Five years ago on Christmas, I was at a bowling alley in Karachi and saw a boy dressed like Santa Clause walking around, which I thought was weird. Then my friend turned to me, "Merry Christmas! It must be party time in the States, huh?"“Umm…” I had to think for a second. Coming from the U.S., I was an automatic expert on American culture, but I had never actually celebrated Christmas in the States. No Muslim-American I knew celebrated Christmas—the ultimate Christian holiday. “It’s actually more of a family holiday,” I informed him.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I’m back in Karachi. I’ve missed it a lot since I left in August. But this time I’m not seeking constant travel and adventure like before, I’m more curious about Karachi itself and what it’s like to live here.
It was hard to leave Pakistan this summer. Even when I got homesick, it was because I was in Lahore and missed Karachi (sorry Lahoris but Karachi rocks). I ended up extending my trip by months and weeks. I didn’t book my ticket till the day before I had to leave, or risk being disowned by my parents.
You would think my parents would love that I wanted to be in Pakistan. After all, they did try to move here when I was nine, in an attempt to save me and my siblings from becoming “typical American teenagers.” But we moved back to the U.S. because security was so bad (early 1990s political violence) and now Pakistan more or less freaks them out like it would any American parent.
My friend Zaineb from New York City was in a similar situation. When the banking industry nosedived, she randomly decided to spend the summer in Pakistan. She ended up loving it so much she had “World War III” with her parents to convince them to let her stay here for good. By the end of the summer, both our parents were calling us and telling us Pakistan was dangerous while we rolled our eyes and haggled for extra weeks and days.
But I’m back now and things are different this time—I’m used to the security situation, having a driver, and wearing kameez shalwar. I’m still a wide-eyed American as far as my family is concerned, but to me things feel more familiar than foreign. Now I’m just curious to see how this month turns out: was the Karachi I discovered just a summer illusion or a city to live, work, and love like any other city in the world, and just one great untold story?