I miss my homeland!

By Zainab Khawaja
Tue, 08, 17

A day of quiet sunshine and gentle breeze greet the city of Indianapolis, as I clumsily spill out of the car. A brown rabbit hops merrily in the chlorophyll heaven enveloping my school.


A day of quiet sunshine and gentle breeze greet the city of Indianapolis, as I clumsily spill out of the car. A brown rabbit hops merrily in the chlorophyll heaven enveloping my school. As always, I can’t wait to reach the corridor and experience the glory before class. The walls there are enhanced by intellectual quotes, intricate artwork and vibrant flags. My eyes impatiently search for the sharply defined crescent and star against the luscious green field, beside a narrow white bar. Just looking at the Pakistani flag feels deeply gratifying and random memories spring up to mind: savouring parathas at a truck-art themed ‘chai dhaba’ over an intense game of ludo, being astounded by the hustle and bustle on the Karachi streets at any time of the day, observing small districts like Lasbela while travelling to the isolated Sonmiani beach. Without looking at the flag, my day seems incomplete.

I have only spent a small portion of my life in Pakistan, and that too, in one city - Karachi. But those three years were educative enough to mould a meek teenager like me, into someone more confident. Sometimes, Karachi did seem big and scary to me. There were challenges to overcome and puzzles to solve. The punishingly hot summers and excessive load-shedding made me nauseous. The melodramatic Desi aunties, who had a problem with everything I did, annoyed me to no end. Being mugged at gunpoint had aroused so much fear in me that my hands shook whenever I carried cash outside. Despite all of this, I miss my homeland every day.

There is this one particular memory which I have before leaving Karachi for good. I had to go buy some essentials from different stores with my father and sister. Unexpectedly, the journey became one that I would never forget. It had rained recently and I felt like a paradoxical blend of pulsing energy and profound peace, eager to perceive my surroundings from a writer’s eye. Yes, there were dirty lakes of stagnant water and piles of litter on the way which disheartened me but let me tell you about the bright and colourful part too! I observed our rich culture and produce in the smallest of acts and the simplest of things. My father left us sisters sitting in the car, while he went whistling off to the store. Cosy and comfortable, I started noticing the beauty of an ordinary street in the City of Lights. A fruit vendor was chanting loudly and pushing his wooden cart with a flamboyant prism of fruits. But the ones that caught my eye were those sunny mangoes and smooth-skinned grapes. At that moment, some crows cawed and immediately, I looked up and was amazed by how lush the green leaves of the tree shading our car were. I could not help but give a sardonic smile at the thought that these creations of the Lord are taken for granted. After all, they are simply trees.

I felt my notions drifting towards how beautiful our beloved land is and how much it can prosper. Somewhere, a donkey brayed and a generator sputtered to life, interrupting my thoughts. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walking towards our street. He was dressed in shalwar kameez which was a shocking shade of purple and had a cherry red handkerchief hung on his shoulder like a rag. Then came along two women behind him, with multi-coloured dupattas decorated with pretty beads, flowing in the cool breeze, singing confidently and in tune. I was mesmerized by their melodies and realized that each one of us have talents hidden inside us. We just need to recognize and nurture them, so that they blossom out like the prismatic kaleidoscope of flowers I had seen earlier while waiting for the traffic light to turn from red to green.

Finally, my dad came, all merry and exhausted, with shopping bags and two glasses of freshly squeezed mango pulp for us, which was as sweet as the gesture. Before I knew it, we were skating on the smooth roads again, passing by jazzy rickshaws, old carts laden with different stuff, from succulent fruits to hair accessories, enthusiastic children and young adults in bright-hued T-shirts playing cricket and radiating vim and vigour. Seeing the fervour, my heart swelled up with pride. My father and sister must have sensed that I had gone all quiet and so they started teasing me by increasing the volume of songs I absolutely despise.

As we made our way to the next destination, we sped by a cornucopia of chic cafes, cosy open-air ‘chai dhabas’ and lavish restaurants. Ranging from ethnic gastronomies to continental cuisines, my city definitely offers a flavour to please every taste bud. I felt a hollow ache unroll within me as I thought of the countless memories spent at those eateries and whether I would ever get another chance to enjoy some piping hot ‘gaajar ka halwa’ cooked in ‘desi ghee’ or meet up with my best friends at one of those restaurants radiating classic ambiance. We also passed by a shiny black gate which led to an enormous white building surrounded by neat pathways and greenery- my alma mater. A fountain of emotions burst inside me as I thought of the water fights, crazy banter and the classes I loved attending. I knew I would miss it all more than words could ever express, especially my Urdu classes. Exploring the depths of our luxuriant language and learning rich quotes by famous poets was profoundly satisfying; a feeling I haven’t been able to replace ever since coming to Indianapolis.

We stopped at a few more stores, before finally reaching home. The afternoon began to give way to the haze of dusk, but I was still lost in my muddled reverie. I thought of all the special events I had spent in my homeland. Pakistanis have this special trait of making something out of nothing. We master the art of transforming a few simple ingredients into a grand potlatch. Gathering a few people to create a festival is a piece of cake for us. This quality of ours is showcased on every occasion: Eids, birthdays, weddings and of course every 14thAugust. I remember being dazed on the last Independence Day I spent there. Flags of all sizes reigned over the rooftops and vehicles. People of all ages wore green and white masks, wigs and jewellery. Fireworks blossomed in the air at exactly 12 o’ clock and even dogs barked jubilantly as if they understood that something momentous was happening. The painted faces, bike stunts and dancing had made me grin with delight. Recollecting my thoughts, I finally stepped into the house, a contradictory mix of sad and happy taking over me. Sad because I would be leaving my country soon and happy because of the countless memories I was taking with me.

Life is about stringing small pleasures together: moments that you share with people you love. And my country has definitely granted me that. Now, whenever someone new in school asks me if I am from India or Nepal, I shake my head. Feeling unalloyed triumph, I smile proudly before replying, ‘Pakistan’.