A few days ago, for the second time in three years, I came face to face with Karachi’s violent alter ego. It was a pretty decent day with nice cloudy skies and more or less everything going my way, until I was told that we had to attend a wedding function in Gulistan-e-Jauhar.
Now, I’m not saying I loathe the nonsensical rituals that govern a Pakistani wedding, no. It’s just that I’m not a big fan of leaving home an hour before midnight to go to a fancy dress show to fight over greasy biryani and lukewarm 7up. Especially because of incidents like the one that ensued.
We weren’t fully done with the usual parade when a couple of minutes of scattered firing, followed by the stench of burning rubber and petrol forced us to rush outside the hall to see what was going on, and lo and behold, there it was; the sight/act/incident/habit (I really don’t know what to call it) Karachi is increasingly coming to be known for: a burning bus!
No more than 20 yards from all the wedding halls where at least half a dozen newlyweds were beginning their new lives together, hopeful to produce a brigade of new Pakistanis, some old ones were setting a perfect example by torching a bus and killing, as we later found out, it’s young, poor, and in-arguably innocent conductor.
What followed was a frenzy of panicky people and speeding cars eager to make their way home before the situation worsened, because one having nothing to do with political strife and yet falling victim to its corollary is no longer a farfetched idea in this country, where impulsive acts of political terrorism, suicide bombers and target killings have become as much a part of everyone’s daily life as…well, I don’t know really, what else do we have in our lives these days?
I have to admit that any ounce of patriotism I might have left in me is dead. Poof. Gone. I was pretty defensive about my country and its people until a few years ago when things were actually looking up and I am kind of embarrassed by the unabashed declaration of my mounting indifference to ‘Pakistan’ on the whole. But here’s the thing: What is there to be patriotic about? What exactly am I supposed to do or think? What does a twenty-four-year-old who admits to being a spoiled ex-expatriate fallen victim to the harsh reality of being a Pakistani with no alternative passport do?
I’m lost; genuinely confused and virtually direction-less. I know I should love this place and have the verve to contribute to its advancement but I also know that Pakistan hasn’t really given me anything at all. Of course there’s the mushy talk of individuality and freedom and ‘ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’ to jingoize things, but come on, seriously, we’re talking about Pakistan here! The country that’s soon to be run by the twenty-one-year-old son of its number one ambassador for democracy. The country where most people have goldfish memories and absolutely no manners, morals and tolerance. The country where, in the ‘Holy Month of Ramadan,’ people would rather just look-on than make an effort to stop a bunch of coldblooded animals from publically beating a couple of innocent teenagers to death. The country where revered actors openly promote promiscuity in the name of free media and morning show hosts talk about contract marriages with Indian actresses. The country where rapists are given VIP treatment in first-class hospitals because of their political associations but middle-aged rape victims are shot dead by their own family in the name of honour. The country where, for some godforsaken reason, each and every manhole falls right in the middle of the road and no vendor ever has any change or the right sized plastic bags!
What’s worse, we all secretly celebrate these things. We hold some kind of perverted pleasure in knowing that we’re the unfortunate inhabitants of a poor, savaged third world country that’s literally down in the dumps. How else would we get away with things so easily? Subconsciously holding Pakistan and its institutions responsible for all the bad things that happen to us is the only way we can ensure a little sanity in our lives, right? And now we’ve got the floods: severe and unfortunate, sure, but also an excellent aide for our government to finish off the Armitage inspired job they’ve so diligently been working on for two years.
So tell me, am I really such a bad Pakistani for losing hope? Believe me I do experience occasional spurts of patriotism after watching the Wahga guard change ceremony on TV or reading about some random part-Pakistani out there who’s done something good to make the headlines…but is that enough?
What’s going to happen to Pakistan? I don’t know…probably the same thing that happens to every country that’s endowed with such a brilliant, self-effacing judiciary and a public that’s obsessed with politics and political analysts; the same thing that happens to any other country that’s riddled with inflation and poverty yet the people are more concerned about kafirs (infidels) being kafirs on Facebook than their next meal.
I do know what’s going to happen to me though. After reading a few hate mails from die-hard Pakistanis who either secretly dream of earning Dollars or are already doing so, and bash others for never doing enough, I’ll go on living the Pakistani dream, sans electricity of course, until I complete my degree and the President completes his term. And then, my Pakistani friends, if there are still no signs of a Pakistani French revolution approaching…I’ll write another article.