“Bijli nahi hay, stability nahi hay, business nahi chal sakta, security nahi hay … hum laaton ke bhoot, baaton se nahi maanain gay. Yahan democracy nahie chal sakti. We need a stronger force, a dictator to rule us.”
“But, we are new to the process. Har cheez main time lagta hay, maybe if we sacrifice today, our next generation might see a better future.”
“Yes, go tell that to your driver who works two jobs to support his family and still will never get the life you have lived. And just the other day, weren’t you complaining about moving back as well … ”
“But … ”
This is a conversation that I have had with my father several times over the course of five years. Each time, it ended the same way. His jaded wisdom and my newfound patriotism regarding the future of this country could never find a middle ground. It often felt like naivete was the only way to love Pakistan and cynicism the only way to live here. You were either an idealist or a realist, because ideals turning into a reality was forbidden territory — a possibility that most of us never even considered if we were born here.
But in the past four months, something changed. The conversation steered from what others had done to what we were going to do. We started listening, talking, exchanging views, discussing plans and the most dangerous of all, believing. We started talking about who we were going to vote for and why.
We saw candidates being dismissed because they misled the public about their educational qualifications. We saw transgenders like Bindiya Rana and Sanam Faqeer entering the political domain and claiming their rightful positions in society. We cheered because women like Hajiani Lanjo and Badam Zari contested for seats from areas where even men were afraid to defy traditional politics.
We watched, celebrated and hoped — some of us more subtle in our expressions than others. But we crossed the seemingly indomitable bridge of indifference to a place where we feel something. It might be too soon to term that delicate flutter of emotion as optimism, but it is a welcome change from that deep slumber of apathy that engulfed most of us for a long time. And I am not denying that this is a scary place to be in — like every emotion, it leaves you vulnerable, with the possibility of being let down always looming like an ominous cloud. But, at least, we want to give it a shot, and that is the most important thing right now.
And it has not been an easy path getting here. I do not know how those who lost their lives, livelihoods or loved ones to the terrorism that has haunted this country for the past five years feel about the price we have paid for democracy. Or the young man/woman who had to settle for something menial because they could not find the right job. Or the father who had to make the impossible choice between feeding his children or sending them to school. I will not speak on their behalf because I find it disrespectful to even claim that I understand what they have been through. But I would like to offer my heartfelt apology and sincerest gratitude, because I owe them both. I am sorry that you had to lose so much for the nation to gain perspective. But I am thankful because I have never felt more responsible and more accountable, to myself, this country and its people.
As for my dad, he graciously accepted defeat yesterday.
“Beta your daadi and the driver both want to vote this time. Can you please look at their CNIC numbers and help them locate their areas?”
“Of course,” I said respectfully, while doing a silent victory dance in my head.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2013.
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