Why “log kya kahangay” will always be a part of the Pakistani mentality

Published: July 20, 2017

I have been talking about dreams for practically my whole life, in particular broken dreams. I grew up in a Pakistan where adhering to societal conventions was more important than following your individual desires.

These were the 80s and 90s and the phrase ‘log kya kahangay’ (what will people say) was a ready response to many career choices that did not fit the triumvirate of doctor, lawyer, engineer, or usually for women, getting married and that dreaded phrase – settling down.

Over the years, I’ve lost count of the number of times men and women have told me about the dreams they were forced to give up. Some wanted to be musicians or singers, others wanted to be air stewards and travel the world.

Still others dreamt of pursuing kathak dance or becoming chefs. Some were denied their dreams because these career choices did not make enough money to support a family and others because it might sully their reputation and then who would marry them?

In my case, I wanted to be an actress but my parents absolutely forbade me.

For too many years, I lived in the land of ‘if only’ where regrets are poisonous enough but parental given regrets are pure acid. A long time ago, I realised that I would share my story with everyone, so that I could spare them from having the same regrets as me. Of course, times have changed and more Pakistanis today are fulfilling their dreams and I’m so thrilled about it.

When I was told that the theme of my alma mater, Georgia State University’s TEDx talk was ‘Dreams’, participating in it seemed mandatory. Thus culminated my talk on regrets, second chances and reinvention.

Soniah Kamal

Soniah Kamal

Soniah Kamal's debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Her short story 'Fossils', judged by Claudia Rankine, won the 2017 Agnes Scott Festival Fiction Award, and her short story 'Jelly Beans' is selected for the 2017 Best of Asian Fiction Anthology. Her essay 'The Fall: How Not To Survive Your Father's Imprisonment' was Pushcart Prize finalist. She tweets @soniahkamal (twitter.com/soniahkamal)

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

  • Furkan Bangash

    only if you care!!!! if you don’t care what people around say about what you do with your life then log kya kahenge will never be a problem for you..Recommend

  • Kashif

    I absolutely agree with every word of this article! (even though its a bit too short but nonetheless, it’s well written). All my life I was told by my parents to be nice to relatives who despite all my niceties still found something about me to criticize. My entire youth was dedicated in becoming the “Model” Pakistani guy. But their backbiting continued despite that. Then I said to heck with y’all! I will do whatever i want now. Dress however I like. Listen to heavy metal (even though they consider it satanic), play video games and pursue the career path I always wanted to pursue. Honestly this a message to anyone out there feeling crushed by this judgmental society. Stop pandering to their expectations. The feeling of liberty and peace that you get once you rebel against them is amazing! Don’t be afraid. Rise, Rebel and Conquer.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Great talk. Truly inspiring.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    All Indian arts, performing or not came from temple. That is why artists were put on higher pedestal. Singing, dancing and acting in Natak is integral part of Hindu worship. So please do not generalize. May be you are talking about part of Indonesia which is south of equator, when you mention “all south asian families.”

    Music and arts were discouraged. Poor Umrahjan was probably a slave girl who was forced to dance in front of intoxicated alien Mughal brutes who appeared constipated in those movies. Their progeny who is washing utensiles is heartful honest piece of art http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2424410/The-Mughal-emperor-ancestor-Sultana-Begum-forced-live-slum-washes-street-struggles-feed-children.html India needs to make sure that its divine artsy culture is preserved organically and its corrupted form is not used by crooks and criminals like Dawood Ibrahim as opium to put masses in stupor.Recommend