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Web Desk
August 12, 2018

Must read: Growing up and living as a minority in Pakistan


Web Desk
Sun, Aug 12, 2018

As Pakistan marked the National Minorities Day on August 11, freelance columnist and safety and security adviser Norbert J. Almeida took to Twitter to share his experience of growing up and living in Pakistan as a religious minority.

The 23-tweet thread, shared by Mr Almeida on the micro-blogging platform yesterday, has been hailed by netizens as very insightful, captivating and unnerving.

Here is the full thread:

“Thot about doing a thread on growing up and living as a minority in PK since the 70s. It’s been a mixed bag a lot of hate, some love and much indifference. Even a separate electorate till 2000s that many today don’t know about. In the end its my home too & hard not to forget that,”  Almeida tweeted.

“Some funny moments: arrive in Multan only to be met by a worried intelligence officer who couldn't understand nor willing to accept why I had a CNIC & not a foreign passport.

“Arrived in Sukkur to be refused a ride to the hotel by the driver waiting with my name on his board because he was told he was to pick up a Gora "foreigner".

“A room full of Govt officers who were there to attend a training led by me snickering away in Urdu about how young I was and how they knew more etc turning red in the faces when I proceeded to conduct the session in Urdu using technical terms.

“Being rechristened multiple times by people as Noor Butt, Rabert, Not Rabert, Nobat, Al-MEDIA, al Maida. Being asked by FIA immigration to state my Original nationality.

“The shock of classmates when I topped Islamic Studies in College being the only non-Muslim to have taken it as a subject in our batch.

“Of course the numerous neighbors through the years knocking the door seeking Brandy to cure a cough and being shocked to find out ours was a house that didn’t have alcohol.

The random knock on the front door by strangers who saw the name and wanted to know if we could teach them the English language.

“The friends and acquaintances wondering if they'd be served the "special" fruitcake and not knowing what they meant till years later when I started making it and saw the recipe had an option for alcohol.

“Hosting an annual Iftar for school and college friends with arrangements for namaz at home.

“The funny moment when a person asked for the Qibla direction completed their namaz and was like oh man you sure you gave me the right direction and having to take them to the balcony and point to the setting sun.

“Spotting giggling kids who'd never seen women wearing dresses in their area and saying haw they don’t have pants on and trying to grab a peek under the dress. Being a part of the winning school team in a Naat competition held for Eid Milad.

“The mistaken assumption that being a Christian meant a visa for the west is guaranteed not releasing the embassies consider us a flight risk (asylum seekers) and put more restrictions on us (short duration, report back, more documentation).

“Knowing the complete count in Urdu and the difference in inuhnatar unnaasee athanway etc

“Being offered something by a fellow passenger in a bus during iftari and when I refused because I could see they had nothing more for themselves the person said oh abhi time hai ap kay liye sorry (thot i was Shia)

“Setting up a Sabeel outside my house during Ramadan and leading the collection of money along with another neighbor to cook the haleem on 9th 10th Muharram and feeding the neighborhood.

“Always getting new clothes from the parents for Eid as we celebrated it more than Christmas growing up in North Nazimabad

“We also did Christmas Caroling going around north Nazimabad the week before Christmas to the few Christian homes that were there but always were surrounded by an amused crowd who would come to enjoy and experience something new.

“Learning a few sentences & counting in Pushtoo from the naan hotel wala and thereafter struggling on a trip to Peshawar because the folk I was dealing with thot I knew pushto and was easier for them than to speak in broken Urdu.

“The effort made by an office driver to find out the Catholic Church in Rahimyar Khan and the mass timings too because I had to spend a Sunday there. But his worry that it was a service in Punjabi and if I could manage then coming on his day off to take me there too.

“Finally. It was the 1st day of Eid and a 3pm funeral mass for my dad. The church was packed 99% by Muslim friends, colleagues, acquaintances. That is the Pakistan I grew up loving and wish for forever and ever,” he concluded.