Sunday, January 23

Dil Dil, Pakistan

I think I'm quite lucky in that I'm able to visit Pakistan so relatively often. We tend to visit every two years for around the same number of weeks (which just happens to be my own personal limit), and as such our experience of going back home can be quite different to those of others. Oh and that reminds me: nothing much tends to happen during my trips back so unlike with my other holidays there won't be any daily coverage. I know how some of you can't stand those.

Essentially it comes down to training. Like most people who were force fed the subcontinent during the school summer holidays, I had a horrid time over there when I was a kid. It was unclean, I couldn't talk to anyone, the food sucked... and of course there was the toilet issue. To be fair I had it better than most; most of our time was spent between Karachi and Hyderabad which were established and quite cosmopolitan compared to the villages and pinds my friends had to endure. Still, despite our relative comfort we did still have the infamous water and power cuts, and still had to swallow what seemed like deliberately awful tasting antimalarials each day.

During university, trips did become more scarce but they also still happened. Eventually as family migrated to Karachi we stopped visiting Hyderabad altogether which made the whole thing more straightforward. The standard of life in Karachi improved over time while my own fussiness and impatience reduced with maturity, and all of a sudden I found myself actually enjoying my trips to Pakistan. Since graduating I've been at least once every two to three years. Relationships with family also matured as I discovered that it wasn't my language skills that were the problem but my inability to relate to them. I learned to adapt to and tolerate the instability of utilities (power cuts are now scheduled which makes things easier), and even squatting became second nature.

But overall trips more or less follow the same pattern. There's always a wedding or something to attend, after which the majority of time is spent doing the rounds and attending dawats (or dinner invitations). My father has twelve siblings, each of whom insist on feeding us - although unlike other people these are a pleasure to attend and not a chore at all. As time goes on the family of each sibling grows, as does the dynamics within, so it's always fun to catch up (I've given up trying to remember all the names of my nieces and nephews though). They also appreciate the trouble taken to get to see them so are always welcoming and comforting.

Next up, there's the clothes shopping. As some of you know, the majority of my clothes are Asian, and since we visit so often they all more or less are bought and tailored during trips to Pakistan. There are also other random things going on that never usually happen, but I'll talk about some of those in a separate post.

For those who ask how dangerous it is to visit Karachi, well to be honest there's never been a right time to go for a decade now. So yes, I guess we do take a risk, but as with most places of this type there are various ways to adapt to and mitigate those risks - I don't travel alone or too late, I stay away from obvious hot spots and leverage my innate pindu-ness (which most in the UK have witnessed first hand) to lower the chance of a kidnapping. That said, we did have an earthquake this time around which I couldn't really do anything about; having said that even though we were awake at the time we didn't notice anything happening (and I know I should be thankful but a part of me is a little disappointed at that). Oh and there were around five or six political assassination in Karachi during my stay there - once again, not that I noticed.

But still two weeks is and probably always will be my limit. This is less to do with Pakistan and more to do with homesickness, even though I do feel more at home in Karachi than anywhere else other than London. And so I don't leave with a heavy heart; instead I know I'll be back there sooner or later; not because I have to, but because I want to.


  1. Sangeeta10:42

    Oh, so you didnt go and get fixed up.

  2. I wish I had 12 siblings!

    And I slept through the earthquake.