in Pakistan. Over there, she saw cows and hens and from that day she was very glad that she was living in America.

Ugh! The typical depiction of Pakistan!

It doesn’t anger me, it makes me sad. My cousin’s only memory of Pakistan is going to be how she got “food poisoning” when she visited Pakistan and has avoided the country like the plague ever since.

When I narrate my experiences of Pakistan to my cousins, they’re quite shocked at how my best memories are the ones where I’m deprived of the basic necessities of life.

I reminisce over how I had to wash my hair with Nestle water bottles after we ran out of water in the house. Or how my cousins and I had to be the entertainment at Surraya khala’s daughter’s wedding because the generator stopped working and the Water And Power Development Authority (WAPDA) decided not to give us electricity that night.

It’s this amusing day-to-day struggle that is part of the full Pakistani experience. And yes, I understand that our country is experiencing a major energy crisis but I’ve read enough articles bashing the Pakistani way of life.

So this one is for you ABCDs or BBCDs – the amazing adventures you’re missing out on, not being in Pakistan!

1.  The language

I personally believe that a story without the over-dramatic “haaye” and the exaggerated facial expressions is just incomplete. Urdu mixed with Punjabi is a hysterical language. It’s not too vulgar like American slang (but then it depends whose speaking it), but not too wry like English either. The “abay yaar” when you’re showing your frustration to the “tu to chaah gaya” when you’re congratulating someone, make the “oh dude” and the “well done” just seem too 18th century.

2. Your khaandaan

I know your mothers have told you not to talk to your “phuppos” (paternal aunts). I mean they’re just so jealous that you are living it up in Amreeka, while they are sitting and rotting in the Pakistani heat. Puhleez! There is nothing like family drama in Pakistan. In terms of khandaan waaley, the shaadis, the hungama and the chai gupshup (the relatives, the weddings, the noise and the tea gossip sessions.)

Each family can have a “keeping up with the chaudharys” reality show, if you ask me.

3. The desperateness

Call me lame, but something I missed dearly when I came to America about a year ago was the constant ‘wrong number’ calls I would receive; these cheapsters would refuse to budge even if you ignored them. Of course, inclusive of the ‘easy load bhai’ who just had to disclose your number to his jiggars (dear friends) who claimed to look at you with a “bhai ki nazar” (in a brotherly way).

Also, who can forget the Mehran cars, packed with 20 guys on every Saturday night? Top hits and latest releases of songs would be reverberating on the empty streets from their tiny speakers.

Yes, roll your eyes, you upper class socialite, but it’s these things that define the ultimate Pakistani experience.

4. There is no “waili” qaum than the Pakistani qaum

The word waila I feel was invented keeping Pakistanis in mind – from the street vendor to the office worker. You can always pop in on your friend in his daftar for a cup of tea. You can chat up with the fruit vendor and talk for hours with your naan waala about Pakistani politics or cricket.

When there is an accident you will see people approaching in the hundreds, both to stare and to help. One thing is certain – you can always count on us Pakistanis to be there.

5. The jazba (enthusiasm)

Is there really anything more surreal when the whole nation is painted in green just before a Pakistan-India match? Or the patakhas and chanting when Pakistan wins? We are a united nation. We might fight frequently and as time has passed we have become quite indifferent, but I know from deep within that it’s just a matter of time before we reunite again.

6. The bazaar culture

I can write paragraphs on this one. Just go to your local bazaar and you’ll see it. The insane drivers honking as though it’s a who can honk loudest competition; the smell of frying samosas and jalebis; the different colour dupattas the dyer just recently hung; the small stalls crowding the all ready congested sidewalks ; the angry aunties bargaining with the shopkeepers. No it’s not as peaceful as shopping at Chanel or even Forever 21, but that’s not the point. The bazaar isn’t just a means of entertainment it’s a means of interacting with our fellow Pakistanis. One sees all types of people; poor and rich and you always come home learning some valuable life lesson whether it’s never to trust a tailor with your outfit or to start questioning if our leaders are doing a good job at their post after seeing people living freakishly below the poverty line.

7. Where’s the bijli, bro?

Yes I know that this one has affected us in terrible ways, but in a sense hasn’t the constant load shedding brought us together? I mean, we are a nation that for a great number of hours a day goes on a technology ban and decides to communicate like normal human beings. We curse the WAPDA people together, we perspire an ocean together. Is any day complete without our bijli-less hours?

There it is. A short list of my must-experience aspects of Pakistan. I know that Pakistan is indeed in a crisis right now. There are shootouts and bombs. Corruption is overwhelming. But I believe in this country. It has shown me a perspective on life that I could never have gained before. It has taught me that there are important things in life besides moving ahead. And it has always reminded me that no matter how far I go I can never forget my roots.

Follow Kiran on Twitter @meinwohhoon

Kiran Fatima

Kiran Fatima

A second year Electrical Engineering student who takes the Robert Frost quote “the road less travelled by” way too seriously. She tweets @meinwohhoon

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