Dreaming for Pakistan.


“Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” (Gloria Steinem)

Perhaps in the wonderfully international world of today, belonging to something is not an important concept for the majority of people. Maybe roots, country-love, feeling of belonging and ownership aren’t what they used to be. In some ways they are better, more people oriented. And in other ways, they have corroded to mean nothing at all.

I still prefer to believe that I live here in Pakistan out of choice, out of love. That I feel more myself here than anywhere else and I am proud of it. It is not a decision borne out of ignorance or lack of facilities or a dearth of travel but one of the deep rooted contentment I feel here. And tomorrow if I blown up by a bomb or shot with one of the many stray bullets doing their rounds, please pass on the word that I died happiest, in a city, in a country I loved with all my heart.

I have had the most wonderful years here, and despite this post sounding  like a eulogy for some reason, I sincerely hope to have many more. I have done all the things one can do here, been to school, fallen in love, snuck out, picnics and parties and friends and weddings and movies and coffees and I take complete unabashed credit for all the social progress we see around us. I have had a good, no, great life here. Yes I have also hurt at all the digressive damaging behaviour and politics and hated on the people killing the spirit. I have also shouted and hoped for all the best in rallies. I have never felt quite so invested with my heart before, unless you count my kids. Of course there is that odd day when I speculate the dark dismal times around us, and I think perhaps we will be better off somewhere else. I listen to the wise old people talk about the end of things as they were, and I want to not do this to my kids. But then I hear the older wiser ones talk of countries going through painful times as part of their growth process and I feel proud of Pakistan for persevering through and that too is a lesson I want for my kids.

For some (people say deluded) reason I cannot see the overwhelmingly bad alone. I read the papers, follow articles, bloggers, tweeters- I am connected to reality but somehow I still don’t see it as all dark. People say it takes the horror of something happening to you or your loved one to see how bad things are and perhaps they are right and I have been lucky, but I still, maybe naively, don’t see how I would blame the country itself for that. I have tried to see it from the jaded eyes and the cynical angry ones too- it simply doesn’t work for me. I function better and more productively for us all when I have hope.

The thing about feeling something is your own is that giving up is very hard. And for better or for worse I feel this is my own. So every road that gets made, I send a mental pat on the back to the people who made it and for every paan that is spit on the road I sent a evil eye glare to the person who spat it. I hate the people destroying the once tolerant state of mind with all my heart and soul and I wish every curse upon them. Equally I am proud of those who haven’t lost faith, who see this as a process of sorts, as a labour pain before some miracle delivers us from all this nonsense. What am I doing in all this? I am believing. I am standing by and I am believing because that’s what you do for your own, no matter what.


But why.

“It’s come at last”, she thought, “the time when you can no longer stand between your children and heartache.” Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Trying to explain to a 4 year old the intricacies in simple language of what makes a relationship can be the most dizzying most repetitive ride in the world. Our first year in Big School was been a resounding success. Nadi did things that took my breath away mainly because I was still looking at him with preschooler mom eyes. The fact is the summer between preschool and nursery, magic happens and suddenly there is a proper little boy in place of your baby. Fully armed with my insider knowledge that Nadi “takes a while to adjust” we walked him to his classroom, looking perfect in his new uniform. I looked at him apprehensively. He shoved both hands in his shorts’ pockets half turned, smiled, said “Bye Mama” and sauntered casually into class in an almost debonair manner, pausing for a second to check out some puzzles on the shelf. I remember coming home in shock at my candid dismissal.

Cue month 4 or 5 into classes and regular school life, I start hearing of one girl’s name appear more frequently in conversation. It’s a new name and I’m intrigued. Nadi takes his time with people generally and for someone to have clicked for him in this spontaneous manner is interesting to me. “She won’t play with me” Nadi explained, a bit lost and sad. “Why doesn’t she play with me?” Despite my promises to let playground issues resolve themsleves, my radar goes up and i spend a few weeks observing and assessing the situation from a distance. “Nadi,” I try explaining to him, “she likes playing with different things. And you can’t make someone play what you want them to play” “But why, Mama?” he asks simply. “My game is fun too- it’s called running.” “I know Nadi, but she likes the sandpit” “But that’s boring” he claims.

Watching your child bewildered at someone not liking them or not wanting to play with them is an odd helpless feeling. Especially when you know your kid likes them enough to be hurt by it. Part of me wanted to go upto the little person and say “Hey. What’s wrong with you? My kid’s awesome! Play with him” and the other part of me, the newer side I was a bit taken aback to discover, said, out loud to Nadi, “You have other friends who love playing your game, why not focus on them.?” “Doesn’t she like me, Mama?” The million dollar question. The thing is, I, from my vast playground experience, by now had figured out that she likes him and even wants to play with him but she has stuff going on that makes her want to do different things. But this isn’t a sitcom and they aren’t teenagers yet. Thankfully the wisdom in learning to let things be pays off and somehow Nadi has made some kind of peace with the fact that this girl, no matter how much he wants to be friends with her, will exhibit mixed feelings with him.


Last week, as we talk about going back to school and on being even more “big” now, he suddenly asks, “Do you think she has grown up now and is not so silly anymore?” So carefully masking any giggles or concern, I ask casually, “Silly? Why would you say she was silly?” “Because Mama, one day she would say I am your friend and the next day she would say no you’re not. Isn’t that silly?” “Umm yes, well that’s not very grown up. Maybe because she isn’t 5 yet?” Being 5 is everything to us right now. He nods wisely and says, “Yes, you are right, she is not 5 yet. But I am. We had my party na?” Playground relationships are messy, be warned.

Yes, this broke my heart a little, because I imagine it broke Nadi’s heart a little to not be friends with someone when in his life he thought all it took to be friends was to want to be friends. I wish I could stop this tide from starting- this ebb and flow of friends, heartbreak, love, disappointment that is going to come into his life. I pray all he finds himself surrounded with all is life are people who want to be around him. But secretly I am perversely relieved too, that my serious, sensitive, nutty, sparkly eyed little boy who has the capacity to be emotionally over-involved into his own processes of figuring things out, has managed to cross this tiny little starters hurdle  on his own. I am happy, if heavy-hearted that this makes him a tinier bit more equipped for the stuff up ahead which will hurt and ache and pain as much as it will be exciting and growing and fun, but more than anything else, I feel useless because all I will ever really be able to do, is be there.