Editor’s Note: The views expressed here are those of the author’s and don’t necessarily represent or reflect the views of MangoBaaz.
By: Helena Won
When I was six, my world history class began our section on Asia and being Asian American, I was excited. I expected to read about the Ming dynasty of China, the Edo period of Japan, and the Joseon dynasty of Korea. What I didn’t expect was to read about a fledgling country that had history with an ancient civilization called Mohenjo Daro. I realized that even in my young age, I wanted to visit this country and see it’s history. Through a distant friend ten years ago, this dream became a reality.
Many people like to ask me what I think of Pakistan.
My Pakistani friends want to hear encouraging words about their homeland. I regularly get comments such as:
“Have you seen the new roads in Lahore? Impeccable!”
“Yaar, you should totally go deep sea fishing in Karachi since you like the ocean.”
My non-Pakistani friends want to hear if Pakistan is as dangerous as their local news station shows it to be.
Regular comments include:
“Do you wear a burqa?”
“Women are so persecuted there.”
Pakistan has a plethora of good to offer. I have seen students using their free time to set up “free” schools for the less fortunate. I have observed those affected by polio taking their children to polio stations in order for their little ones to have access to the vaccine. On one of my journeys, I had the honor of watching a network of individuals giving marital advice, sexual health education, and free bridal services to less fortunate brides. The average Pakistani person I have met on my travels is always encouraging me to break bread with them, whether they have enough for their next meal or not.
That’s very telling of a nation’s character.
That being said, I’ve also experienced some negative elements on my travels.
About two years ago, I had a run in with Pakistan’s infamous “VIP” culture. I was scheduled to see a pro-women’s education NGO, hoping to volunteer there whenever I visited Pakistan. A pseudo-Jackie Kennedy Onassis decided she wanted my parking spot because it was hot and she was high up in the NGO. She sent her government paid police escort to “rectify” the situation. Batons were smashed on my rental car and needless to say, I hightailed it out of there.
My acquaintances ask if these instances deter me from visiting Pakistan. No, absolutely not. You have to remember that the very fabric of Pakistan is unique. This is a nation that gave rise to female leaders such as Fatima Jinnah, philanthropists such as Abdul Sattar Edhi, and scientists such as Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. For every bad seed, there are five out there doing good and that is what draws me back time and time again.
People want imagery that is either putrid or pure when talking about Pakistan.
The reality is, it’s neither. Just like every other country in the world, there are areas of progress and areas in need of progression. In the past decade, I have grown fluent in Urdu, have seen the devastation suicide attacks cause on the population, and have seen a nation fight back against terrorists. My experiences have only helped me respect the Pakistanis that fight for their nation’s future.
Until next time, Pakistan.
About the Author: Helena is an indie American Author, activist and a nomad.
Cover Image via: Sophee Smiles