Monday, June 16, 2008

bradistan, karachi, khajoor and aasman

After a week’s hiatus I opened the Dawn website and went straight to The Review pages, deliberately avoiding reading about the Afghanistan threats, Asif Zardari and the price hikes. I like to think when you’re feeling feverish God’s okay with the escapism.

The first article I came across was written by an acquaintance who recently, like me, got married and moved abroad (Bradford in her case).

The article was funny, ironic – you’re probably familiar with Bradford’s status as mini-Pakistan or something like that. So more about desi aunties parading in their eighties style shalwar kameez, chandelier earrings, golden heeled Chappals; stores named after Kashmir, and bridal stores called Ladli and Dulhan ka Raj. I can picture a hapless Karachi-born and bred young woman who’s probably never even visited rural Punjab in her life, feeling like she’s flown into Chakwal instead of the United Kingdom.

It’s ironic also because my acquaintance’s consolation for having to leave her family and friends behind, as she says, was a projected freedom from the cultural strains she faced while living in Karachi. Karachi, though probably the least typical city in terms of cultural strains placed on women after the diplomatic hub of Islamabad, is obviously suffocating when compared to the typical western city – which Bradford is oh-so-not. That’s when you use the Urdu adage: Aasman se gira, Khajoor mai atka (atkee in the case of Amna). Bradford may be the closest thing to Pakistan – but it definitely isn’t the closest thing to Karachi.

Here’s the thing: most Americans too often mistake Karachi as the rest of Pakistan. More importantly, as part of the tribal no-man-lands in the videos they keep showing on TV every time they do a story about Pakistan. And then you have to launch into explanations of how you went to a school that forced you to speak in English, you didn’t have to wear Hijab, you Googled, and you watched Lost, too.

Fortunately for me, such interactions have been limited. Although most people whom I do interact with just cannot believe yet that I can speak grammatically correct English within one year of migrating. Maybe after I’ve lived here for a couple of years they’ll just start assuming I came here and learnt it. Maybe.

You can read Amna's article here


amnasia said...

Luckily I will be getting out of the khajoor soon :)

I know what you mean when goras get surprised that you can converse in English. Everyone I've talked to so far has asked me if I am American, because I have not yet mastered the British accent and don't have the typical desi one either.

Fresh Off the Boat: said...

Where are you going to go? Come to amreeka, to DC in particular:p

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