In my 32 years of life, I have moved houses/locations/cities/countries a total of 29 times. Its a lot of moving, and a lot of adjusting to do as a child.
In each place that I lived, I made friends, grew a little bit more and left a small piece of myself behind. My past is riddled with memories in different parts of the world… and yet through it all, no matter where I lived, one thing always stayed steady in my life. My connection to Pakistan.
I was born in Karachi and lived in Karachi and Islamabad (capital of Pakistan) for a total of 4 years, before my parents decided to move abroad. We never moved back. I was raised overseas and in a variety of cultures. Thankfully, though, my parents made it a point to make sure we spent every spring/summer and winter break with our relatives in Pakistan.
Growing up, I was annoyed that we couldn’t vacation elsewhere like other people did and OMGWHYDOIHAVETOSEEMYRELATIVESAGAIN. But now, in hindsight, it was the best thing my parents could have done for us. For me. My Pakistan is so much a part of me, from how I eat, to how I think, to sometimes even how I dress.
Simple things like the smell of rain on fresh soil will instantly take me back to monsoon season in karachi, and running through my grandparents’ yard, trying to catch all the worms crawling around. To this day, I refuse to eat Mexican/Dominican/Peruvian mangos. Nope, Pakistani mangoes are the best. Ask anyone I make my steaks far more stogged with flavor than is probably normal, what can I say, its the pakistani in me.
In my language, Urdu, there are over a dozen different ways to say the word love, and each of them vary in their connotation slightly. What else can you expect from a language that was created to express poetry and love? My tongue craves the opportunity here, to speak the words of my language. English just seems so very harsh at times.
On winter nights, I don’t crave a hot chocolate or a coffee, I crave some good old masala chai (and not the kind that you get at starbucks, that concoction is a travesty).
Dessert for me is Jalebis and Ladoos and Gulab Jamun:
On cool fall evenings, I don’t grab a jacket but rather a shawl to wrap around my shoulders. Cricket brings as much excitement into my life as a good baseball game does for people here. Snacks aren’t potato chips or pretzels in my world, but rather pakoras and samosas with some tamarind chutney (homemade) OR Maggi chilli garlic sauce.
We didn’t go shopping for clothes in department stores or malls, but rather visited bazaars filled to the brim with gorgeous fabrics, all ready to be hand stitched into personalized-for-you custom shalwar kameezes (courtesy of your local tailor). The colors, styles and varieties were so numerous that it was dizzying at times. It is also where I learned from my Khalas (maternal aunts) how to haggle like the best :
I could go on and on about all the things I love about My pakistan but what you really need to know is that My Pakistan is not just what you see on the media (especially Fox news). We are so much more. So so much more. My Pakistan has people like Abdul Sattar Edhi (most likely you have not heard of him, but imagine mother teresa as a man and without the religion as a part of it).
As I grow older and am now raising my own child here in the United States, I am becoming more and more aware of who I truly am inside… and I am a mutt. I have experiences and memories from all over the world, but inside me, beats the heart of a Pakistani. While I wear my jeans and tshirts, I am proud of my green and white flag and I am proud of where I am from. And someday, with a little luck, I’ll be able to take my daughter to my home, to see where I am from and where my heart, to this day remains: to My Pakistan
August 14, 2012
Happy Independence Day Pakistan.