I have spent most of my life moving around the country.
The longest I stayed at one place was for six years. University was my 13th academic institution. No, I didn’t get expelled, I’m not on the run and my family is not part of a witness protection program (does that exist here?).
I am, however, an Army ‘brat’. My father served for 34 years in the army and was posted around all corners of Pakistan until we finally moved to Karachi 10 years back. So, basically as soon as my ‘new girl’ status was removed and I started getting comfortable with my surroundings and securing friendships that I thought would last forever, my father got the call to move.
I have lived in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Mangla, Kakul Quetta, Parachinar and, believe it or not, Rahim Yar Khan. One would think that the army life is a cursed life. I did growing up. But now that I am older and, as I’d like to think, wiser, I have come to realise that I couldn’t have been more wrong.
All those places were my childhood – playing in the safe neighbourhood of Mangla’s small colony; skipping stones on the lakes in Kakul; experiencing segregated classrooms in Islamabad (it was a shocker). I am not a Karachitte, Lahori, Punjabi, Pushtoon, or whatever other label that our country is fighting tooth and nail over.
I can relate to each and every place in Pakistan. I have met all sorts of people and lived in all sorts of places; I have been driven to school in an air conditioned car, as well as in a small, crammed van, sitting on top of the urdu teacher; been glued to ‘prince of persia’ on the computer for hours, as well as searching for a glimpse of a wild boar in the fields of Mangla.
I have lived, both, a comfortable and an uncomfortable life, and for that, I am grateful.