I wish I didn't feel like such a foreigner

What pains me is their destitution and their plight while I have more than I deserve... than I earned to deserve.

Manal Khan January 31, 2014
Sometimes, I wish
I wasn’t born in such a big house
Didn’t watch so many Disney cartoons,
Or read so much Enid Blyton, when I was young...

Didn’t go to the poshest all-girls private school in town,
Or eat at the best foreign restaurants
Hadn’t ever been on a plane,
Ever outside the country
Didn’t know the words to every English song on the radio
Didn’t have a big air-conditioned car
Didn’t live in Defence
Didn’t always get what I wanted.

Sometimes, I wish
I didn’t feel like such a foreigner
In my own country
Among my own people
That I wouldn’t be polite,
Embarrassed, awkward
That Punjabi or Urdu would flow from my mouth
As effortlessly as English
That I could talk to beggars
Street children, village women
Without cringing inside
With guilt, helplessness

Who am I to feel guilty
When they laugh, tearing down the streets
Barefoot, in June heat
Straddling their babies, eyes shining
In faded, tattered hand-me-downs
Dirt-streaked and sunburnt
Knotty, sun-dyed hair
Lolling on a charpayee,
In a threadbare canvass tent.

And I turn away,
My eyes blinking with tears
Shameful, cowardly tears.

What is it that pains me?
Their destitution, their plight
Or me, having more than I deserve
Than I earned to deserve?

My four-walled two-storeyed brick home
My running tap water, bathroom and AC?
My fridge full of food, my mattressed bed, my car
My clothes and shoes, my education?

They are not destitute
They are not as poor
As we imagine them to be,
Sitting here in our sound-proof,
Sightless soap-bubbles
Feeling sorry, because there is little else we can do
Self-reproaching, self-guilty, shallow.

How wrong we are! How thoroughly mistaken!
How frustrated, dissatisfied
While they, homeless, unread,
Embrace the day with laughing heart
Revel, in every
Sunbright, moonlight, raindrop moment
Of absolute freedom.

This post originally appeared here.
Manal Khan A freelance writer and photographer based in Madrid, Spain, who loves old cities, tall trees, dark chocolate, and being inspired. She is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism and a Lahore native. Manal blogs at "Windswept Words" (manalkhan.wordpress.com)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


daisey | 7 years ago | Reply you do not get her she meant she did not helped these people when her mind make this excuse that she can do nothing to help but in fact she has things she can help but its hard to do so in a way the writer is expressing her guilt that i am poor these people are rich that they are still smiling and happy when we are living luxury but still do not laugh so much
seth | 8 years ago | Reply Oh really if living in poor conditions make you feel liberated, free why not give up everything and start living in a rural, poor locality! I am amazed that you are actually a researcher at one of top institutes of Pakistan.
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