My blue passport doesn’t make me American

Published: January 8, 2012
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Take away the passport and I'm a Pakistani. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

There was an incredible comment I read on one of my previous posts about how it’s impossible to live on in the oblivion of being both Pakistani and American. I don’t remember who wrote that to me, but if you’re reading this, thank you. You are a small part of the motivation that inspired this topic you are reading today.

I was born in Karachi and lived the first nine years of my life moving back and forth between Karachi and Lahore before moving to the US. Though I can’t recall what the people, culture and society were like here at the time, I knew the day I left for this unknown country, America, that I’d ultimately be back in Pakistan

Fast-forward some 13 years, and here I am in the city of Lights typing this post away. I am slowly getting integrated back into Pakistani society, how life here is lived, and what the social groups thrive on. I consider myself a Pakistani-American due to my dual-nationality and my assimilation into American culture. Take away the passport and I’m a Pakistani. Sometimes I don’t understand why I put so much emphasis on a small blue booklet that contains blank pages, but I’m slowly starting to understand. Though I do miss my life and experiences in America, it’s only a matter of time before I embrace the life in Karachi. We’re humans and thus, social creatures, so it’s inevitable that it will happen sooner or later.

I honestly do owe it to America though; her liberty, individualism, and freedom towards just about everything helped me rediscover who I really was. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the red, white, and blue and I won’t ever forget it. Whenever I go out here in Karachi and observe things, it takes me back to the culture in the US. America has an extreme Western culture largely influenced by many European cultures. There is no such race or ethnicity known as “American”, it is simply a term of nationality. All the Anglo-Saxon citizens of America today are either descendants of Europeans or Native Americans, the only two groups of people who existed before the US became independent in 1776.

There’s no doubt that American pop culture has spread through every corner of the world like an epidemic, but this doesn’t mean that it can be narrowed down to just a specific culture. I was fortunate enough to preserve my Pakistani roots; the language, music, and social approaches. The national sense of pride and patriotism I felt when I landed at the Jinnah International Airport after leaving America for good was empowering. What I came to realize then is that the specificity of the American culture does not exist. I believe that the norms and customs that embody a culture are passed down from generations, preserved in a firm way, and glued down within a country. If everyone is trying to be “American” and if every American is trying to make the world like them, culture and customs are destroyed.

The US is most definitely very lucky to be one of the most diverse nations on earth, but for some citizens, our home is elsewhere. To those who are citizens of other nations and strive to become “Americanized”, my advice to you would be to stop chasing something that does not exist and appreciate your own culture. For me, I’ve made up my mind on what I’ll be calling myself. In America, I was only a minuscule ingredient in the large melting pot, but here at home, in Karachi, I can truly be who I was born to be – a Pakistani.

Anonymous

Anonymous

The blogger wishes to remain anonymous.

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

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/785/ahsan-daredia/ Ahsan Daredia

    Yeah so this was written over a month ago…before I decided to move back to the U.S next week.

    …Moment of awkward silence folks!

    Thanks for reading and cheers!Recommend

  • http://www.codingstreet.com Mustafa Hanif

    WHY DID YOU MOVE BACK ?!?Recommend

  • Abdulla

    Brilliant piece of writing.Recommend

  • Ashish

    What made you change your mind ?Recommend

  • Humza Khan (vancouver)

    You moved back to the states a week after writing this? WOW! I guess you should practice your principles before advising others to follow you..So much for being a true “Pakistani”.. Anyway, TEP really needs to get better bloggers, the quality of the blogs has dropped down significantly since last year!Recommend

  • HNC

    Emm, your blue passport DOES make you an american. how dum is this title?Recommend

  • trg

    you are moving back to the states author ? :O … in a month you decided you wanted to go back ? and you’ve used all these big words like “patriotism” in your blog .. what happened to make you change ur mind ? Recommend

  • Saba

    I am glad, you have made up your mind and I am glad that unlike many people of Pakistani origin who settled in America or England and grew accustomed to that culture, you have still found a way back home. I am saying this because I have encountered many people who came back and don’t like anything ‘Pakistani’. Yes, there are many problems over here; energy crisis, economic crisis, dual education standard and terrorism. However, if we all decide to pack our bags and move to other countries who is going to solve these problems? If we don’t embrace our values and our country today, there might be no tomorrow! Recommend

  • Anum

    Wow. So Pakistani you are!Recommend

  • lalaland

    I was sooo proud of the writer when i read the article and sooo disappointed after reading his comment. :| Recommend

  • samia

    @above comments
    Lol isn’t it obvious why he moved back from PAKISTAN to AMERICA? So much for being a patriotic and proud pakistani.
    Many of my relatives tried to move back from UK to PK and couldn’t live here for more than 6 months. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/785/ahsan-daredia/ Ahsan Daredia

    Woah woah before y’all start firing off bullets at me, I have my reasons…not that it matters if they pertain to any of you.

    Long story short, after graduation I decided NOT to take a shot at the American job market and spent a couple of months in Southeast Asia teaching English to little kids. I came back to Karachi since my parents decided to move back and I have a ton of family here. After spending a month or two here, I decided I wanted to go back because I have more potential in America. Sure I’ll always visit because of family, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy here. I spent 12 years in the States, spent middle, high school and college there. Some of y’all need to try moving to the West from here and tell me how it feels!

    To those who say I’m not patriotic, just because I decided to move back to a country where I am happy doesn’t mean I’m not patriotic, maybe you guys need to try traveling a little bit more before you make that assumption. In Texas I have my contacts, the other half of my family, work opportunities and a better chance of a professional life, not to mention social and economic mobility.

    I can’t believe I took the time out to explain my point, normally I just live and let live. But for those who have spent your entire lives in Pakistan, try living abroad for a few months. Walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you start judging them folks. I have family in Pakistan and a better future, security and life in America.

    God Bless both Pakistan and the United States.Recommend

  • Mohammad Ali

    The title should be: My Blues passport doesn’t make me an American rather puts me in a dilemma … Recommend

  • Saad

    don’t you think it would’ve been better if you didn’t tell us you were moving back? Some people might have got some inspiration by reading your article and may have thought about moving back as well…but no, you had to ruin it!

    thanks a lotRecommend

  • Tariq Umar Qureshi

    The guy at the top, imposing as the author, is pulling your leg … geezzzz, what intelligence! Recommend

  • KaalChakra

    Ahsan Parvez Daredia

    It;s pointless to be too concerned with where one lives. What matters is the social approach. You should be proud of your Pakistani social approach. Now, back in the US, you can spread your Pakistani social approach in the US and can still be a patriotic Pakistani. A number of good Pakistanis in the US are doing precisely that – their children are growing up to be more Pakistanis than Pakistanis in Pakistan. So please don’t lose heart.

    Best.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/785/ahsan-daredia/ Tariq Umar Qureshi

    Does that come up as the author profile, when you click my name?Recommend

  • huma

    if he moved back a week after this was written, what was the purpose of the tribune posting this? Recommend

  • Americano

    Didn’t you think about issues like “social & economic mobility” before you dashed off your ill-advised little piece? Recommend

  • Amna

    Not only are you condescending towards America when you say it has “no culture”, you’re also being condescending towards Pakistanis by assuming none of them have traveled abroad. Just because you failed at making friends in America doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of Pakistanis there who are happy and well adjusted there. You’re lecturing them, trying to convince them they’re not American either? I hope you realize how arrogant and ignorant that makes you seem, especially since you didn’t last a month living in Pakistan.
    I’m a dual citizen of both these countries as well, and I find it offensive that you look down on your citizenship and yet you exploit it for educational and monetary gain.
    America accepted you as one of them. It’s you who can’t accept that.
    And btw, you lived in Texas. Try moving around a bit before you write off an entire country. Preferably away from the South.
    If you’re going to write a piece for public viewing, you have to brace yourself for other people’s opinions. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/785/ahsan-daredia/ Ahsan Daredia

    I don’t think people are getting the point, which they never do ever since I started posting on this website. I wrote this article a month ago and SUBMITTED IT to ET. I don’t know when they would publish it. At that time I wanted to try my life here and see how it was. Two weeks later I decided to go back. Today the article was published from ONE MONTH ago and I am leaving for the U.S next week.

    Cheers,

    AhsanRecommend

  • Mohammed Khan

    Well, this is a problem with many Pakistanis with dual citizenship. They want to give something to the country but the system does not let them do so. In the west , we have a proper system to have better quality of life which simply does not exist in Pakistan. No electricity, No gas , No law and order and a corrupt feudal/political system that elects the same corrupt leaders for this country. The country simply needs a revolution if it wants to change.Recommend

  • Parvez

    After reading your blog what came to mind was that this guy is laying it on pretty thick. It just did not click with me and I was to comment ‘ …..so when are you deciding to go back ? ‘ Then I read your first comment and then the second and laughed.Recommend

  • Cynical

    @KaalChakra

    You are incorrigible.Keep it up.Recommend

  • http://london.com Saad A

    I’m not at all against your decision to move back, and having lived and living abroad – i think i fit on your prescription as well, but sorry i would never waste my time reading someone who is so indecisive. So the states just taught you in last one month how good she is? while a month ago it was utterly different, what a joke?Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    Thats what we all are from president to gas station clerk hahahahahhahahhahah may be jinnah too …………Recommend

  • Pakistani in US

    Ahsan, I have to say, this was a bit weird. But since you are probably between 23-26, I can understand where you are coming from. It’s necessary to take hard decisions in life when you are working towards a career. Having said that I’d advice you (if you are willing to take it since I am only 29) that you should take your time with whatever you do and never jump the gun. I am sure a part of you were already thinking about moving back to US even when you were writing the blog (you didn’t completely took a U-turn in just 4 weeks, right?) – fair enough based on the situation in Pakistan. But may be you should have changed the theme of the blog to reflect that in there. Or didn’t mention it at all in the first place. You would have gotten the same response from readers even in US if this blog was the other way around. They are not commenting on you, it’s what you wrote that became sort of anti-climatic and leave the readers with doubts on the sincerity of the blog.Recommend

  • http://nil raheela

    I startled to read two hell different views from the same author..People normally when they write about certain issues or topics they talked about the stories from Heaven where everything would be perfect.Why they don’t want to talk about the ground realities And why people in our society are so hypocrites even the educated ones..Why they are so reluctant in admitting that the life here in Pakistan is just a misery for normal man due to our politicians,bureaucrats and establishment..And now check out writer’s irksome two different comments..
    Comment1)
    To those who are citizens of other nations and strive to become “Americanized”, my advice to you would be to stop chasing something that does not exist and appreciate your own culture. For me, I’ve made up my mind on what I’ll be calling myself. In America, I was only a minuscule ingredient in the large melting pot, but here at home, in Karachi, I can truly be who I was born to be – a Pakistani.
    Comment2)
    After spending a month or two here, I decided I wanted to go back because I have more potential in America..
    But for those who have spent your entire lives in Pakistan, try living abroad for a few months. Walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you start judging them folks. I have family in Pakistan and a better future, security and life in America.Recommend

  • AF

    @Author: When you applied and got the US citizenship; you renounced all your past affiliations, loyalties and citizenship to other countries. You became an American citizen and took an oath to be ‘patriotic’ to USA, and USA only. You did not merely pick up the citizenship for economic and social gains, did you?
    Have some shame in your mercenary outlook, and some gratitude towards your new home.

    You may maintain goodwill and contacts with your old home, maintain your cultural affiliations, but all ‘patriotic’ feelings have to be towards the new homeland. What will you do when there is a USA-Pakistan rift? Which side will you be on? Do you understand what treason means?

    If you do not change your outlook and integrate with the society in the USA and stop looking every 2 minutes towards your old home, I see nothing but conflict and confusion in your future life.You will never be at peace with yourself. Recommend

  • http://Australia Naeem Siddiqui

    @Ahsan,

    You are a true face of us Pakistanis, Preaching others but not acting themselves :)

    Mr Ahsan! Your article itself is a best example of hypocrisy and betrayal (Baad Ahadi), you get blue passport after taking oath to remain loyal to American state, constitution and its values. If it was not you then your parents must have done this.

    You betrayed your or your parent’s oath by writing this article. Recommend

  • Dante

    No it DOES make you an American. If you have the green passport, that makes you a Pakistan as well, hence a dual-national. So please stop trying to impress readers with sentiments.Recommend

  • Uncle J

    Dear Ahsan Parvez Daredia,

    Having a blue book MEANS that you’re an American and no matter how many self consolation blogs you write about trying to prove how Pakistani you are will always be insufficient. The day it becomes inconvenient to live in the City of Lights for you, you will flee. And then you will call yourself an American.

    Only a Pakistani can call himself a true Pakistani. YOU for all intents and purposes are nothing more than a pseudo Pakistani. One who’s trying very hard to convince himself he made the right decision by coming back.

    Best regards,
    Uncle J

    @ET: For the love of God please stop not publishing my comments. Its discriminatory and I don’t think you’re allowed to do that under our Constitution. Am I right?Recommend

  • Uncle J

    Oh I just read the first comment now. So if ET does publish my earlier comment then it would simply reinforce how hypocritical these pseudo-Pakistanis are.Recommend

  • Sid Ra

    Wow, reading the comments, it’s astonishing how dramatically the author changed his mind in such a short space of time! Granted, people change their minds all the time but to write this and change it in a WEEK?

    Regardless, I totally understand how he feels. I often meet Pakistanis visiting here and they say they will go back, they hate America, they want to live on their soil, etc. They make a point of mocking the Urdu of ABCDs if they speak it, and if they don’t speak it, they still mock them for not knowing their heritage.

    Anyway, out of literally thousands of Pakistanis I have met in my life here, I have yet to meet ONE who has gone to Pakistan and stayed there for more than a year. So for all the other commentators deriding the author, I would encourage you to stay a few months in the West before being so harsh on him. As for the author, I would advise waiting a month before submitting an article for publication in the future. :)Recommend

  • http://www.mariammagsi.com Mariam

    Thank you for articulating this quite well, Ahsan. I write for the Tribune now and then from Toronto. I am not one to toot my horn, but I have always been active where Pakistan is concerned, whether it’s through fundraising, charitable work or writing about the country’s problems and documenting various places in Pakistan through video work and photography. My biggest pet peeve, when writing for Pakistani media agencies is the baseless attacks on my geographical location when people have nothing else to deconstruct or comment on. Little do they know that by working for organizations out here in the West a lot more money and aid is sent back to Pakistan because not a day goes by when I am not raising awareness amongst people in Canada about the ongoings of our country. The attackers are usually tucked away in the comfort of their air conditioned homes, while we come out here to taste freedom, take public transportation, clean our own dishes, wash our own clothes, clean out our own toilets, take out the garbage, cook our own food, don’t live under Mummy and Daddy’s roof, pay our own rent, pay our bills on time, deal with minus temperatures, ice, hail, snow, don’t hire people we proudly call “servants” to do degrading housework for less than a dollar a day, and STILL make it out alive and kicking and have the enthusiasm to do good for our country in every way we can!!!!! A dear friend recently said “oh you will never know what it’s like here, I deal with it every day.” Deal with what exactly…you people sit there posting statuses about Fezz nights at Sindh Club, Fashion shows, beach parties, the latest designer’s collection all within seconds of talking about a bomb blast or an earthquake. At least have the decency to appreciate a fellow citizen, when he or she is doing a lot more than you ever will, without even being in the same country. I wish you the best in all your future endeavours, whether you settle in America or Pakistan, you have nothing to prove to anyone else but yourself. Kudos on teaching kids in South East Asia, you are noble and do not owe an explanation to anyone.Recommend

  • Hira

    Strange how ur perspective changed so drastically over such a short period of time Ahsan. At one time sounding soo patriotic and a few months later whining like a baby about how much u miss the U.S and how the readers shouldn’t jump to any conclusions.. tsk tsk tsk!Recommend

  • Karan

    Shame on the author.. Thats a cheap shot on your fellow Pakistanis..
    Few years back it was Pakistan Zindabaad
    Now it is Pakistan se Zinda Bhaag Recommend

  • goggi

    In 1982 I happened to visit a castle in the Teuto-burg forest of Germany. At the entrance a phrase is engraved in the stone bricks: your homeland shall you never find in foreign(pardes)

    Only now I gradually concieve the wisdom of the message.Recommend

  • Muzhary, Kabul

    Good Ahsan, thanks for your nice advice for citizens of other nations
    regards
    MuzharyRecommend

  • saqib

    Dear Ahsan,
    Could you please lend me your small bue booklet. I will do anything for it ;)Recommend

  • a 54321

    terrible article bc u constantly contradicted urselfRecommend

  • MissyB

    Mariam: #firstworldproblems much?Recommend

  • K

    This post/blog entry and the author’s comment made me laugh out loud … Recommend

  • http://www.mariammagsi.com Mariam

    Missy B: If I was complaining you could use that phrase for me. I’m not complaining, merely stating…in that whole paragraph you chose to focus on that, eh? What a pity! Recommend

  • Saqib Khan

    @Ahsan Daredia:

    No one can doubt your patriotism based on your decision to move back to the states. You have the citizenship of both the countries and you reserve all rights to live in either one.

    Great was the sensation of your earlier announcement, filled with sense of national integrity, which you also correlated to your commitment to settle back in Pakistan after having lived in America. It was unlike so many people who, when back from foreign after spending some years there, seem to like nothing in Pakistan. Reading you was exciting for me, and obviously for the others, because you sounded different and determined.

    Finally you ended up like other 99.99 % having dual nationalities.

    The only point which pricks minds is was it wise enough to boast of your resettlement in Pakistan when you were not sure enough to spend even half a year here? Recommend

  • A Y

    @Humza Khan (vancouver):
    not really mr. khan….Recommend

  • http://www.usmanfarooq.com usman farooq

    great work… i really like the post though how many people do you think would accept this as a clarification?Recommend

  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan

    Come on people,please respect the author’s right to move back since dual nationality is allowed in your country. If you don’t like the law then get the parliament to change it or repeal it from the constitution.He is doing what is allowed there to do. This is the law.whether, it a good law or a bad law is a different debate. Now, morally, it might seem a insensitive thing to do to many pakistanis but a lot of people would like to run away from a political war zone like Karachi. Personally, once anybody takes a foreign nationality, the person takes an oath of allegiance to the country and it is more than economic freedom etc. On the other hand, the author is doing a sensible part to save his skin from a intolerant and sect strife ridden society. Hollow patriotism does not provide bread and butter and so much for Pakistan’s honour.I respect the author for being candid. He is a true Pakistani without any pretensions. Bless him and best of luck from an Indian in India. Ssa, peace , cheerio Recommend

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    The food from Northern India: Mainly breads with dishes which has a thick sauce and dairy products such as cream, paneer, ghee, and youghurt. These dishes are warmly flavoured rather than heat from chillies.Recommend

  • Pappu Yaar Tung Na Kar

    @Indian Restaurant Perth: Can I get that delivered? And can you also please throw in some extra chutney!Recommend

  • Vijay K

    I think we 1st generation immigrants are “dhobi ke kutte.. na ghar ke…na…”. We look at our land of birth with nostalgia and powerful memories of our childhood, and when we do come back, we cant wait to get back to our adopted land.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com hariharmani

    @AF:
    Very thoughtful,civil,to the point,hits bulls eye,you do me proud to be American,GO GIANT,GO,TO SUPER BOWL,RED WHITE AND BLUE,BLUE FOR NEW YORK GIANT.Wish he had stayed back.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com hariharmani

    When I read the bloggs,I often wonder,our education system,our critical thinking,how moth ridden our way of articulating logic,reasonning and rationality.?Yes,it is very tough,but one can adapt himself /her well especially if one lucky as the writer was,but seemingly he was not using it well or rather wasted it.Life for a sub-continent folks is tough out in West,unless you are very resourceful and not run of the mill also ran,if you are professional and have good communicating skill.I have lived in USA ,since JFK time,and was never unemployed for one week.I retired as chief of staff,yet ,today I feel,I had greater pottential,and so I encourage my sons to reach for shy,avoid watching Indian soaps,bollywood,ask them to fully integrate,above all stay away from Cricket,not as Sinefield say,not there anything wrong with it,but why watch a sport no one else in world plays when you can involved in more intense and satisfying,more healthy games.I feel no sympathy for the guy who could not take the heat and than has the nerve to advise us how to be a good Pakistani by bashing and take cheap shot at the hand which fed him.Is this what you want your kids to be?I don’t want to be hard on him,as you guys have been,enough,he deserve to be,for making Tribune look foolish,not to speak about himself.Let us change the topic,those who live in tri-state area,WERE NOT GIANT SOMETHING? YESTERDAY? GO GIANTGO.!!!Recommend

  • J

    My blue passport totally makes me an American even though, I hail from PakistanRecommend

  • http://www.scribd.com/asifameer Asif

    I almost agree with the author. ‘American’ isnt a culture. Its an idea. Ideas defined in the US Constitution. You take me away from this land and I would still feel an American Muslim. The right to exist. The right to practice any religion. And the right to my fruits of labor. The idea that Govt has no say in my personal life as long as anyone else’s rights are not trampled upon. Once you understand this and then when you read the Quran, it hits you hard! And you start to understand and appreciate Individualism. Thats Americanism – Individualism.

    What many think American in the east, is mere marketing. Demin and harley are products of America. They arent America.Recommend

  • http://www.MonkeyKing.com Bhala Maanus

    No, the color of your passport does not make you American. The assumption is that when you raised your right hand and took that Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America, as a final step in your long endeavor towards gaining its citizenship, that is what made you American. There is also the assumption that when you moved to America and learned about values such as honesty, integrity, and patriotism – you did not lie and took that oath from the depths of your heart, and that is what made you American. There is nothing wrong in going back to the country of your origin and teaching and applying those values to people over there, and even moving back there for good, but don’t forget to give credit to the country and the culture that made you yearn for your roots and have the desire to go back to them and do something good.Recommend

  • http://www.MonkeyKing.com Bhala Maanus

    No, the color of your passport does not make you American. The assumption is that when you raised your right hand and took that Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America, as a final step in your long endeavor towards gaining its citizenship, that is what made you American. There is also the assumption that when you moved to America and learned about values such as honesty, integrity, and patriotism – you did not lie and took that oath from the depths of your heart, and that is what made you American. There is nothing wrong in going back to the country of your origin and teaching and applying those values to people over there, and even moving back there for good, but don’t forget to give credit to the country and the culture that made you yearn for your roots and have the desire to go back to them and do something good.

    By the way, here is the Oath of Allegiance for those who forgot:

    I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.Recommend