A 'Pakistan Day' For Posterity

A 'Pakistan Day' For Posterity
Yesterday, I found myself lacking in trying to explain to my daughters why they should be disgruntled by Pakistan’s irritants, but not lose their love for country. 

I was lacking because lately, my complex identities have had me feel more marginalized. 

After all, feminists are as unpopular as ever, and I am not even a full feminist. 

What is a full Pakistani? A full Karachi-ite? A full Mohajir? A full Jinah-ist? A full Pubjabi by way of marriage? A full working woman? A full Half-Indian-Muslim? A full African-born ex-expat? 

Can we vivisect in precise measures these identities, like in a chemistry lab? Can we claim one part to be more potent than the other?  Can motherhood be more potent than ethnic identity for instance. Or can marriage into an unfamiliar sect erase everything that came before? 

Does one cancel out the other? The fact that I love Gilgit Baltistan so much I want to give up all my identities. Can not wanting to be something, permit you to shed that unwanted part of an identity?

And what is identity anyway?

Is your passport your identity? Is the abuse immigration offices give us brown folks the fire power to cling to your sense of belonging?

There are days when I pick up a newspaper, read the headline and want to be very Canadian. Do those moments call into question my faith in the country?

What do I tell my kids? That you should do what I say and not what I feel confused about? 

Can I teach them about doubt without feeling an immense guilt for it all?

Can I teach them about hybrid-democracies without dehumanising certain groups of people?

Can I observe the pounding in my chest when I feel I have failed my father who always comes to me on Pakistan day in the form of Habib Wali’s 'Aye Watan Pyaray Watan'? 

Things about love for country are subtle. You can outgrow almost everything except what mattered to the people you love.

Maybe I can tell kids that failing your country is okay, as long as you don’t fail the idea of what the country expects from you – pay your taxes, don’t be corrupt, report something wrong when you see something wrong, even at personal cost… you know, the stuff in Sunday school. I said Sunday school because Friday sermons, women in Pakistan are not allowed to attend because they are seen to entice pious men.

Most things about country are about men, machines and things that matter. Women do women things over there like dress the kids up and keep them out of father’s way. 

I want to raise my daughters permitting them all the things they choose to give meaning to. Will they be permitted to be themselves in a country so committed to binary roles?

Can I tell my kids, for example, that they know only a small Pakistan, that the rest is made of offerings if they will dare to venture into new discoveries, even if their adventures keep them past dinner time.

Can I protect them from their inevitable path from a total disassociation from the political process as they watch women politicians have their characters slogged. As they watch journalist friends struggle with being taken off air, sometimes even shot at by Namaloom Afrad?

Can I still make them listen to Hum Dekaingay and insist they their goosebumps show up like they show up for me and their father, and my father? 

Should I tell them we Pakistanis deserve the biggest measure of our devotion because we have endured oppression of colonial rule and still managed to retain our capacious heart?

Can I make a PowerPoint pitch to refine their understanding of how bad our maternal mortality, infant mortality is, and how this is a nation not worth being upset with?

Better yet, can I social media my way into describing how almost half the country has no access to sanitary cooking, so give us your undivided attention? Give us your science. Don’t leave us for the Canada’s of the world. 

My daughters are GenA, so they are the masters of authenticity. They will see through my desperation. They will see that so much of what I want for them I haven’t figured out at all for myself. They will roll their eyes and not even bother to give me their commentary, but I will know I’m pathetic. 

I’ve only written a few news stories and Tweeted and done a conference circuit’s melodramatic call to do no harm. But I have done harm. I have done harm because in the last ten of the last twenty years I’ve made Pakistan home, I have managed to be worn down by it all. 

I have lost the poetry, and even some of the goosebumps have been reserved for documentaries like My Octopus Teacher, not for Nayyara Noor or our anthem that plays before the new Batman movie in cinemas. 

The magic is gone. 

The magic will not come back.

Magic is like light and travels in one direction.

I believed in that magic because my Abu believed in it.

He believed in the ritual of jhandian in our home. He believed in staying up making goodie bags for kids for Pakistan Day. Did you know we sealed those polythene bags by holding a knife to the bag and passing it through a candle flame to seal it? This was back in the 80’s and love was labor. 

Abu made me feel like we deserve to have our story.

He made me feel like it was not just our version of the story, it was our story.

I haven’t told my daughters any version of the story because unlike me, they lived in the country of their passport. 

I feel maybe that they are the story. What has happened to them and what has happened to their parents are their lived experience of their relationship with nation-building. Their eyes are the history books that may or may not be written or foretold. 

Outside of a high-speed Internet that is notably missing this Pakistan day, they need a sense of phycological safety. 

They will not get that if their middle-class parents law-abiding parents are overtaxed with limited social safeguards. 

They won’t get that if the questions their classmates ask them are about where their parents own land or how half-mohajir is their mom really? 

Our daughters deserve a community that does more than forbid girls to step out of the home, lest they become like Noor Muqadam.

Our daughters deserve a passport that has less racist immigration officers and more egalitarian teachers that help every Zahir Jaffer to walk away from the Incel hate Pakistan so readily offers them. 

My Pakistan Day gift to these young women is to make their own mind about their country – the full range offerings are theirs to take. The love and the hate. The involvement and the indifference. The bloody knuckles or the patience to walk away and live another day. 

They don’t need to inherit my pounding heart, my guilt, my confusion, my trials, and my morning newspaper disappointments.

They will get the gift of a healthy attachment to their nation – they get to have the will to drop things that hurt them.