Monday, March 1, 2010

Lost Knight- my two cents on identity crisis

Thankfully, I have been blessed to see more of the world outside Pakistan. In my travels overseas, especially during my stay in the US as a college student, I have noticed a case of identity crisis amongst us Pakistanis. Now I want to state a disclaimer: this is my point of view, do not take it as fact. This is based on observations during my visit and stay overseas. I have noticed as soon as we walk on the Jetway at the Jinnah Terminal after bidding our loved ones goodbye, we leave our identity behind. Its like we are embarrassed of our own culture and identity. We decide to blend in when we reach university, thinking we would be mocked and ridiculed, worse yet feel left out. First of all, we think its embarrassing to speak in our native tongue! I have noticed the Chinese students, they are never afraid to talk in their own tongue amongst themselves. However, I know many groups of Pakistani students who had no issues with Urdu at all, when conversing amongst each other. Besides language, we seem to loose our values. I used to be very upset seeing a low turnout at the Friday congregation. It was always some excuse: classes, lunch, this and that. We feel pressured to party hard and get intoxicated, because if we cant beat them, might as well join them. I don't see the point in this at all. We dump our values and morality right there. We just can not seem to establish our own identity at all. We feel like we have to be Americanized. It has to start with the accent, and then the slang, and then the crazy partying. My partying friends tell me that there is no better feeling than getting wasted or blacked out. I beg to differ. I think I would like to keep my self respect intact instead of passing out in my own filth! What's so great about having a hangover? There are better ways to have fun and enjoy the nightlife. Who says you cant party? There is something called moderation. I am not preaching any fundos here. We all have our weaknesses, but why cant we be Pakistanis overseas?

Some readers may argue that regular cricket matches, culture shows, and eid dinners are examples of displaying our culture. That is all wonderful. Kudos to everyone who organizes these activities and actively participates in them. My question is why leave this only for special occasions? We should be showing off our culture on a daily basis, to identify us as Pakistanis, to show our foreign friends that we are truly proud of our culture. Just playing cricket and speaking in Urdu is not enough. There should be more and more activities showcasing our culture, and our identity. Establishing regular congregational prayer activities, Iftar events in Ramadan, weekly screenings of films and documentaries from Pakistan are some examples of what more we can do. When I speak of films, I do not talk of Lollywood. We have had many art films directed by talented film makers from our part of the world. Mehreen Jabbar and Shoaib Mansoor are prime examples. In fact, Hasina Moin's Urdu language plays have been so successful, that television channels across the border also broadcasted them. Pakistan has an ever growing music industry, possibly the biggest in South Asia. We can show highlights of classic cricket matches featuring our country. We can invite luminaries from Pakistan who are currently in the US, such as Salman Ahmed of Junoon fame who frequently visits universities to showcase his documentaries and play sets of his hits with his live band.

The whole purpose of my post is to create awareness of our own culture, and that we should not shy away from it. We, as Pakistanis, have a responsibility to promote and safeguard our rich culture. This is the only way we can erase stereotypes the Western media has of us. Even though I myself am away from home, I miss it a lot, but because I miss it, I am never afraid to talk about my culture. It is our duty to show the rest of the world, we are far from the portrayals of popular media. This has to come from within. Until and unless we do not realize our potential and the richness of our culture and embrace it, we will always be lost knights, victims of an identity crisis. Why should we bite the hand that feeds us? Why should we take our nation, and our culture for granted. Admitted, our country is not perfect, and our problems are never ending, but they will never end, unless we get out of this identity crisis.

Change comes from the grassroots level. It was in our country, we got the best of education that allowed us to go overseas, we should never forget that. We feel cool embracing western culture, but imagine how cool would it be for the West to embrace ours. That can only happen if we allow it to. If we hide under a shell, and never break out of the cocoon, we will be followers , not trendsetters. If even one of us decides to proudly display our culture to the rest of the world, others will follow suit. I have always believed that one man can make a difference, and that one person has to be amongst us.


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