The above text is translated as: "I am driving a Ricksha, not a bullet!"

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Sarya Na Kar, Chanda, Dua Karya Kar" (Translated as: Don't Get Irritated, My Dear, Make Prayers)

Dear Streets of America,

I write to you from the streets of Karachi. From the wide roads and flyovers bustling with cars, buses and rickshaws canvased with brightly colored strokes of life lessons, and the often narrow alleyways alongside mounting heaps of stinking garbage, a few footsteps away from houses in overflowing katchi abadis. New York is not the only city that never sleeps. Here, I see people from all walks of life doing their things at their hours in their spaces.Vendors here sell everything, from fruits and vegetables to bras and under-wears. Drug addicts slumber blissfully on scorching footpaths and round abouts, inhaling bouts of traffic smoke. The class divide stands like a translucent wall that can't be broken, but that lets you be a witness to the mischief of fortunes. There are no Chicago skylines, but even when you stand on the fourth floor of a tower at Shahraefaisal, you can see a landscape of houses and buildings stretching far into the horizon. The everyday heat makes even some of the most expensive cotton drench in sweat, but when the first July breeze blows and the sun shies away before monsoon rains, this city and these streets become magical. Amidst all their volatility, they rest at an equilibrium, vaguely familiar as home.

Some of your hills and beautiful towns, like my very own South Hadley, have the power to evoke nostalgia, we say. These streets, on the contrary, have the power to evoke a sense of reality. They diminish the effect of nostalgia and sometimes heighten the craving for it, but at all times, they never let you peacefully drift away from reality. In fact, there is nothing really peaceful about these streets, except for the peace that comes with knowing them as your own. Even in the worst instances of unrest, you can manage to find your way. Even in the worst instances of uncertainty, you know how to make decisions. Even in the worst instances of poverty, you can afford a cell phone. Even in the worst instances of network jams, like on the eve of yearly Eid festivities, your cell phone will get signals. And most importantly, even in the not worst of medical emergencies, you can immediately find an affordable doctor. Everything in this city is about being functional - and even when not functional, still functioning.

Earlier, I praised some of the women you introduced me to. But I find some of the women here even more commendable. I have been nurtured by your culture and hence, cannot fully relate to some of my own. But in my tug of war between cultures, the patience, strength and persistance that these women harbor, never fails to awe me. I held some of your women in high esteem because I saw in them role models, and in ways, saw myself in them. However, I can never imagine becoming the women I see here. I only stare at them from a distance. Occasionally, I am able to live life through their lenses. For the most part, we are miles apart. And I admire them for dealing with challenges that I would be too scared to even accept.

Your media gives a lot of attention to Malala, and the people here get defensive. Logically, their arguments are mostly flawed. But emotionally, I can see where they are coming from. Malala isn't a big thing here, you see? Women here fight battles everyday - and to them, these battles are not battles anymore, they are every day. And in a country where millions of women succeed at every day, maybe it is unfair to not draw enough attention to their success, while highlighting an unfortunate event as an example of their victimization. The pride and self-respect that these people value highly, doesn't allow anyone to see them as victims. Even more so, it doesn't allow them to see themselves as victims. If anything, it only pushes them to work with the situations presented to them and be grateful.

Their gratitude, is what I admire them for. Their gratitude, is what keeps them happy. Their gratitude, is what is often missing from your saga of consumerism. And this gratitude, is what I hope to learn from them, till I see you next.

My Pakistani Greater Half


  1. one word sister....SUPERB ..."thumbs up"

  2. Thumbs up for u Sheikh Saab :)