Scenes of places around Seattle, when it got heavy snow during winter of 2008
(An article which I wrote while I was in USA in December 2008).
Pakistan. Does the name ring a bell? Does it remind you of something you saw on television? Something which has some other words attached to it like ‘terrorists’, ‘blasts’, killers, Muslims, fanatics’?” You are not to blame if these are the only words that come to your mind. -If any at all. It is because that is all you heard about it. Media made sure of it. You got nothing else from the media. So, how could you think of anything else? So, why do I feel bad? It’s because I know that your information is incomplete, and so far from the target. Ahem, sorry, that slipped out! See, what I mean? It reminds me of that episode of Friends which was filmed just after 9/11 and had not been aired due to the hype of the world. One never knew how it would be taken.
So, I was saying, I’m living in the most dangerous country in the world. And yet I do have a wonderful life there. And I would love to share it with my readers. I’d like to remove their fears about it. Fear only happens of the unknown. When I came here to US, travelling alone, all the way from across the world, I brought my own special brand of shampoo and hair color and medicines. (You’d think I was going to Eskimo land!), but with some things you don’t take chances, and these were of that category. -If you know what I mean.
I feel hurt and sad about my country getting a bad name, because you miss out on that part of my country which I know. And it can be really beautiful. It’s a great country, from a geographical and people point of view. These people are simple, intelligent, not so highly educated, sweet tempered and very hospitable. As a woman, I am educated, I’ve got the right to vote, I have done jobs, conducted workshops, attended seminars and meetings. I drive all over. I’ve driven in Karachi, Islamabad, Sargodha, Lahore, and Peshawar. I drive mostly alone or with my daughters with me. We move around without fear of any sort, as we are comfortable in the knowledge that if anything happens, there will be plenty of people to help us. I know, that if I go and ask for help from any household. Specially, the poorest of the poor, they will take me into their homes and offer me all that they have. This is why, when an American journalist was deported last year from Islamabad, when he was leaving, he said “I hope my wife and I can come back here again, as these are the worlds’ most hospitable people!’And how true it is! You see them smiling, in spite of the hard lives they have, you see them caring, in spite of having very few people really caring for them, you see them hospitable, in spite of such few belongings, and having hardly any food to eat, but still they will offer you all they have for the day, and not mind going hungry.
Believe me, I’ve moved in storms, and late nights in Karachi and found people helping me as they were concerned I was alone with daughters. (not having a man with you seems strange to them!), But they are helpful. Once in Austria, I met an American. When he heard that my husband and I belonged to Pakistan, he said “I’ve always wanted to go there!” We were surprised. He said “My friend went there, and speaks so highly of your country and its people, that I want to go there too!” Yes, that I can believe. When I reached here in US a month ago, I felt safe. And yet not that concerned about safety of my family in Islamabad. As we have been safe all our lives. And one can hope God will continue to be kind. And now, this storm coming up here in Seattle is making me feel more scared than I’ve been in my country. Today, I’m writing this article, when there is this scare of a storm coming up which will have gusts of wind of 90 miles per hour. The electricity will go off too. Now, in my country electricity keeps going off, and its staying on is the big news. But we use gas for cooking, so it does not affect us. The weather is harsh, but tolerable. But here, to have a power failure means, no heat, no cooking, no light. So, this is real trouble. Then the houses here are so fragile. Whereas the houses in Pakistan can usually, bear a big storm. Fire too can do nothing to the structure. So, this is all new to me. It’s scary. And I realize, ultimately, its God who saves human beings where ever you are. And all this illusion of safety is just an illusion really! One is as open to danger here, as anywhere else! Is it mostly in the mind?