The Indian Partition: the division of the Indian subcontinent which led to the single largest migration in human history, millions of muslims trekked to Pakistan, while millions of Hindus and Sikhs headed in the opposite direction.Millions of families were effected and mine was just one of them.
My Great-grand mother and her five little Dhawan-lets fled across the border on one of those bloody trains in the early days of the partition, leaving behind the land of my forefathers. I grew up on stories of my Great-grandmothers in Lahore and Jhelum.I think that’s where my life long fascination with all things Pakistani began.
In my first year at University, I made my first Pakistani friend, Madeeha Khan. Calling her a friend today seems so wrong. It’s too small a word to explain what she means to me. She’s my soul sister, she’s my other half, she understands me above all others. Knowing Madeeha has enriched my life in ways I can’t explain, she taught me what it means to be a friend and what it means to have a friend. Madeeha was/is my window into Pakistan, through her I made many more Pakistani friends.
In December 2014, I was invited to Pakistan to attend two weddings and it just was my grandest adventure! For those who don’t know, it very difficult for an Indian to travel to Pakistan, our countries are extremely hostile towards each other and Indian tourists are treated with extreme suspicion by the Pakistani High Commission( and vice versa) .
Anyhow, with great diplomatic efforts of my friends in high places.( For Real!)I got my Pakistani Visa stamped and I was on my way to Karachi, two days after the 2014 Peshawar School Massacre. Suffice to say, my parents were in a tizzy and but I was resolute.
Landing in Karachi was a strange experience, I felt like I had landed somewhere in India in the 1980s. The airport seemed to be in a time-warp, but I sailed through quickly because my friends in high places had got me something called “Protocol”, that’s basically an airport Security person taking you through immigration and security real quick, like a Diplomat.
People ask me what was Pakistan like?
The only thing I can think of saying is: it’s warm. Pakistan is this warm country, with the most welcoming and courteous people. Living in India, their is so much hatred against Pakistanis, I went in thinking it would be the same from their side. But it was just the opposite. They were warm, welcoming and exceptionally happy to have me there 🙂
So what did I really enjoy doing in Pakistan?
First and foremost, I met Mads again after 10 long months. We were ecstatic to be together.
And of course the amazing festivities of two weddings, I found them heartwarmingly similar to ours. Pakistanis and Indian’s both dance to songs from the Hindi Film Industry! (Bollywood as its infamously called)
Then there were the clothes, Pakistani women’s fashion is just something to gawk at. I spent most of my evenings watching all the pretty women waltz around in their wedding finery. Those cuts, those colours on those foreign yet familiar silhouettes. *bliss*
A Pakistani bride is a thing of beauty, here’s a picture of my friend Serena all dressed up for her Nikkah.
Although, I really wanted to get my hands on some Pakistani couture , I was too busy with wedding festivities to really venture out too much.
I did however manage to get my hands on some of those Pakistani Juttis. When I say some, I mean ten! when the shop keeper found out that I was an Indian, he was ecstatic. He ordered tea from a near by tea stall and made me sit while he showed me his “premium collection”. Best Khussa buying experience ever, highly recommend it to anyone visiting Pakistan
Karachi is apparently,the most dangerous city in the world. You can’t just go around driving by yourself. So when the girls and I, went out on the town we were accompanies by a Pathan Gunman. No, really. He’d be ridding shotgun with his piece on display for all and sundry. Apparently, that what keeps the kidnappers at bay?
Ah Pakistan, I do love thee. Can you see how this has been such an adventure?
Then there was the food, just good enough to die for and I nearly did – from diarrhea and the most horrific flu ever.
Unfortunately I caught something really bad, I had a cough, I got fever and I caught a really bad case of diarrhea. I think we never figured out exactly what it was,but I’m guessing it was some sort of stomach bug.
Finally they put me on monster drip and a nebulizer to make sure I have enough energy to make my flight.
My family fondly remembers it as my Talibani Flu.
So how do I feel about Pakistan, in retrospect?
Pakistan felt like homecoming, it felt like my country. The people, felt like my people and for that it will hold a special place in my heart. How does one explain the feeling of traveling to a foreign country and feeling like they’ve come home? It’s the land of my forefathers and I hope to travel back again to explore more of it. InshAllah, I may be given the chance again!
For some inexplicable reason this truck is absolutely symbolic of Pakistan to me. It’s edgy, its ethnic, it’s fiercely vivid. All brightly coloured and proud, at the same time slightly dangerous.
But most of all, its endearing.