This is what 'Pakistan' means to me

Pakistan is my naani, coating my parathas with four spoonfuls of desi ghee and insisting on adding more.

Saad Hafeez October 21, 2013
Walking or driving around the streets of my country, I can never give words to the mix of feelings and emotions that I experience. Is it the sense of belonging, which I never feel anywhere else in the world? Is it patriotism which brings tears to my eyes whenever I see a little boy running around the streets with a giant Pakistan flag?

Driving by the Mazar-e-Quaid waving flags. Photo: Muhammad Noman
“Why do you like Pakistan so much?”

“Why would you want to live here when everyone here wants to leave?”

“What is so good about Pakistan?”

These are the questions which have been hounding me for the last few weeks. However, the most poignant question, which left me speechless was,
“What is Pakistan to you?”

I had looked dumbly at the person asking me this question, but as the days went by I kept asking myself the same thing. Now that I am sitting at the airport waiting to board my flight back to London, I think I might have a few answers.

So, what is Pakistan to me?

Pakistan is my naani, coating my paratha with four spoonfuls of desi ghee (clarified butter) and insisting on adding more.

Pakistan is the rickshaw driver in Peshawer and the kind-hearted Tangay-wala (horse-drawn carriage) in Lahore, both of whom refused to take money from me when they found out that I was a visitor in their city.

Pakistan is standing on the side of a busy road in Islamabad eating rait wali chhalli (sand-roasted corn on the cob).

Corn is roasted in sand and topped with lemon and masala for that added zing. Photo: Farah Kamal

Pakistan is that precious dua (prayer) bestowed upon me by the needy old man at the traffic signal in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan is sitting in the lawn until the early hours of morning sharing life experiences and wisdom with my Khaala (maternal aunt).

Pakistan is walking through the fields and basking in the fresh air of the countryside.

Pakistan is sitting on a charpai (rope-woven bed) in the middle of nowhere and having halwa puri for breakfast.

Pakistan is being taught how to drive a tractor by my uncles, and of course failing miserably.

Pakistan is the quaint streets of Anarkali Bazaar and trying my best not to get lost in its beauty.

The popular food street of Anarkali Bazaar, Lahore. Photo: AFP

Pakistan is that friendly banter of the infamous hijra’s (eunuchs) of F10, who would shout Harry Potter whenever they would see me.

Pakistan is that refreshingly cold glass of lassi on a hot summer day.

Pakistan is the fresh gannay ka juice (sugar cane juice) from street vendors.

Pakistan is those millions of people, who constantly live in fear but still hold fast to their resilience and conviction of a better tomorrow.

Pakistan is the joy that the first rain of the monsoon brings to the faces of the eldest and the youngest.

Pakistan is the kid playing in the rain like it’s the ultimate bliss in the world.

Nothing more blissful than getting soaked in the rain. Photo: AFP

Pakistan is trying to eat the spiciest gol gappay.

Pakistan is the pride of the wife of a martyred soldier.

Pakistan is my mother’s maid Munazza, who would do everything I asked her to, with the brightest smile on her face.

Pakistan is the serenity in the air, right after a heavy downpour.

Pakistan is those thousands of trucks on the road, each one of them more colourful than the other.

Truck art is the pride and heritage of Pakistan. Photo: Matthias Barth

Pakistan is the smile on an old mother’s face when her son comes home from the border.

Pakistan is those long hours of power cuts, but it’s also the unforgettable stories shared during those hours.

Candle lit dinners courtesy power cuts in Pakistan. Photo: Reuters/File

Pakistan is those millions of poor people, but it is also the undying love those people have for their country.

Pakistan is all of these things. However, more than anything else, Pakistan for me is home.

They say that there’s no place like home. I say there’s definitely no place like Pakistan – my home.
Saad Hafeez A British Pakistani living and studying in London.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Lol... | 10 years ago | Reply 'Nor do we look the same' I suppose that's why we have people who look as terrible as Bengali Sushmita Sen & South Indian Aishwarya Rai,Asin etc...
Ayla | 10 years ago | Reply This article brought tears to my eyes, and then some of the comments below brought tears of rage. I grew up outside of Pakistan, but visiting was always my favorite thing to do - instantly feeling like I belonged, all these people who spoke like me and shared my skin tone, called their fathers "Baba" and so much more. Everything you've written, its like you took them right out of my own mind. Its perfect. Took me six years to realize that I had moved back to Pakistan and it really was my home, and always had been. And that realization was the sweetest thing, after years of being in limbo. And now, on the verge of leaving somewhat permanently again, I find myself often thinking about how my time here has changed my and why I love it, why I will always identify myself as a Pakistani, regardless of where I was brought up, and why I will never feel as right as I do here, no matter how much the traffic, politics, family politics etc. anger me, at times. "Pakistan is those millions of people, who constantly live in fear but still hold fast to their resilience and conviction of a better tomorrow." No matter where we are, Pakistan will always be home, and only someone who has been away on a permanent basis can understand where we come from when we confidently say that, without being here physically, and no amount of words can ever properly explain why we feel that way. Thank you for this. Not many people speak up about this. I have, on my personal blog, and to see someone else take the initiative, on a much wider platform, is heartwarming.
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