What is that one question you dread being asked the most? For me, it’s “Where are you from?” My answer often ends up being long-winded as it really depends on how you define home …
- Is it where your ancestors are from? Then I’m from Pakistan.
- Is it where you were born and lived your entire life? Then I should probably say United Arab Emirates.
- Or is it based on the passport you hold? Well hiya coz that makes me a Brit. (Good thing accent has nothing to do with it, else I would have had a fourth option for you too!)
Until I can finally decide where I truly belong, I’m going to do justice to all 3. I’ve written numerous blog posts on Dubai and also did a recent one on London. So today, I’m talking about Pakistan. Don’t get scared and run away. Like most of you, I also used to be scared once upon a time – thanks to all the negative coverage in the media. But it’s only when you visit there that you realise, people in Pakistan live perfectly normal lives and known to be quite helpful and friendly.
The longest time I have ever spent in Pakistan to date is 2 months. Since we were kids, my parents made it a point to take us there at least once a year to help us stay in touch with our roots. However, no matter how hard I tried, I could just never fit in for various reasons and struggled to call it home. The only time I found myself truly patriotic was during a cricket match. My ‘jazbaat‘ (emotions) knew no bounds then as I turned into a hardcore Pakistani chanting ‘jeetay ga bhai jeetay ga‘ (we will win!). But call it growing older or whatever, lately I’m starting to see a slight shift in the pattern as I find myself growing more fond of Pakistan. It really is a place like no other. Here is a lighthearted take on the challenges I face and “trying” to overcome:
In Pakistan, we love to move around in packs. I still remember how horrified I used to be as a kid the minute I stepped out of the airport to find the entire ‘khaandaan‘ (extended family) waiting to receive us. As I looked around I realised it was the same case for pretty much everyone else too. Some were even being greeted with ‘garlands’. You’ll never find a dull moment at the airport. But those memories do make me go ‘awww’ now as it just showed the amazing hospitality and warm reception guests receive in Pakistan.
Flood of opinions:
We also love to give our opinions. It’s our ‘awaami‘ (national) time pass. One such opinion you are almost guaranteed to hear is ‘Haye, tum kitni kamzor hogai hoooo!‘ (You have become so weak!). Then you suddenly start to doubt yourself and wonder whether you overdid the workouts. But don’t be offended, as I’ve now learnt ‘kamzor‘ in Pakistan means ‘fit‘. So the only time you really ought to worry is if someone tells you ‘bari fit hogai ho‘ (you have become fit!).
Burger vs Bun Kebab:
There is absolutely no doubt Pakistan has got the best cuisine and once you develop the taste buds for it then there’s no going back. But how can people possibly eat such heavy items for breakfast is beyond me! I’m talking about parathay, halwa puri, nihari and even aamras which seem to be regulars that early in the morning! Yet, while I politely excuse myself and request for cereal, toast and chai (woh bhi teabag wali LOLLLL!)) I’m told ‘Ufff, you’re such a burger!‘ ps: ‘Burger’ is a slang term used in Pakistan for those who don’t fit in with the culture as much.
The shopping scene is really starting to change in Pakistan now with such impressive malls being built. I am so thankful for this new mall trend as otherwise going shopping alone in ‘bazaars’ was a pretty traumatising experience for me. First of all, I don’t think I could cross a road there without killing myself in the process. Secondly, I suck at bargaining. So I always had to tag along with someone local and was politely requested not to speak much inside as otherwise they would figure out I’m foreign and quote a much higher price. I happily obliged to the request, only to eventually hear them say ‘Yeh baji baahir se aaeen hain, kuch bol nahi raheen!‘ (she must be from abroad as she isn’t saying much). Haha, they are so clever!
Late night sessions with friends and relatives is a norm when visiting Pakistan and tonnes of fun. So you can kiss goodbye to a proper night sleep when there. Besides, even if you do manage to get an early night, there is still plenty that can keep you awake. First and foremost, are the ‘pankhay‘ (ceiling fans). They have their own mood swings and go slow or fast at their own will. Then just as you’re about to drift off, ‘Abid the driver‘ will go missing from the neighbour’s house with the lady yelling to find him. Then come the ‘kawway ki awaaz‘ (crows) early in the morning completely oblivious to the fact you only just managed to dose off! Also, chances are ‘Maasi the maid’ who conveniently shows up by 12 each day will turn up at 9am sharp that same morning with the finger stuck on the buzzer. Aaaaaahhh!!
The list is endless! Perhaps the real way to embrace the culture of any country is to chill out like the locals do. It’s quite fascinating with all that you discover once you start to take an interest. Speaking of which, I had no idea Pakistan had so much of natural beauty. I was almost in shock when my sister sent me the pic you see during her recent trip to Skardu. Nature at it’s best! Clearly there are many more beautiful landscapes filled with green valleys, lakes and mountains left to explore in Pakistan! But perhaps I’ll save the tourism talk for another time …
Thank you for the warm hospitality Pakistan! It’s always great to be back …
Until the next post, Let’s Keep it Strictly Lighthearted!