What I learned about Pakistan in Muscat
"Too much blood in your country, sister" a taxi driver in Muscat said to me. I wondered how right he was...
I’m in a new land. Many back home think I am amongst the lucky few who have had the chance to live abroad and see “better days”. But, I wonder, do Pakistanis find happiness in the fact that they are actually home?
I was filled with an overwhelming longing for Pakistan as soon as I landed in Muscat. The alien atmosphere, the new faces, the strange dresses, and the various dialects intimidated me. For the first time in my life, I felt proud of being a Pakistani, of wearing our traditional shalwar kameez and bearing the traditional Pakistani look. When someone asked me who I was, I told them I was a Pakistani and strangely, it felt very exciting to say that! I did not know what this new place had to offer me; for the first time in many troubling months, I thought of Pakistan with gratitude, for giving me so much without ever asking for anything in return.
When I tell the locals I am from Pakistan, they have both good and bad things to say. A local driver told me:
“Your country, it’s a lovely place to be...My brother lives there in Karachi and we used to visit them every year.”
He smiled through the rear view mirror as he merrily told us about his version of Pakistan.
“But see, there is so much killing in your land now, we dare not go! Everyone has weapons, they snatch your money, your phone, they kill you.”
He pointed his hand as though he was holding a gun.
“Guns, bombs, Kalashnikovs,” he said shaking his head.
“So many of them! My brother is moving back to Muscat, it’s not safe there. Too much blood in your country, sister, too much blood.”
I looked away, thinking of a way to defend my country without picking a fight when he spoke again.
“Subhan’Allah there is so much beauty in your land. You have rains; we see it on television here. You have so many seasons in Pakistan. Must be great, no?”
He smiles through the mirror again.
“Allah has blessed you with so many fruits, so many vegetables, spices, Pakistani cotton and what not! They export it all here in Oman, sister. I tell you, they are the best there is!”
Listening to him, I’m compelled to think about all the goodness still left in my country. Despite all the complaining do we have good things left in Pakistan? I know the goodness, decency, honesty, kindness and integrity around me.
I loved the sound of the sound of the word Pakistan as a child; the land of the pak (the pure). This is the land where history and culture mystifies hearts, where hospitality to guests is a religion, where the shrines of Sufis cast their spiritual shadow over a nation of believers.
The world keeps telling us that we are failing as a nation. We have hope, and as long as we have that, we have not yet failed.