Not Talking About Pakistan

Feb 2013

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In those years, even among members of the South Asian and Arab diaspora, I found myself repeatedly defending Pakistan against constant attacks. I don’t remember each encounter, only a vague combination of disappointment and irritation at the end of evenings meant to be a reprieve from work, and shock that suddenly, it was perfectly appropriate for people to talk about the failures of Pakistan even in the presence of Pakistanis. I remember heated arguments with Arab men who would bleat about how “their women” had more freedom than Pakistani women. In these instances, I would refuse to back down until the man in question had conceded that he knew nothing about either women or Pakistan. The other women at the table would watch silently or make feeble attempts to change the subject. Or, there were cab rides in which I lied to cab drivers about where I was from, because there had been too many instances of being held captive audience to a stranger’s musings about how the place I called home needed to be bombed.

Many conversations about Pakistan would contain the expectation that perhaps I might have more to say on the failures of the country (these usually revolved around an excess of Islam and a general shortage of women’s rights) by virtue of being from there. But this would be coupled with the assumption that I could not be entirely objective about Pakistan given that I was, after all, from there. Unless I nodded and agreed like a good native informant on the failed state that was Pakistan, I was either out of touch with reality, or sentimental about the place for unknown reasons. The word “Pakistan,” itself would summon up a cluster of images with fire in them—assassinations, suicide bombs, and car burnings, and always the bearded men. But my map of everyday violence in San Francisco was populated by several actors of whom none had beards and none believed themselves to be violent, but whose attacks invaded almost every space I occupied.

Two instances of kindness stand out because each happened when I was feeling more ragged than usual. In the first, a Palestinian shopkeeper offered me his condolences on the disintegration of my country. “I’m so sorry, at what you must be going through,” he said, “being this far away from family, reading the news, and dealing with everyone’s stupid questions.” I had responded by saying that things had to be bad if a Palestinian felt sorry for me. “I had the same thought myself!” he had exclaimed, and we had both laughed uproariously. In the second, I had been at one of many gatherings in which Obama’s victory was being celebrated. I had thought about drone attacks and the escalation of American invasions into Pakistan. But the suffering of a small, distant country seemed almost inappropriate to bring up in the midst of celebration about America’s first black president. As I prepared to leave, an American colleague told me quietly that she was sorry that I had to keep hearing people celebrate. “I know what this means for your home,” she said, and for the first time, I allowed myself to tell someone about the dread in my stomach and the difficulty I was having sleeping. I left before she could see my tears.

Foggy morning

Of the first three years I taught in San Francisco, what I remember most is the thickening of my silence, and a stubborn, bordering on outright perverse desire not to share Pakistan with anyone, as though the act of sharing the country would dilute what made it mine. I had no words for the twisting feeling in the center of my chest for Pakistan, the knot of pain in my right shoulder, homesickness so intense that it had in fact become physical pain. The more Pakistan appeared in newspapers, the more difficult it became to explain the place. Even if I tried, I would be one voice against too many burning images. I began to pretend to be on the phone when taking cabs, I avoided colleagues interested in Pakistan, and I stopped going to Muslim social gatherings after realizing that Pakistan-bashing would be a central theme in these. The sheer fatigue of deflecting questions left me with little room to know what it was I would say if allowed to speak on my own terms, or even what these terms would be. Most of the time, I maintained what looked like Pakistan-conversation to others, but involved defensive maneuvers that brought on the kind of exhaustion an athlete might feel at the end of a harrowing race she has lost despite her best efforts.

**

When I began to consider taking a fourth-year sabbatical to go to Pakistan, I was told, predictably, that this was a bad idea. The country was volatile and dangerous. No writing would get done and I desperately needed academic publications if I wanted tenure. I planned to teach while I was there—for both the fall semester of 2010 and the spring semester of 2011—and this would take even more time away from research and writing. Was I out of my mind to risk losing tenure at a private liberal arts college in San Francisco? But I suspected that something much larger was at stake if I didn’t leave and go back home, to the place I had surrounded by a silence so thick that I was terrified that I had lost my capacity to put feeling into words, to write anything at all. I had always been certain of my ability to write, and the loss of language was paralyzing, as was the silence into which I had retreated.

**

Landing in Karachi is like running into the arms of a lover you’ve been forbidden to see for years. My sabbatical leave has been granted and I’m home. No one searches me in this country. Here is the place I finally feel safe. There’s nothing menacing about the immigration officers. I laugh and joke with them, produce both my passports, the blue American one and the green Pakistani one, and eventually saunter off, grinning. I’m home. And I’m going to be home for a year, the longest time I’ve spent in Pakistan since I left for college thirteen years ago. When I was in college and the country hadn’t yet come under siege, I took it for granted and didn’t miss it much. But after I began graduate school in September 2001, it became increasingly difficult to leave and go back to the U.S. after my visits home. I would dread the interrogations of Homeland Security, the cold, long winters in Ann Arbor, and the constant feeling of alienation that comes from being asked where you are from originally and then hearing people talk about where-you-are-from-originally as a dangerous place.

Even though I spent a great deal of time being homesick in graduate school, I wanted a PhD in history, so there wasn’t a whole lot to do but get on planes and get on with the degree. I figured that I could go home when I was done. But in my last two years of graduate school, I was told that getting a PhD in history would be a waste if I picked up and left for the homeland. Instead I needed to Get a Job, Publish Things, and Be Successful. I didn’t have a counter-argument, so I applied for jobs. On the job market, I told myself that I would go back to Pakistan unless I landed a tenure-track job at a small liberal arts college in New York, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco. These parameters were impossible; I had only written two chapters of my dissertation and would be competing with people who had completed theirs for jobs in desirable locations. But after interviewing in San Francisco, I flew back to Ann Arbor thoroughly charmed and invested in the place. When I got a job offer, I cancelled my other interviews and accepted immediately. The academic job market crashed the next year.

The semester I began teaching in San Francisco, Pakistan had become the country around which I built walls to prevent it from being attacked in conversation. From the handyman who came to my apartment to fix a bookshelf and began ranting about terrorism when he found out where I was from, to the woman at my phone company who couldn’t give me rates to Pakistan without commenting on the place, being Pakistani meant that like the country, nothing was off limits when it came to the kinds of attacks to which I was subjected. The sense of threat would begin after I would stumble out to the airport in San Francisco, bleary-eyed and homesick, and a stranger in a uniform would take me aside, search my bags, and leave my clothes in a heap somewhere. The questioning would begin, particular in its brutality. Why was I bringing back “native costumes” to America? Why did my parents move back to a place like Pakistan when they could have lived here, in America, the country where I was born? And there would be the impossibility of saying “because of you” to the man sifting through my things. At the end of the interrogation, an immigrations officer would finally stamp my American passport and say “Welcome home.”

The threat would continue at work; a particularly vexing colleague who has now learned names like Salman Taseer and Benazir Bhutto would greet my return by drone-bombing me with his latest predictions about the steady demise of Pakistan and jokes about the duplicity of Pakistanis. Or, he would ask me about “the current situation,” the amorphous phrase that has come to represent the entire country in the inquiries of the well-meaning. The last time I spoke to him, he said I must be happy to be back in America. I had thought of the airport in Karachi, and the road to my house. I had thought of my mother’s garden at night, with flowers and pools of water, and of the peace that waits for me there. All this was safe somewhere in a place neither he nor a homeland security officer could ever reach. “Oh, sure,” I had said lightly. “I’m happy to be back.”

I’m home, I’m thinking, on the drive back from the airport in Karachi to house in which I grew up. There’s no need for evasions here, no need for silence.

**

Night drive

In the first class I teach in Lahore, the air seems to shimmer from the beginning. That September, something knotted suddenly unfurls. I’m in Pakistan. The line around it is no longer needed. My armor clanks to the floor. “Let’s talk about Pakistan,” I say to my students. And we do. There are no secrets to protect, no fear of being hurt from a stranger’s inadvertent prodding of a private bruise. These are not strangers. I’ve never felt such complete trust while standing in front of a classroom, and it makes me remember my own years in college, and the openness with which I seemed to walk around, a product of being ten years younger, but also of being Pakistani before the country came under siege on so many fronts. My students draw out from me pain that I would not allow to see the light of day, and I trust them easily, and allow them to ask anything they like. This country belongs to all of us, and I’m not standing in front of a room alone, weighed down by belonging that no one else can understand.

“Look Taymiya, I know you love this place,” says Khadija, who I’ve known since I was thirteen. She’s come to visit me in Lahore, and we are walking around on campus. “But you don’t know how hard it is to live here. Pakistan has a way of wringing us of the well-intentioned idealism we come back with. Trust me. It’s not the country we grew up in.” I know what she means. There seems to be a collective trauma that has settled over Pakistan like a fog, and stories keep surfacing in everyday conversation—the house that washed away in the floods, the cousin blown up at a marketplace, the uncle who was shot, the father detained in prison in the U.S. somewhere because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Another close friend tells me that her biggest heartbreak isn’t a person, it’s Pakistan. “Be careful,” she says. “You come back, this place welcomes you with open arms, and then it knifes you.”

There’s a kind of lover you meet late at night even though your head is full of your friends’ warnings and their concern. But then his car pulls up, silver and smooth and full of possibility, and you swear you’ve never felt more alive as you do in this instant. You join the world of other people in daylight, you pour tea and meet guests and go to your office, but there are hidden scratches on your arm, which you grazed when you ran out hurriedly to meet him, and you think of the open road and his sidelong glance and your heart speeds up. You forget about the warnings. Maybe he breaks everyone else’s heart, but he won’t break yours.  And even if he does, you’re not sure you care. I don’t want to think about the damage Pakistan can cause me. I’m already damaged. And being here is the balm.

**

In late October, the moon hangs impossibly low. At night, the canal is gleaming moonlight and the reflections of trees. The air is beginning to cool down. It’s soon going to be the season for steaming bowls of soup in cars, shawls and sweaters. Gas heaters will burn orange in darkened rooms. Later there’s going to be the mist that envelops the city. Haniya, who I’ve known since college, is driving us to dinner at a restaurant she loves. But we have been stuck in traffic jam for half an hour and I know she is annoyed. This kind of traffic jam is the bane of Pakistanis everywhere.  A politician has blocked the road and no one can move. Haniya fiddles with the music. I peer out onto the road. Read on >>

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43 Responses to Not Talking About Pakistan

  1. Aban Usmani on Feb 2013 at 12:37 AM

    I came across this article through my niece on the Facebook. I am happy to know you are living your life…sometimes we do need to escape our lover as if possessiveness and love don’t go togethor
    I am overwhelmed…hailing from Lahore having Karachi & Swat as my memorable vacations of childhood…My both were born in SFO…I have a lot of family on the Baltimore east coast to saginaw MI…
    Love the passion and the low of life
    Hope there will be a day when I could take a sabbatical like your and never return from Lahore
    It might never happen since I am in Riyadh KSA where things are different / probably more conducive towards survival than in US
    dying bit by bit is the difficult part

  2. mkz on Feb 2013 at 1:26 AM

    I felt the exact same way when I left Karachi after spending my whole life there to study abroad, and did the same things. I especially refused to talk about Pakistan. I had always thought about how stupid and foolish that was, but reading this really made it click.

  3. rizwan on Feb 2013 at 2:14 AM

    crazy good essay. moving as hell.

  4. Mohammad Khosa on Feb 2013 at 3:03 AM

    Beautifully written. I love the expression of thought which obviously comes from the heart. You’ve evoked a lot of long forgotten emotions. My compliments to the writer on both her writings and her romantacism about Pakistan.

  5. Hassan K Bajwa on Feb 2013 at 4:46 AM

    Dear Taymiya,
    Thank you for this wonderful piece of writing. I cannot tell you how much i can relate to what you have written. As a person of mixed danish and pakistani heritage i understand completely the impossibility of trying to explain or even define what it is about Pakistan that we can love and appreciate. And so few people in the world understand that loving where you come from means that you love the things that are amazing as well as the things that are terrible (even as you seek to change them). Of course most love their nation of origin without really understanding that love with the clarity that comes to those who have the benefit of the perspective that comes from being away from that place.
    And while the journey to this clarity is painful i believe that it strengthens ones love even as it lends one great patience in dealing with the attacks that come from those who simply cannot know better.
    Once again thank you

  6. Nada on Feb 2013 at 5:52 AM

    I am severely conflicted right now which is why I’ve come to write. It’s like coming home after a long day and finally collapsing in the lap of your mother where somehow things always make sense and any and all fears can be taken care of. I think about how easy it is to manipulate our emotions these days and how much information we’re all really exposed to within a span of 20 minutes. We read, we click ‘like’ and we comment on so many different things that after a point we stop realizing how these fluctuations affect our emotional mapping. I read an article about a Saudi cleric raping and torturing his 5 year old which inexplicably moves me to tears..to tears of anger, of heartbreak and grief at how everything seems to be degenerating around us. It’s like living in a house and having bits and pieces of it blown away and not being able to make it stop. So, I let the emotions engulf me and I feel all of it instead of running away. I embrace the pain, the anger and I allow myself to vent and ask questions. How much more? Is this what the world is coming to? I think and I think till my brain starts spinning and I’m not sure how to put it all together again. White, jarring light. Within the next few minutes, I come across an article written by Taymiya Zaman about Pakistan, that is all at once so beautiful it makes me happy to be alive and so heartbreaking, I wish I could somehow piece it back and fix it. Soft, glowing radiance. There is pain and there is beauty that leaves me torn between wishing I had better navigational skills because I really could use some direction right now and hoping neither my cynicism nor my idealism get the better of each other. Does one overplay the other? I feel extreme anger at this world whilst at the same time, feeling so grateful to be alive because there is someone out there called ‘Taymiya’ that took the time to write down her emotions so beautifully. Then it hits me-maybe it doesn’t have to be an ‘either’/’or’. There is both- beauty so ravishing it makes your heart burst and pain so real,it makes you wonder when it will all be over and maybe that’s what life is about. It’s a balancing act between allowing yourself to embrace all that is beautiful in people and the world whilst knowing that there exists brutality of the same degree. All within the same radius. All within 20 minutes.

  7. Danish on Feb 2013 at 8:26 AM

    Really well written. I can really relate to most of what you have written. really enjoy reading it.

    • Ansar on Feb 2013 at 9:56 AM

      Oops you enjoy reading this article. There are bearded people who enjoy slaughtering our army people. Reading this article I feel sad about my country.Rather enjoying it praying which might save our country from ruins

      • Danish on Feb 2013 at 8:41 AM

        Ansar, what are you talking about? If I had not enjoyed reading it, would it automatically make things better in Pakistan?

  8. Naveen Malik on Feb 2013 at 1:21 PM

    Asslam u alaikum, I cried when i read this- hadn’t realised the tears had fallen until i saw them on the lihaaf- It is winter is lahore again – I live here- it is exactly as you descibed – People want to leave and I cannot tell anyone why I dont want to- But you have – Thank you – Jazakillah. I miss the Pakistan I grew up in – Its seems part of another world which comes back to haunt time and again. I havent a newspaper subscription and I don’t have a tv. I rarely bother listening to the news. Maybe my way of doing what you are- Of retaining the utopian dream – I dont know- All i know is maybe someday….

  9. Sanjay on Feb 2013 at 3:13 PM

    “Dying a little bit at a time” is spot on. I related very strongly to your piece and it brought up all those feelings I get whenever I’m home or leave home. While I don’t suffer the indignities as much at immigration ( I am Indian), I have realized the hard way, that there are two kinds of migrants – those who are able to throttle their nostalgia and move on with life and those – especially artists – who will drive their cars with their gazes fixed firmly in the rearview mirror. You must find your own way to address it, otherwise it will eat you “bit by bit”. Diaspora movies and books will become your bogeyman. Watching and reading about immigrants making a fetish about spirituality and cultural preservation will sicken you with guilt and anger (at yourself, mostly).

    Once you have kids this feeling grows chronic, in my experience. Then, there are two “homes”, your childhood one and their America. You will find yourself constantly battling and weighing these contrasts all the time. Taymiya is fortunate she spent her formative years in Pakistan – she has a common point of reference with her parents, siblings and close friends. Once babies arrive in an alien country, then this cross-referencing becomes acute. The “outsider” is in your own home and now you must traverse the banal middle path.

    It is for this reason I’d like to head home soon. My sons are 7 and 5 and I want them to spend their formative years there and just live ordinary days upon ordinary days. I don’t need to explain turmeric to a dinner guest and holi is not exotic. It’s that important to me that I choose to leave at least for 8-10 years. The clincher for me was when I realized that they, or even one of them, could grow up to be a writer and write an acutely felt diaspora story! Haraam!!

    It’s very hard to make a choice to to call a place home. Some do it with compunction, some suffer tiny paper cuts every single day. I wish Taymiya and many others like us good luck in navigating this road.

  10. Sadaf on Feb 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Haven’t read such a balanced, emotive piece on Pakistan in ages. Painful but wonderful! One can so relate, with each and every scenario that she has depicted. Very few ppl understands that ‘ache in the heart’, and how sick you get of those around u bashing Pak…while you can’t defend… because at times there is nothing that you can say, no excuse you can give…and sometimes you know the bashing is because they love the country too and expect it to be so much better. And you can see each and every point of view whether it is ultra-religious or ultra-liberal and you keep on vacillating between cynicism and idealism and well you know….
    Thank you for such a wonderful piece!

  11. Said Chaudhry on Feb 2013 at 3:49 PM

    Wonderful essay. Have been in the same shoes as yourself. Read my take on my time in Lahore. “There is a secret in Lahore” http://saidcanblog.blogspot.ca/2010/12/there-is-secret-in-lahore.html

  12. shivam on Feb 2013 at 4:44 PM

    What a killer piece of writing. Even though I’m Hindu and Indian and diasporic, the reflection of life here in the bay vs life in the motherland resonated powerfully. I completely understand the issues of identity that assault those of us with feet in two lands, and how there is no one place to call home–too brown for america, and too western for the ancestral home.

    Powerful.

  13. ChiPak on Feb 2013 at 11:44 PM

    Nicely written, deeply felt, occasionally a bit obscure, but I enjoyed it. I also find it interesting that you and your sister are named after 13th century Muslim jurists. To those that use Pakistan and Islam to wound you, use your name(s) to recount the glorious intellectual and theological tradition you have inherited. It ought to be enough.

  14. Mike Cope on Feb 2013 at 1:58 AM

    Great piece! Put me in mind of Akram Kahn’s wonderful dance piece, “Desh”.

  15. olaki on Feb 2013 at 2:07 AM

    this is a moving article but in this entire article, there is no sense of how much pain your country and its policies have caused others. the mumbai attacks, the involvement in afghanistan – these have destroyed lives. murdered innocent children. your pain is understandable but the pain of the others who frisk you, send drones to your country is also equally real and deep

  16. gurjit singh cheema on Feb 2013 at 4:19 AM

    A delightful and heartwarming essay. Although I’m niether Muslim, nor from Pakistan but one of those guys from the wrong side of the line, I can empathise with you. No place like home. And it certainly puts Pakistan in perspective. No place is as bad as they make it out to be in the papers.

  17. Nigel Foster on Feb 2013 at 5:35 AM

    Beautifully written. Thank you – Andre Aciman has a rival! Perhaps only a small consolation, but I’ve found that America in general can be as ignorant – often unpleasantly so – about my own country, England, as about Pakistan. I’ve lived in the Middle East, working both with and for Pakistani companies and hope to have a better understanding of your country than the average person. If I may a few brief points, hopefully not too obvious. Pakistan is still a very young country, a fact easily forgotten given the antiquity of those societies and beliefs that constitute it; unrealistic to expect an adolescent to behave like an adult. That isn’t meant as a slighting comment, only that Pakistan has yet to develop those societal checks and balances, institutions and controls, that make a country viable for all its citizens. And can any country really be founded on a religious principle? My own experience is that Pakistani people identify more closely with their home Province, their clan or tribe and with their own school of Islam, than with the country as a whole. In other words, their sense of nationhood is based on personal values and loyalties that may coincide with others, but are just as likely to conflict. Pakistan now seems less like a country than a collection of fiefdoms, all with different agendas and not even one school of Islam becoming totally dominant will ever unite them. My overall point is that Partition was a mistake. Sadly, I can’t think of the alternative. Thanks again for the beautifully written essay, both a joy to read and very informative. The link came from 3quarksdaily.com.

  18. Utkarsh on Feb 2013 at 11:07 AM

    So moving and beautiful. Frankly, I feel a lot of that pain for the country I’ve unofficially disowned, India, because though it may not have a violent image internationally, I do not see it having a good future with all the fundamentalism and corruption.

  19. Bilal Abbas on Feb 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Beautiful and sad, haven’t read something of this depth in a long time. I went to Lahore for college too, the experience was truly amazing. Best wishes in SFC

  20. Elavame on Feb 2013 at 3:23 AM

    I felt like you did. And I came back to my country. And it was the best decision I ever made.
    When I read this, all the sickening memories of having to defend my Pakistan against callous intrusive questioning in America came back and I am so glad I am not there anymore. I feel so protective about it, it was like every little cell was screaming each time anyone bashed Pakistan. I was sick of it, it was too traumatic. So I left. For a place that is like no other on this Earth: my Pakistan.

  21. Maddie on Feb 2013 at 7:10 AM

    This was absolutely beautiful and captured the entirety of the essence of being a Pakistani abroad. It feels like loving Pakistan is taboo, and admitting to that love makes you certifiably insane. But I love my Pakistan, even if she is the secret lover that might break my heart.
    Thank you for this, I literally have tears rolling uncontrollably down my face because every word brought back such bittersweet memories.
    Oh my Pakistan, I miss you so

  22. Aditya Dev Sood on Feb 2013 at 9:54 AM

    It’s been several days I’ve been reading your piece, only to realise its tropologies have infected my imagination, colouring the everyday things I talk and think about with such cadences as wafa and baemani and muhabbat. Extraordinary. Not that old-time love, but something deeper and even more painful.

  23. Madeeha on Feb 2013 at 9:29 PM

    It’s hard, being caught between extremes. But am glad you’ve come away with the Pakistan that you can own :)

  24. Farhana on Feb 2013 at 12:12 AM

    MashaAllah, wonderfully written. I am a Kashmiri living away from home and can relate to every bit so well. So many similar feelings , maybe more intense at times. What impresses me is the way you writers can put thoughts into words so beautifully. I’m sure there are millions across the globe who have similar feelings, but don’t have the ability/means to express. Your contribution to their feelings is invaluable!! God bless.

  25. Syed Faisal imam on Feb 2013 at 6:58 AM

    You are Pakistan,the Pakistan you left when you came to the U.S.
    Pakistan is changing and fast . Dimensions are changing and values are changing.
    Two factors,population and lack of resources, especially management.
    The land is there, the history is there; we are not able to gel it together to design our future.

  26. Summer on Feb 2013 at 5:23 PM

    Thank you for sharing your story. It was beautifully written. I go to school at San Francisco State University where there are many students from other countries. They too experience the complexity from being from misunderstood places while trying to form identities of their own. It’s a lot to ask from a 20 year old, to process international relations, family pressures, and the full time struggle of surviving an underfunded and crumbling public university system. We all have to be as kind as we can to each other to thrive and grow a better future.

  27. Omar Chughtai on Feb 2013 at 1:00 AM

    Thank you so much for writing this. I can relate with this hopeless love of Pakistan.

    I especially loved how you didn’t paint Pakistan as the opposite of the headlines. Pakistan is difficult, complex, scary, and home all at the same time.

    Thank you again for writing this brilliant piece.

  28. Anjum Hameed on Feb 2013 at 1:43 AM

    I could not figure out the point of this article. The very fact that the lady went back to the US, and was easily able to, shows the strength of her feelings for her motherland. I have lived abroad for 23 years, but I have never felt shy of proclaiming where I come from to foreigners. The look on their faces gives me satisfaction, they should know that our country doesn’t only exist of hijabs, or AK-47′s, or unkempt beards. I have never, and will never claim to be anything but, even though I now hold a passport that does not allow me dual nationality. I am extremely proud of this present passport, I will fight for the rights of the country it represents as is my sworn duty. But I will never be embarrassed to belong to where I was born, grew up, and what gave me my identity. “Pakistan” is what gave us the means and rights to go live abroad, study there, be what we are. Those with the beards and “Allah hafiz” issues are only representative of a fraction of a percentage of the country, as are those of us English educated, and bred ones. Both sides are polarized into believing they are right, while our words and deeds plunder the rest of the nation. I will discuss my birth country with love and affection with anyone, and if the argument gets heated, I will probably yell back. But I will never feel the need to shy away from it.

  29. Habib Qureshi on Feb 2013 at 3:48 AM

    I absolutely loved your article. And it makes me feel jealous and guilty. Jealous because I have never actually lived in Pakistan, but rather visit it rarely. Like one night stands, where the experience is fantastic but you have a guilt that you never really got to know the person. And guilty because now I don’t care to be honest. I used to read up on Pakistani politics and actively engage in conversations but like you, I live in a city where Pakistan-bashing is the norm & I got tired of the my constant yet feeble attempts at trying to explain to people how I think I might have just fallen in love with my one night stand. Now, I just don’t and can’t care. I am glad you feel this way about your home country.

    And I hope I do too.

    Regards,
    Habib Q

  30. israr on Feb 2013 at 6:31 AM

    many of the feelings explained in this articles are mine!! but i couldn’t write them down! brilliant one!

  31. Saeed Akhtar Malik on Feb 2013 at 12:46 PM

    M speechless. My eyes welled up number of times overwhelmed by the romanticism about Pakistan. Its rare that words fail me as they do right now. I just cant think or write enough. I know its far short of what I would have liked to offer, just not enough, but still, “My salute to my compatriot”.

  32. chris on Feb 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Comeuppance for Pakistanis. Pakistanis are pretending to be Indians In western countries and even in Afghanistan. Indians their sworn enemies! What a rotten, 2 faced people! The world knows about your realities now. After failing to bleed India through thousand cuts you low lives have been reduced to pretending that you are Indians! What indignity and insult! After trying to demonize Hindus, it is you who are demons and evil in eyes of whole world! Shame on you.

  33. Faheem on Feb 2013 at 4:35 AM

    This article is bullshit to begin with. The author writes she presented both Pakistani and USA passports to the immigration officer at Karachi. Then later on she states that she was born in USA. Thats a contradiction and it seems like this article is made up. I have lived in USA for 20 yrs and I dont know a single Pakistani american who was born in US who went thru the trouble of getting a Pakistani passport.

  34. Laiq Chughtai on Feb 2013 at 4:47 PM

    I hope more of us can come to terms with the entirety of Pakistan, all its lows and the highs, the retrogressive fundamentalism of conservatives and liberals alike and the sublime compassion of its people that makes life possible for its teeming masses. Only someone who has lived there knows Pakistan, and only someone who has left, truly appreciates it…

  35. mahmood anwar on Feb 2013 at 11:45 AM

    I started reading it while working late but couldn’t finish it. But it was on mind throughout the night & this morning, until I finished reading it just now. Very well written, thought provoking and deeply inspiring for people like me who have burning desire to go back home & “do something for the motherland”. It only added to my conviction and thank you Ms Zaman for that.

  36. tariq on Feb 2013 at 4:08 AM

    I am pleasantly amazed to see the love of Pakistan in so many hearts .. all well educated and well versed in the worldly affairs.

    I can some how feel what you feel in the Pakistan bashing sessions but I would suggest two things here
    * Do we justify as why we love someone? In love, you look at your beloved beauty and rest is out of focus. Tell them that I love Pakistan out of no reason and I refuse to give justify various acts/issues etc.
    * Fault finding is easy. Small people do it. We should sympathize with such people for being the inconspicuous specs of dust in the whole of humanity. Great people find positives and help shine & fly. You and most here are Great. Salute to all.

  37. Taymiya R. Zaman on Feb 2013 at 3:40 AM

    I never imagined that “Not Talking About Pakistan” would reach so many people; nor did I anticipate the emotion it has generated, of which much appears to stem from a sense of recognition–of being Pakistani and feeling similarly beleaguered, or of being someone all too familiar with love in other contexts! Thank you all truly for your thoughtful and generous responses to this essay.

  38. I Wish on Feb 2013 at 3:48 PM

    Beautiful article. No one else to blame. We Pakistanis have made Pakistan what it is. The present by their presence and the absent by their absence. I have been absent since 1969, but Pakistan continues to dwell in the heart. The heart sinks when Pakistan sinks which is most of the time. Not much to make the heart soar, a lot to make it sore. Same with Islam. We Muslims have made Islam into a sorry caricature of what it is; a great, liberating world-view which is meant to bring happiness and peace to people, not small-mindedness, intolerance, nit-picking, and suffering. Pakistan is an unfulfilled potential, hence the pain

  39. Enjum on May 2013 at 12:13 AM

    Thanks for a lovely essay. I’m sixty five and have lived with nostalgia for a large part of my life. In Pakistan in the fifties and sixties I longed to get away from the limitations of my society (and it was FREE SOCIETY in those days!), then I moved to Europe and learnt about their admirable preservation of their heritage, went back to Pakistan, had a blast like Taymiya working there, then migrated to America and felt nostalgic about Pakistan and Europe, then: uff, I grew up and stopped sitting between two chairs or driving with my eyes on the rear view mirror. I look ahead and enjoy everything around me: weather, people, food, culture, whatever… a place is what you make of it, period

  40. ikhlas fatima on May 2013 at 1:50 PM

    Very emotional article. My experience is a bit different, though similar feeling. When people learn where I am from they avoid discussing politics, any politics, even current affairs where these days Pakistan surfaces all the time. Sometimes I feel that they are waiting for me to leave so they can talk more openly. Sometimes they can be overly patronizing. Either way you know you are being singled out as an outsider.

  41. Shen on May 2013 at 5:00 PM

    Taymiya, thank you for writing such a brilliant essay. This resonates with me on so many levels – living in the US and the UK, moving back to Pakistan, then getting disillusioned and moving back to Dubai. Khadija and I have had the same discussions that you and she had, particularly about the increasing polarization of society – on being too conservative for the so-called liberals, and too liberal for the “conservatives”. One winds up being a stranger in one’s own land.

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