Creativity and patriotism rarely seem to go hand in hand. When one thinks of doing something for one’s country or its people, it’s usually along the lines of traditional campaigning or fighting for some grave cause. Moin Khan, a young 24-year-old biker from Lahore, however, has demonstrated quite quirkily that there are myriad ways of showing love for the country, riding around the world on your trusted bike, for instance.
Khan has made international and local headlines with his simple yet effective plan titled ‘A Different Agenda’ whereby he is travelling by road from the United States to Pakistan on his bike, meeting and greeting as many people as he can along the way to share with them the alternative reality and vibrancy of Pakistan. With himself as the mascot for his fun, yet physically challenging, quest, Khan speaks to The Express Tribune of the trails of seeking a different agenda.
How successful has ‘A Different Agenda’ been in terms of changing mindsets through your
personal interaction with people along your journey?
To me, success was fairly easy to achieve. I achieved it on the first day when I started on July 10. A group of Native Americans let me share their campsite and one of the women asked me about Pakistan. The topic went on to Islam and I found out that they thought Islam is only about fighting and terrorism. After talking for about two hours and seeing them nod their heads in agreement, I think I did a good job convincing them that they were misinformed.
At that time I thought ‘Wow this is working — me just telling one person at a time that we are just regular people like them is a brilliant idea’. Those 28 people may each tell two more people in their lives about Pakistanis being good people and that makes it 84 people thinking Pakistanis are just regular people like them.
What has the journey taught you as an individual and as a young Pakistani?
I thought people were going to raise their eyebrows as soon as they catch a glimpse of the Pakistani flag on my bike and I thought I would be getting rude comments once they found out I was from Pakistan. But to my surprise, I found out that I had it all backwards. I thought television and news had brainwashed others, but it had brainwashed me as well into thinking that the world had more hatred.
Everyone I’ve met has been amazing. Every time I’ve had to reach out my hand, there’s been a helping hand to grab hold of. From strangers who gave me a warm bed to crash on for a night, to the guy who blessed me with a crash that put me in a hospital bed with broken bones, to random Turkish boys who let me sleep in a gas station’s storage room for free — I’ve learnt that this world can go a long way with a smile. The invisible lines that separate race, ethnicity, and religion don’t have to exist.
Has anyone within Pakistan ever made you feel slighted or question your national spirit/patriotism because you carry a foreign passport?
A passport is just a piece of paper — it shouldn’t matter what papers you carry, what should matter is what’s in your heart. I reek of Pakistani pride. I had three motorcycles and a bunch of nice mountain roads to ride around in San Francisco, a job that was paying bills and filling both my stomach and my bikes. I could’ve easily stayed there and enjoyed my life. However, I decided to move back when everyone else in Pakistan is trying to move out. I don’t think anyone has the audacity to question my patriotism. I am Pakistan.
How did you manage to fund this trip?
It took me about 18 months, three different jobs and eating a lot of rice with ketchup. I sold everything I owned; all my other bikes, my car, my furniture, TV, clothes, tools etc. Also, a lot of people helped me once I started the trip. BayAreaRidersForum helped me a lot and I got some donations from all around the globe; from India to Australia to Poland to Argentina.
What would your advice be to others your age wanting to make a difference through alternative means?
Just do what you love to do. Keep searching till you find something you love and don’t settle till you’ve found that one thing you love. Don’t search for success, it’ll come itself if you work hard enough.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2011.