Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What's Going on in the Motherland and Why Do I Care Again?

Well, the election results are coming in and it seems that Musharraf's party has lost terribly. This was inevitable with unrigged elections. Which is what seems to have happened. The elections seemed to have been conducted honestly. In a country in which rigging elections is normal, an honest election is unusual. Though I have to admit the idea of Zardari becoming leader of Pakistan makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

It also seems the Islamists and Taliban are terribly losing in the NWFP with a secular party winning. Yay! The last thing Pakistan needs is crazies, who exploit and manipulate people by abusing Islam, leading in any manner. However, from what I have heard this is not so unusual. Perhaps the support for extremists in the NWFP is exaggerated. I always knew that the average Pakistani is a moderate Muslim with no sympathies for the extremists. But to see it demonstrated so loudly is wonderful.

However, as briefly alluded to in my past post, I did wonder why I am so invested in what happens in Pakistan. I only have extended family there, most of whom I don't know well at all. Yet, I have always had a very strong interest in the happenings of that far away land.

Obvious reasons are that my parents come from there. Therefore, growing up I heard about Pakistan constantly. Anytime there was news on TV about Pakistan (which was very rare when I was a child - nothing compared to the current situation) everything would stop to watch the news. If any sound was made a quick "chup!" (be quiet!) would quiet us down. As a child this was very annoying. As an adult, I'm the one to "chup" others.

Another obvious reason is that my mother's side of the family was and is involved in politics. Therefore, information about the Bhuttos (father and daughter), Zia (Satan's spawn from what I understand), Sharif and so on was completely unsolicited but always available. It was something as a child I found drier than uber-steeped tea (how do you like that analogy? - extremely steeped tea is drying on the tongue - really - try it). But somehow all that talk must have permeated my brain and changed the synaptic action in there because as an adult I revel in political talk - of all kinds. And of course, seeing the passion of my grandfather about Pakistani politics rubbed off on my impressionable mind.

Yet, there are other inconspicuous reasons as well. Being someone of Pakistani descent and being someone who was raised in a very small province of Canada remaining abreast of the issues in Pakistan is my way of staying connected to a culture so bitter-sweet to me. Bitter because there is much I don't know, and so much I hate. Sweet, because there is much I understand and much I love. This is my way of being desi as I did not go to cultural shows, did not have South Asian friends, and made infrequent visits to the motherland. Perhaps, I didn't want to admit that I was as desi as I was. Perhaps, because in my mind being desi meant going to cultural shows and hanging out with desi friends and this seemed superficial. Perhaps, I found this superficial because I was envious that they had external opportunities to mold their ethnic identites. Remaining in touch with the political sphere of the country provides me with what I feel to be a serious, in depth way to be desi. Perhaps...so many things...

Regardless, it looks as if things may be changing in Pakistan. Altough, the crowds from the 90's seemed to have returned to the forefront, let's hope that this time they may bring about change. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out.


Jehanzeb said...

It's always good to stay in touch with your ethnic roots. When I was growing up, I tried to distance myself from my Pakistani culture in order to fit in with the dominant culture. But I eventually learned that we are all created a certain way for a reason, and diversity is one of God's signs, so why should we deny it?

Pakistan is where I come from, and I know that all issues around the world should concern us, but I feel I would be neglecting a part of me if I ignored Pakistan. And from personal experience, Desi people who absorb themselves with superficial activities that have nothing to do with social issues in their respective countries, are not really in touch with what goes on back home. So I think you're expressing your Desi-ness in a very healthy way :)

My biggest fear right now is Pakistan becoming another Taliban-ruled Afghanistan or "Islamic Revolutionized" Iran. I believe Pakistanis from all parts of the world can help make a difference and prevent this from happening.

Pedestrian said...

I loved reading your post Farheen ... For all of us who have some sort of tie with "the mother land", but have also grown up far from it ... your words hit home.

I love it when you say: "Bitter because there is much I don't know, and so much I hate. Sweet, because there is much I understand and much I love."

I think there's a great level of pain that comes with that - but also a much greater depth of understanding ... It's as if you have two lenses with which to view the world.

Farheen said...

Thank you pedestrian. I appreciate your comments. I agree with you. We do have two lenses and that can be a gift as well as a curse. Sometimes we see too much; too much information. However, I am still greatful that we do have this ability and wouldn't give it up for anything. I am greatful to God that he created rich opportunities for me. It keeps my thinking in check - I'm not as likely to see things as black OR white but rather both as well as the grey.