Cultural Connections

Hello.

It’s been a while. How have you been?

To briefly update you on my life from my previous posts: I’ve been great. Currently, on a three hour train ride to our nation’s capital, or more accurately, the National Harbor for a Pakistani Doctor’s convention. This convention happens annually, and for three days, it becomes the largest concentration of Pakistanis anywhere outside of Pakistan.

I used to look forward to these when I was younger, and yes, it was because of all Pakistani girls that I could shamelessly flirt (or try at least) with for the next few days. Now I’m starting to outgrow it, the girls from APPNA are starting to get married, and I’m still here getting my life together.

But this post isn’t about that at all. Actually it’s quite different.

We’ve all fantasized about living in different realities. One that’s stuck with me relatively recently is one centered on living a much simpler life in the Gao, the villages, of Pakistan.

It’s interesting to see how one becomes inspired. My flint was sparked by viewing a friend’s Snapchat stories. He was visiting Pakistan with his family for a month or so. Now I’ve been to Pakistan, the land of my father, multiple times, but my experience was completely different.

Constantly buzzing, Karachi made New York City seem like a small town. The 6th largest city in the world (NYC is 14th), Karachi is just something else. In a country where there are no real rules and everything is fair game, Karachi is the absolute cesspool of civilization. Crime is prevalent, the police have no value, and it’s easy to see a structural collapse can happen at any given moment. The wealth gap is abhorrent as the rich live like kings with indentured servants made up mostly by the poor who are desperate for jobs, and even worse clean water and food.

Luckily, my family in Karachi is fairly well off, and I’ve never had to struggle there or worry for my safety (except for one time where I found myself stuck in the middle of a riot, but that’s for another time). But it’s still not the same. I would never want to live in Karachi, and it would take truly desperate circumstances for me to move there. I can probably list 30 other countries I would rather be instead Karachi.

Now that I’ve kind of laid out the basics of Karachi, I should return to my original story right? I kinda forgot where I was uhhhhhhh *scrolls up* Oh yeah, the villages of Pakistan.

North Pakistan is completely different from the absolute madness of Karachi. Karachi doesn’t have vegetation, doesn’t have any greenery. It’s all sand and dirt. It has a distinct smell to it which consists of, you guessed it sand, dirt, and throw in a little shit too. But North Pakistan has a lot of greenery. And mountains, and animals and doesn’t have a toxic stench that lingers in every breath you take. I’ve only been once, but my memories are vivid enough for me to re-create the imagery.

My vision depicts me living a much simpler life. It’s almost Swades-esque, a Bollywood movie featuring India’s lord and savior Shah Rukh Khan. In the movie, he’s an engineer at NASA who moves back to his family’s village in India and falls in love with the place and settles there for his new home.

I become engulfed in my family’s Pakistani roots. I speak Urdu fluently, have a traditional Urdu-speaking wife, with fobby little Urdu-speaking kids. We play around in the plains, and explore the mountains. Blissfully unaware of the outside world, we live in our own bubble. Politics, regulations, and corporations don’t exist here. The whole town knows everyone (for better or for worse). For the first time, I am a true Pakistani, not some foreigner who butchers the conjugations and genders of the beautiful blend of Persian, Arabic, and Hindi that make up the verbal and written language that is Urdu…

My train hasn’t moved in the past 20 minutes, dafuq is going on?

But at the same time, I know it’s not the practical life for me, to live in the greenery of Pakistan. I’ve never been a village guy. I mean outside my parents homes, I’ve lived in Queens and Newark, neither of which exactly scream village lifestyle. I drive everyday, am constantly on my phone, and am never behind on the latest news & trends. Could it be that technology has led me to become… soulless?

Over the past few years, I’ve made a lot more Pakistani/Muslim friends, and naturally I kinda became more “cultured”. Compared to my high school and early college years, I wasn’t really into desi culture, and kinda tried to distance myself away from it all. I was a punk, so I didn’t really understand the importance of it all. In my mind, my identity was strictly American kid who listened to hip-hop, and was a laxbro. Like I said, I was fucking stupid.

Culture’s become a lot more important to me. I was a part of my college’s Bhangra team, not that I was good at it. I added more desi music to my music library, and generally hang out with Muslims, and it happened because we mostly have the same ideals and principles. Even my moral code stems from my culture, but at the same time, most moral codes are relatively the same, it’s just how people choose to carry them out.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to spend time in the villages of Pakistan, but for now I’m also very comfortable with my first-world life with my first-world identity issues. Let’s be real, New Jersey and the UK, my two homes are as brown as you can get outside the South Asian subcontinent. And now that my train’s entered DC, excuse me as I immerse myself into Pakistani culture for these next few days

Peace, and much love to ya,

HH

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