It’s good to be back…

Published: June 23, 2016
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Karachi might be a bit more disorganised and haphazard than places like London and Dubai, but it’s already home, in a comfortable kind of way.

There are expats and then there are people like me, returnees. I’m going to take a literary liberty – without meaning to offend any intellectuals – and call myself an ‘inpat’. I think people like me deserve a special made-up name.

Mine is a story like many others. I went to London 25 years ago to study and it took me that long to return. Not because I was particularly dumb and took 25 years to finish my education, but because the rat race rollercoaster of life took over. To cut a long story short, after 13 years in London and 12 years in Dubai, my husband’s work has brought us full circle. And I am now writing this piece, on a hot sunny morning in Karachi, sitting in my study with the good ole split whirring away in the background.

It’s been a whirlwind five months since we’ve been back in Pakistan. I get asked all the time how the move has been and whether we are settling in well. People generally ask quite perfunctorily, mostly expecting a whiny response – and many are surprised when I reply that it’s been amazing. These last few months have been a journey like no other.

Logistically, a move is a move, whether it’s to London, Singapore or Karachi. Some moves are more challenging than others, but none are easy. Each place has its own idiosyncrasies, joys and frustrations. So from that perspective it certainly wasn’t a move free of ‘give me a break’ kind of moments. If people want the logistical details, they can get that and more by reading my blog ‘Returning to the Motherland’.

For me personally, from an emotional perspective, coming back to Pakistan has been wonderful so far. Maybe deep down I was ready to return, even if it’s not a ‘forever’ move – although if anyone had asked me a year ago when we intended to move back to Pakistan, the answer would have been a ‘who knows’.

It’s difficult to put the feeling into words, it’s as if all those years my husband and I were busy working and raising a family was, in farming speak, like being out in the fields. And now we are home.

The busy noisy roads, the hustle and bustle in the markets, the people on the streets – everyday struggles on such a basic level, but it’s so real. It’s messy. It’s busy. And it makes me feel alive.

Is Pakistan still the same 25 years later?

Of course not; I would be horrified if it was.

Is it better?

Yes, in many ways. Is there room for improvement?

Absolutely.

It’s certainly not utopia but its real and its home in more ways than one. Speaking about utopia, just recently I found out that in line with its vision for 2021, Dubai has appointed a ‘Minister of Happiness’. If that’s what societies do once the infrastructure etc. is sorted, then I can’t wait to see who the equivalent incumbent in Pakistan will be!

Can someone be tasked with helping others find happiness?

Definitely a great subject for another article.

Coming back to the current topic, law and order, infrastructure, education and health services are always going to be areas for improvement. But looking at these purely from a ‘user’s’ perspective, I can’t complain much based on my experience so far. Yes, there are many things that need improving and it can be frustrating when you get pulled and pushed in different directions until you finally dig out what you need, but that’s true of most places in the world.

Contrary to the global view of security in Karachi, after the clamp down by the army and the rangers in the recent past, there hasn’t been a single moment since returning when I’ve felt unsafe on the roads or in the house. Our children feel safe and secure, whether at school, at home or out with friends. The schools are certainly more structured and better organised than they were when I was a child in Pakistan – not that my convent education wasn’t good enough!

The couple of times we’ve needed to see a doctor or a dentist it’s been quick, clean and very professional, so I haven’t yet had any ‘quack-like’ experiences my friends sometimes refer to.

I agree that traffic is chaotic and traffic signals are generally treated like decoration pieces and maybe that’s because time is money, even more so here than in the west. But then, look at the Italians. They drive like maniacs too and we just smile graciously and call it a cute quirk! It’s nothing we can’t fix if the right people decided enough is enough.

All it takes is for the traffic police to be a bit more vigilant – just look at the roads and the traffic system in Dubai – with those road fines and penalties, no one dares mess about. The only ones who do get away sometimes are the local Emiratis but then, don’t we all get away with quite a bit on the roads here too?

Grocery shopping is a breeze. So much great stuff is made locally and a lot is imported for the palate that requires it. Fruit and vegetables are so organically fresh – and free of hormones and preservatives – that if you don’t use them in a couple of days they start to rot.

I do sometimes wish we had more restaurants to choose from, but Karachi is certainly better endowed – from a ‘variety of cuisines’ perspective – than most other cities in Pakistan. It’s lovely to see art galleries sprouting up like nurseries used to in the old days. There are musical events, festivals, theatre and plays. Quite a lot to do for those artistically inclined.

The malls are havens for the masses – just as the ones in Dubai are – and so much of everyday street shopping is available here. Our own designers are amazing – so many in demand globally. Some of our fashion events are on par with the rest of the world, at least the pricing certainly is!

Television dramas and music are miles ahead of where they used to be. In fact some of the best entertainment can be those debates on the news channels when everyone shouts to be heard; if you’ve got a nice supply of headache pills at hand.

In a nutshell, Karachi might be a bit more disorganised and haphazard than places like London and Dubai, but it’s already home, in a comfortable kind of way. The motiya sellers are out, Ramazan is in full swing, the mangoes are here and so is the summer. Oh, what a wonderful world!

Mahyra Roy

Mahyra Roy

The author is a Chartered Accountant and an International Mergers & Acquisitions specialist with experience of business that includes living and working in Europe, the Far East, the US and Dubai. Soon after becoming a Global Partner at PricewaterHouse Coopers a few years ago, she decided to change careers and use her experience to help people realise their potential by becoming an executive coach. She is a certified Evolved Life Coach, trained in neural and behavioural techniques such as neuro-linguistic programming, stress biofeedback, hypnosis and time paradigm techniques.

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

  • Rahid Sami

    Welcome home … Recommend

  • M Hammad Khan

    Mahyra Roy you are just a wonderful wonderful lady.

    I am just saying this because I am tired of reading sad and negative news about Pakistan. Mostly we Pakistanis are continue in making bad impact of our country. We do not need enemies to destroy ourselves.

    We have a wonderful , beautiful country and we (some of us) are making and advertising it as worst place.

    I am living since our birth here in Pakistan and having no issue at all. Most of the time I think how I can return or give back something to my country. I feel really disappoint about people who get higher degrees and MBBS and then they decide to settle outside in other countries serving others by utilizing our resources.

    We as a nation has to develop a mindset.

    That is the reason I am amazed, surprised and quite delighted to see the article written by you wonderful woman. I wish we all start representing our country in this way and everyone makes his own contribution and then we can make it a great country and great place to live for our Next Generation.

    Allah bless you and keep safe and let you represent positive image of our country.Recommend

  • Sonya Laxton

    Jerks at the heart strings and give us still expats hope to one day become ‘inpats’
    Theres no romanticism here, but a cool, calm and loving acceptance of all that is our home – our special brand of uniqueness. High time we were outwardly and publicly and in print proud of who we are , where we came from and where we are proudly heading to.
    Keep writing.Recommend

  • peter

    Mahyra, such an impressive blog, the grass is sometimes greener on the other side, congrats on the moveRecommend