I was recently very humbled when a friend of mine wrote a beautiful piece for me, explaining her thoughts on my passion for the country I now call home. I don’t know how else to show my gratitude for this deeply touching piece other than to respond in kind, through written word, and by expressing my love for Pakistan and my life in Pakistan.
Pakistan, and particularly Lahore, make me so so happy and bring me so much peace. This is not to say that one can’t find these beautiful fragments of life elsewhere; some may well encounter them wherever you look. However I have found them in my new home of Pakistan and it is my hope that this love letter to Pakistan goes some way to explaining why I have chosen to reside here.
Pakistan and Pakistanis are imbued with an effortless commitment to extract the most joyful fun out of life with careless abandon. Simple, unadulterated, uncynical fun – truly living to work, instead of working to live. Life can be pleasurable, and it is deeply.
For me, life in Pakistan means many things, and my definition of life in Pakistan is coloured by moments and memories that I revel in. Walking to the juice bar for falsa juice with Ali at 2am, then returning to work on some photography or painting in his studio. Cruising down Ferozepur Road with Aehsun on the bike, feeling so so free. Early summer morning swims at the tubewell with Moazam as the sun rises, then going for mangoes or some other delicious fresh fruit; vivid memories to last a lifetime.
Talking society and culture with like-minded souls with Nawaz, Sohaib or Azmat over chai, either at home, or at Punjab University. Lolling around, or more frequently rolling around in hysterics, with Waqas, GM, Aaqib and Ateeq. Shopping for beautiful clothes with Awais, then wearing them to a function that defines elegance, opulence and style.
The distinct seasons, the subtle shifts in which are celebrated, and define the tone of the day. The predictable weather, the endless, sun-soaked summer days. Standing on the rooftop with Saadi watching the dramatic electrical storms roll in before the monsoon, and the celebratory atmosphere that ensues after the first giant drops of rain. The epic sunsets which follow the beautiful days, whatever the season.
The lonely quiet on the roads during Jummah, getting excited together about Ramadan, and the pure elation that surrounds our festivals.
A natural understanding of the subtle and sublime pleasures in life, like comfortable clothes, a cool breeze catching my kurta as I walk through the summer humidity. Chai on a rainy monsoonal afternoon. Of true friendship and the deep bonds that entwine certain souls. Instead of an endless and extremely unfulfilling pursuit of “designer” fun, a time honoured knowledge of the simple and sensual pleasures of life.
An understanding softness, sensitivity, intimacy and loyalty in friendship which I understand, long since spoiled in the west by cynicism, social pressures to conform, and the superficial anxieties of life.
Fresh, delicious, wholesome, unpretentious food – chicken dishes fresh out of the pan, hot and smoky naan, lassi in the morning, and satisfying fresh juices or refreshing mocktails in the evening (and no need to worry if they’re alcohol-free).
The sense that as a community, we are working towards something. The often disciplined struggle, and the joy of accomplishing something which brings a contented meaning to life.
A superlative tradition of creativity, based in the condition of the contemporary Muslim, and drawing on centuries of history and culture, that seems to unfold before my eyes and invites me to be a part of it; the day-to-day value placed on poetry, visual art and musical expression and artistic beauty.
The fact that all of this takes place within a framework of cultural and social norms that I subscribe, if not always adhere to.
Living in Pakistan makes me the happiest I have ever been, and for that I’m truly grateful. When I think about how blissfully content I am here, tears well up inside me – I never knew I could be this at peace.
Lying in bed listening to music, drifting off into a beautiful slumber to dream about what tomorrow holds, and knowing that this never has to end. Pakistan gives me the opportunity to be myself, in my own skin, and to be happy. And I have fallen head over heels, in storybook-fabled love with it.
Allah ka shukar hai