Finding Balance in Pakistan
He sees the green passport in my hand.
“Where are you from?” he asks, smiling as he sits beside me.
I run my fingers over the gold lettering embossed on my passport, which reads “Unity, Faith, and Discipline.” “Pakistan,” I reply with a touch of nonchalance. I would like to tell him that I am a product of every place I have lived, not just visited, but I hold back.
“You don’t look like you’re from Pakistan,” he remarks, eyeing my see-through stockings and knee-length skirt. We are in transit at Dubai Airport, and I have just changed into Western attire from my Desi clothing. Here, in this cosmopolitan space, I can embrace my fluid identity and adapt to any environment.
“Where are you from?” I ask, meeting his gaze directly. It’s a sign of disrespect in Pakistani culture for a woman to maintain eye contact with a man, but I cannot help myself.
“You don’t look like you’re from Pakistan.
“The States,” he responds. “So, how’s Pakistan?”
I want to tell him everything, but I know he may not understand. It’s ironic that Pakistan means “The Land of Pure”; the green on its flag is besmirched with conflicts and political tension, far from realizing the vision of a peaceful and “pure” nation. The motto of “faith,” “unity,” and “discipline,” founded by Quaid-e-Azam, is nothing but abstract concepts that few people truly understand. An estimated 60 million people in Pakistan are illiterate, which may explain why the opposite of the motto has come true: disloyalty, division, and anarchy.
I have come to realize that Pakistan and I both know only extremes. For me, it’s a constant oscillation between highs and lows, and for Pakistan, it’s either opulence or soul-shattering poverty. I have seen the skeletal children begging for food in nameless streets, and I have also seen black Audis pass them by. Do we even know how to find balance?
“It’s wonderful,” I say with a forced smile, avoiding his gaze as I pick up my hand-carry and wave goodbye.
Photo for Finding Balance in Pakistan by Unsplash.