Friday, January 7

Going Home: A Blessing, Not A Curse

So here I am, packed and ready to embark on a two week break to Pakistan. No, I'm not going for any particular reason; we visit every two years or so and it just happens to be that time again. But still, I am looking forward to catching up with family and just spending some quality time in Karachi.

But more than that, I'm also looking forward to visit for another reason. And so this is where the clich├ęd lecture begins. Apologies in advance.

You see, as patronising as it may sound to my friends and family over there, the biggest and most valuable thing I bring back from my regular trips to Pakistan is what I believe to be a good sense of grounding. Yes, I realise that I sound exactly like our fathers did back in the 80s and 90s, but it's only over time that you realise exactly why they wanted us to retain links with our second homes. Of course part of it was due to tradition and duty and a lot of it was due to family, but I think our parents also wanted us to see exactly how lucky we are.

While people over there are putting up with water and power cuts, we start citing our human rights when our broadband goes down. Corruption is institutional and indeed a tool to survive, while we lament after we miss out on a killer designer label sale. People over there celebrate when they finally get a television on which to watch the news; here we do the same but with a fancy handbag or watch (one of which would probably pay for fifty televisions). Some of my own family work over 12 hours a day; not for a promotion or bonus but just to hold on to a job that pays just enough to feed their families.

But the lesson here isn't to be thankful. I like to think that most people are grateful for what they have. No, the real point is that despite all these things they all still seem much happier than many of those who live under better circumstances. And bringing this a little closer to home there does seem to be a correlation between those who, like me, make regular visits to the home of their parents or grandparents and the content way in which they live their life over here. The priorities, energy and focus of these people all seem fundamentally different. Whether one causes the other, I'm not quite sure.

Of course we should all strive for better and I'm also not suggesting anyone to artificially resist the opportunities and facilities we have here out of protest. But it does raise an eyebrow when people with much less are much more content than we are. We're blessed that we have such an accessible way to see this stuff close up, and personally I think it's a mistake that so many of us pass up the opportunity.

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