You will always be ‘home’, Pakistan
My heart has been aching since the past week. Day one: I unpacked my suitcases. Day two: I put away the laundry. Day three: I packed lunch for my kids. Day four and five flew by. But, it’s still there. That hollow throbbing ache, it’s in that same spot where I think my heart is meant to be. And it refuses to go.
My seven-year-old daughter has asked me at least two dozen times,
“Why don’t we live in Pakistan?”
Today my three-year old son told me,
“Your house is boring Mama, I want to go to Pakistan.”
Their questions don’t help my pain. They make me realise that their little hearts are aching too, for the country they weren’t even born in, but I guess the love for which runs through their veins too.
The silence in my house reminds me of the constant sounds that my home in Lahore was abuzz with. The silence only makes the aching stronger.
I decide to go to the mall to get away from the silence after sending the kids off to school. I turn on the CD player as I settle behind the steering wheel in my car. The song playing reminds me of my sister’s wedding, the endless dance practices, the clothes and all the colours. I turn it off and force myself to concentrate on driving. I look around and try to be grateful for the big clean roads, the stop signs, and the fact that no one is driving towards me on a one way road. But I miss the frenzied state of panic that all the drivers seem to be consumed by on the roads in Lahore. I miss the blaring horns. I miss the adrenaline rush of having defied death simply by changing a lane without being hit by a car.
At the mall I walk around purposelessly. Nothing catches my eye. I miss the obsessive trips to the mall in the weeks before leaving for Pakistan, in the quest to hunt down good deals on gifts. I walk into an expensive store, deciding I will treat myself to a statement necklace that I had my eyes on before the trip. It must surely be on sale by now. I inquire with the sales lady about the necklace and she brings it to me, I got lucky, she informs me in a chirpy voice that it is now 30 per cent off, bringing the price down to around $150. I look at it and suddenly I feel a tug at my heart and that ache remerges, only stronger this time. I tell the lady I changed my mind and walk out of the store feeling miserable. I miss the 20 minute haggling sessions with the ‘choorion wala’ over Rs300 bangles.
I miss striking conversations with random aunties in bazaars, doctor’s offices or beauty salons which would end up with you revealing your entire family history in a matter of four minutes. I miss the beggars wishing for my happy married life in return for a few coins. I miss the fact that most shops wouldn’t open till noon and everything would be closed on Fridays for prayer.
I miss, I miss, I miss…
I miss the all night chat sessions with my sisters, I miss the ‘halwa puri’ breakfasts, and I miss tea time which occurred every two hours. I miss the non-stop parenting advice from everyone who has ever had a child. I miss the never-ever feeling alone feeling. I miss the phone ringing after every three minutes and the door bell ringing at least 60 times a day. I miss the unannounced family visits and hugging my aunts and uncles so tight, making it seem as if we hadn’t met in years even though they had been over the night before and left well after midnight.
I miss squeezing into one car with all the siblings and their kids and making the long drive to Upper Mall just for a cup of ‘Chaman’ ice cream. I miss acting unbelievably silly, the way you can only be around your family, totally and completely uncaring. I miss constantly bickering with my siblings. I miss screaming at all our kids for making noise but only adding to it by shouting at them. I miss the uncontrollable fits of laughter even at the most serious of moments. I miss lugging my camera around everywhere. I miss the stray cats at my husband’s home that would not blink even as my son pulled their tails. I miss having to clean my kids’ hands 15 times a day.
I miss driving through half of Lahore when I had to take my kids from ‘dadu’s’ house to ‘nano’s’ house; taking in the sights and sounds of Lahore, with all my senses every single time. I miss the sound of the ‘Azaan’. I miss the joy rain brought to everyone. I miss wearing my sisters’ clothes every day. I miss having so many opinionated people around me, telling me how I look or what I should wear. I miss complaining about the load shedding. I miss being annoyed that there is not enough hot water to take a shower. I miss speaking in Urdu with everyone.
I miss the impossible amount of love and attention my kids receive until they are spoilt rotten by the time I come back. How everyone believes they love them the most. How the whole household will gather around like a flock of hens, three people will volunteer to go to the hospital with you at even five in the morning if you or your child is sick. I miss the utter lack of privacy and independence. I miss the cheekiness of family listening in on your phone calls, and then discussing your entire conversation over tea afterwards! I miss everyone that I managed to meet and those that I could not.
I miss the things that drive me up the wall and I miss the things that I could not imagine ever missing. My heart keeps on aching.
The thing about leaving home is you never get over it. You make a new life, you make new friends, you live happily ever after, until you go back home again. Every time you say your goodbyes and turn your back as you walk through those glass doors at the airport, the aching begins all over again. Then from time to time, you feel it again, at the most unexpected of moments. It’s almost like how an amputee must feel- as if your hand was removed from your arm. Despite it being no longer being a part of your body and you having embraced life without it, you still feel your phantom fingers press into your phantom palm every once in a while. The reality that a part of you is missing becomes agonising once more.
I don’t know why exactly we leave our homes. It might be to find a better life. Maybe a life where our kids are safer, our roads are cleaner and our bank balances higher. I can’t quite remember the reason just this second. Right now, still in the throes of nostalgia seven days after walking away from my family through those glass doors, all I know is, there is no place like home. And in my heart of hearts, “home” will always mean Pakistan.
Read more by Tayyaba here.
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