When I was younger, I hated everything that came with culture. I didn’t like the food, the clothes, the colour, the traditions, the quirks – just everything that came with being Pakistani. I struggled to reconcile the place I was in to the place where I came from. I can safely say that in retrospect, my adolescence was confusing and tempestuous – among other things. It really was a rollercoaster ride and to be honest, I’m glad it’s over. They say you can’t really have “regrets” as each aspect of your life shapes you into the person you have become – and whilst I completely agree, I know I dislike looking back at it and would never want to “go back” to “simpler times” – although it really is much easier to be worrying about the next exam I’m about to give rather than “what am I going to do now?” which was a painful post-graduation phase that lasted over a year.
In a crazy way, I think it makes sense to have to destroy every notion, every idea, every norm that you were spoon-fed when you were younger, just for you to rediscover it through the eyes of education and personal research to truly claim that as yours to love. This, in addition to the circumstances that aid in your maturity as you grow, is how you really discover yourself. (Because age truly is just a number).
Am I slowly losing you? Lulz. A big part of my life had been mainstream media and peer pressure – which is how all that God-awful negativity for culture was in my life. I later had first-hand experiences with the people, the country, the literature, the arts, the food, the fashion, the language – everything I have come to cherish now more than ever. These were all my own experiences – it was not a warped account of an acquaintance or the Westernised opinion of a misinformed individual – this was all me. I touched upon my culture with my five senses and my perspective did a complete 180.
I am at a place in my life now where I can celebrate all the parts of me – all the “good” that being Pakistani has given me and all the good that being exposed to Arab culture + the diversity in Dubai has given me.
I’ve come to realise just how important it is to embrace all the positive things that my culture gives me. I don’t have to conform to traditions if I don’t like it – I can do things as I please – but if there’s one thing that’s bad, there are two things that are good. There is always good – if only we choose to see.
Simultaneously, it is important to give light to the negative through constructive criticism and awareness. I’m not going to lie and say that I love everything, because I obviously don’t – culture is a flawed collective of norms and traditions that don’t always tie back to logic. But if I dislike something – I don’t have to accept it. I have to be brave enough to speak about it, to act against it. It doesn’t make me less of a Pakistani. It just makes me an informed Pakistani.
I am both – the person who feels at home when I hear Urdu, the person who has an instant affinity with every Pakistani (even more so with the people from her city), and the person who criticizes each and every cultural norm that doesn’t coincide within the vast, simple, easy confines of religion.
I love the vibrant colours that light up the ever-increasing grey of Karachi, the warmth in a stranger’s hospitality, the wonderful coexistence of respect, love and depth of emotion in Urdu, the commercial creativity, and the sheer resilience of my people amongst the myriad of adversities they face in a deteriorating socio-economic environment.
Change begins with one. It begins with me. How else do we alter the cycle for the next generation to come?