Once there was home…

Malam Jabba, Pakistan (I visited in 1992) photo © Copyright by Khadija Yousaf

Unlike most people who come to the UAE to make a living, some of us Pakistanis are the most unique, people like me who have been living outside of Pakistan for the past 43 odd years (some six or seven spent back home). That’s four decades and a lifetime of living away.

I’m sure it’s hard to imagine for most what that feels like. It’s unlike most Pakistanis who live here for some years, but there are thousands like me who have lived away from home, just far too long. When that happens, ‘where you belong’ becomes hard to understand for one’s self and even harder to explain to others.

There are some idiosyncrasies that keep you from wanting to go back. We came here way too long ago, decades ago. We have seen our country go through abnormal hell, hell that doesn’t want to seem to end. We are used to a largely ‘system-first’ (extravagant at times) lifestyle that works one particular way and it suffices our needs. We’ve fallen in love with an environment that promotes Islam and it’s culture and see it in practice in public and elsewhere. We’ve lived in a society where its leaders welcome diversity, promote love and tolerance. We’re spoilt, we’re hemmed in our ways and some of us like me, are at a point in time in our lives where ‘back home’ we’ll be utterly irrelevant. That’s a very few of me types.

الحَمْد لله

Back home has never been back home for too long and there are too many stories and experiences that keep me from wanting to go back.

The usual call from family and friends is to come see them, to enjoy, to eat without measure, to celebrate Eid, to see the country, to keep in touch with our roots, to let our children know where they come from and to know the place where if one day things went wrong, we may have to go and live. It’s a poor sell really.

Home is where the heart belongs and home is where in my opinion your basics are sorted out for you, where there’s basic governance, where you have basic infrastructure, basic functioning municipalities and basic amenities in cities, basic security, basic livability. Fresh air to breathe? Just basic, nothing fancy. I’m happy with basic.

UAE offers too much in terms of basic, it’s just too damn polished, exceptional to live. As for Karachi where I was born, it’s a mess right now, an utter mess that requires its own post, one that is harshly brewing up in my mind. Just hang in there it will come.

Suffice to say, back home Karachi is unlivable on many levels and it offers poor living conditions. It’s worse today than it was during the years I lived there, many many years ago. If you know anyone there who are still in their right mind, they’ll tell you.

I haven’t visited for eight years now. 10 years away from home? BIG GRIN – I see it as one of those things where you want to make it 10 and everyone goes ‘wow’ that’s a long time, ‘aya karo’ (hopeful way of asking someone to visit), one of those things you want as a badge in your collection.

Do I care not having visited? There were times I wanted to, yet most times something or the other kept me away. Something still does. May be I’m at that stage of my life when you just want to leave to never return, you’ve had enough. Somewhat like Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah when he left only to be called back by Allama Iqbal. The analogy doesn’t hold because unlike our Muhammad Ali Jinnah who had to head back to do what he eventually made happen, we have an excellent Prime Minister now in place, who’s trying to reset the entire nation. Besides that, who am I?

Once there was home, and then we left.