A Lahori in Perth

Published: June 4, 2013

The difference in culture and resources is surely the recipe for some funny situations. PHOTO: AFP

Moving is hard – we all know it. Packing, unpacking, settling down in a new place, adjusting to the new neighbourhood and surroundings is all exhausting and takes a significant toll. However all of this is exponentially exacerbated when you have to move to another continent.

Those of you who have been reading my blogs will know that I am a ‘Lahori’. Now the true significance of this term can only be understood by a Lahori, but let’s not get side tracked here.

To cut the long story short, I moved to Perth a while ago for my Master’s and it has been a very interesting ride to say the least.

To begin with and for the sake of simplicity, Perth is just a glorified version of Islamabad. Now this might offend various people for various reasons, but it definitely holds some truth to it.

I landed in the capital city of  Western Australia  on a Sunday and the ride home was pretty uneventful. It was only evening but almost everything was closed and there was a strange depressing quietness.

Compare this to a Sunday evening in Lahore and you will get what I mean.

In the few months I have been here I have come a long way from that dull Sunday evening. In fact so much so, that I have begun to like it a little, and coming from a Lahori, this is akin to blasphemy.

From driving a car, to riding a bus, and from listening to local politicians to interacting with professors, it’s a huge transformation. For someone who is used to people switching lanes whimsically and honking at you because they don’t like your face, driving in a place where honking at someone is taken as a serious offence and where speed limits are followed religiously was quite an odd experience.

I have only heard a car honk twice, and both times, the guilty party was me with people looking at me like I have been very recently introduced to civilisation as I stroked my imaginary beard and told them to come to Lakshmi chowk with me and drive without honking.

I remember once a professor asked about what factors you would consider in the cost benefit analysis of opening up a new small business. Answers included land and labour costs, price of inputs, and other competitors in the areas until one Pakistani student said “load shedding timings”.

Needless to say all the Asians burst out laughing while the Australian students and the instructors held bewildered expressions on their faces until I explained to them the intricacies of the joke.

The difference in culture and resources is surely the recipe for some funny situations.

The other day my law professor entered class with a sad and worried look on her face. She said that she had just gone through the most terrible week ever. Everyone was concerned and then she explained that her dog injured her neighbour’s cat and there was a huge fuss over it and the police had been called in.

“Really?” I thought to myself.

I told the girl sitting next to me that the last time my mother was this worried, there was a suicide blast; around fifty people died and the whole city was locked down and she couldn’t contact me. The expression on her face was priceless.

This was not all; my professor went on to state, with teary eyes, that her son’s mother-in-law also passed away this week. Now any good, God fearing, sensible, righteous Pakistani mother would be over the moon over this incident but not this Aussie mother! (This is to be taken with a pinch of salt, of course.)

As someone who has always been interested in politics, I regularly follow the happenings back home. The political scene and issues here are so different from back home that it almost makes you laugh. I mean, who knew that an election campaign can be centred on preserving a certain natural reserve, restoring a few old buildings or the pollution score increasing by a few percentage points?

But that’s how local politics work around here.

I have heard a lot of Pakistanis in particular (and other ‘people of colour’, generally) complain about silent racism. While there might be a problem, I feel that we shouldn’t cave into the victim mentality and make an effort on our part too.

I have heard Pakistanis argue over whether its “haraam” to utter Islamic greetings to a non-Muslim. With this attitude, you obviously can’t make a lot of friends. The people I have interacted with have generally been friendly and helpful. So, I think before we complain about racism from the “other side”, a little introspection could come in handy. The way I have heard many people talk about Caucasians in general could be categorised as the worst form of racism.

Yes there might be a problem, but it only exists in the minds of a few people who could belong to any race. In the meantime, I will keep on learning new things and making new friends irrespective of superficial differences- you should try it too.

Read more by Omer here.

Omer.Kamal

Omer Kamal Bin Farooq

An economics student from Lahore with a keen interest in sports, theology, politics, and, anthropology.

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

  • Ace

    There is a lot of racism in Australia, just a few years ago, there were many attacks on Asian students(mostly from India) and then back 2005 there were the cronulla riots, most of the incidents happen in melbourne.

    I have heard a lot of Pakistanis in particular (and other ‘people of colour’, generally) complain about silent racism. While there might be a problem, I feel that we shouldn’t cave into the victim mentality and make an effort on our part too.

    Covert racism does exist in the western world, you just got to learn how to read between the lines.

    I have heard Pakistanis argue over whether its “haraam” to utter Islamic greetings to a non-Muslim.

    Now that is ignorant, but nobody needs to greet somebody with a non-english greeting, i.e Nihao, Shalom, Salaam etc

    So, I think before we complain about racism from the “other side”, a little introspection could come in handy. The way I have heard many people talk about Caucasians in general could be categorised as the worst form of racism.

    You need to stop blaming the victims, if somebody has experienced racism then you shouldn’t deny their experience.

    There might be Desis that do talk derogatorily about Caucasians(Pakistanis are also Caucasian by the way, you learn that in Biology 101)but calling it the worst form of racism would be an overstatement( it isn’t apartheid or segregation), and you can’t compare it to the racism that we get in return.

    @ET moderators: Post my comment, there is nothing wrong with it, you guys seriously need to review your moderation policy.

    Worst Recommend

  • http://australianaffairs.wordpress.com Mehroz Siraj

    Good to read this. However, experiences can differ. When I moved to Melbourne from Karachi, my experience was more of a cultural inclusion rather than that being of a culture shock. It all resulted in me developing a good taste for fresh Aussie beer and Australia Football.

    Being a writer by profession, I also enjoyed the very lively literary scene in Melbourne and the high standards of journalism there.

    For me, Australia was all about earning a good income and fitting in.

    Life in Australia also taught me much about Pakistan as well.

    Regards
    Mehroz Siraj
    australianaffairs.wordpress.comRecommend

  • Zalmai

    What is an Islamic greeting? Peace be upon you is used by Jews, Arab Christians and Muslims alike. Recommend

  • Umer Sheikh

    Well articulated thoughts there mate. I am from Lahore as well; came here to study at Curtin University about 6 years ago and then it turned out to become home. Very blessed and privileged to be living here; nice & clean enviornment, friendly people and plenty of development opportunities career wise, education, sports and much more. Gotta catch up sometime. Recommend

  • Pappoo

    There is more racism in Pakistan then AustraliaRecommend

  • Saqib Shah

    I love Perth, but the experiences you have encountered are not exclusive to Perth. There are scores of cities/places in the Western World, where you would feel exactly the same; for example, San Diego, Luxembourg City, Salt Lake City, Tuscon, Albuqurque, Adelaide, Denver, Darwin, etc. etc.

    P.s. @Ace:
    Cronulla is in the outskirts of Sydney, not Melbourne.Recommend

  • Parvez

    A Pakistani – Australian correctly described Perth as Australia’s best kept secret. I have had the pleasure of visiting many Australian cities big and small with the exception of Canberra and never really put foot in Brisbane but the twin cities of Perth – Fremantle had a rustic charm, a laid back style and one of the most beautiful settings a city could have.
    The Australian ‘ Crocodile Dundee ‘ image to me was quite strong but not unpleasant, somewhat like the larger than life image projected by most Lahoris.
    Recommend

  • Optimist

    Load shedding and energy crisis is well known phenomenon in more than 170 countries. From Phillipines to Nigeria and South American countries, the gap is big and people are desperate and governments are struggling to strike a balance in demand and supply.
    .
    Even some provinces of China have big issues with supply of electricity. Indonesia is a big trading partner of Australia and also suffers from load shedding.
    .
    The way your professors were bewilderered (and couldn’t comprehend why load shedding was an issue) SHOWS THAT THERE IS LOT OF IGNORANCE in Australia and even PROFESSORS AT AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITIES (who might be teaching International business environment) HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF REAL WORLD.
    .
    If I were you, I would RECOMENDED MY Professors to read Financial Times and the Economist. In almost every issue, there is an article on electricity crisis in countries in Asia, Afica and South America. Recommend

  • modijee

    Perth is not a “glorified islamabad”.

    Perth actually has substance to it. Massive resource boom and wealth creation there, unlike Islamabad.Recommend

  • Enough…!

    “I have heard Pakistanis argue over whether its “haraam” to utter Islamic greetings to a non-Muslim. With this attitude, you obviously can’t make a lot of friends.”

    Finally someone spoke what I had been yelling for ages.
    why does being a muslim has to be about living in a curfew
    isnt it clearly being discriminatory to actually change the way you greet someone based on his or her religion ?
    Recommend

  • Sane

    Why not talk about Rawanda. You will experience more with nature. Get explored.Recommend

  • observer

    To begin with and for the sake of simplicity, Perth is just a glorified version of Islamabad.

    You mean they have a Lal Masjid too?
    And the local Marriott gets bombed once in a while?Recommend

  • http://www.clikinn.pk samreen

    Actually racism is nothing but Interest of few people who are working on the name of people welfare, and loyalty. Some of them are doing totally for their interests and some may also contribute to their nation.
    Thats the main reason , people says Pakistan is worst in every aspect . But I am looking great skills among people of Pakistan who are willing to get a CHANGE … Recommend

  • http://wannabehappyalways.wordpress.com/ Madhia

    nice article. no wonder i would feel the same if i go abroad ;)Recommend

  • @observer

    Stop being narrow minded and pessimistic my friend. Also, stop living in 2007/2008. There have been no terrorist attacks in Islamabad for 5 years, MashAllah. Perhaps you are Indian but as a resident of this beautiful city, I can assure you that is one of (if not the most) best planned and cleanest South Asian cities!

    ET you have allowed this individual to mock my home city. Please allow response :-)Recommend

  • aummar

    Perth is a lovely city, nice and quite. I have been travelling to Perth since 08 but couldn’t find an authentic Pakistani restaurant in Perth. There are few Indian places in CBD but not as good as Pakistani food.
    If you find any Pakistani restaurant please do share the info. And stay away from north bridge in the evening there will be no silent racism after few pints and vodkas aussies forget about political correctness. Recommend

  • Adeel Bajwa

    Very good read. I’ll agree with you on most of your observations. I lived in Melbourne for 9 months and would always complain about bad standard of desi food – but here @ Perth, its much worse.
    @Aummar, you can try one Bengaali restaurant in Belmont area. Thats 1/20 a Pakistani.Recommend