Paradoxes of a Non-Resident Pakistani


Paradoxes of a Non-Resident Pakistani

He talks about Pakistan as if it’s a distant country with way too many problems and corrupt politicians. Pakistani politics, of which he knows nothing, is the favorite topic on which he can rant for hours. His core beliefs are based on two conjectures — Imran Khan and American-style education are the only two things that can salvage the country.

 

He thinks Indians, with no offence intended, are nothing like us, their despicable dress sense makes them look desperate while we with our fairer complexion and adaptability assimilate smoothly. Dissociation with Indians runs parallel to association with American culture, both of which are closely related to the protection of his identity — an American of Pakistani origin with American children of strictly American origin.

 

He can’t talk enough about the mouth-watering taste of the Pakistani food with all its masala and spices and overcooked tender meat. His eyes glimmer with the mention of chicken karahi, Karachi’s biryani and Anarkali’s fruit chart. Food is one thing he misses most about Pakistan. Then you see his plate of steamed veggies and mashed potatoes.

 

He starts every other sentence with a ‘yes’ and ends it with ‘but’. He begins with an assertion, comes to an excuse and concludes it with an apology. That’s before he starts talking again.

 

He can’t talk enough of the importance of retaining a connection with our Pakistani roots considering how hardly we get a chance to, call back home, watch Pakistani television or visit even every five years. The dress code at iftaris is strictly Eastern and there’s a huge Independence Day bash. Namaz is the solution to all his problems. His kids Shawn and Adam nod hysterically.

 

He insists on communicating with his kid in Urdu who never replies in the same language and carries a baffled expression on his little face looking at his parents like they belong to an African tribe talking gibberish. You can tell the little human is clueless. Till you meet next, there will be no more debates on ‘Pakistaniat’ (a term used quite frequently now)

 

He takes pride in the fact that his son outsmart all his Indian class mates without mentioning the Japanese kids whose helps he needs to pass the Algebra test and the after-school tuition that comes handy for sciences.

 

His educated uncles and family money will pop up randomly in conversations with hazy information. Ask him details and he will throw his BMW, chic apartment and Cartier watch at you. Then he starts cribbing about the increasing food cost and gas prices.

 

You can’t even escape the oh-so-familiar joke of how he is as much a part of Pakistan as anyone living there “after all we are running Pakistan with all the money we send from here…” Ha.Ha.Ha!

 



Sarah Sikandar

The writer is a freelance writer with an eye for good literature and a story to be told.


  • Anonymous

    Nice read! I partially agree with some of your narrative. But it’s all on the positive side though because Pakistani community is among the most affluent immigrant communities in America and I think their experiences are as vast as America is. From cab drivers to investment bankers, we Pakistanis come in all shapes and forms.
    And I can say safely that yes, Americans are comfortable with the fact that we Pakistani Americans (those who do) drink but don’t eat pork and we make it very clear. How you missed that one!!Because there are a lot of those Pakistanis like me that you probably don’t run into because they never talk about Pakistan, never go to a community event or parade, have hard time finding Pakistani food even if American friends beg for it.So, I guess not all Pakistani Americans fit your stereotype .And don’t think that I live in Alaska or Wyoming, I live and work in Chicago and New York!!!

    • Nice one.some of the facts are very true,but some looks over exagerrated to some extend.i never compare myself to Indians,I think sub continent is one big country and Pakistan &india are part of it.secondly when I talk to my 6year old in Urdu I get an answer in Urdu.thirdly I visit Pakistan every 2 years. And most of the Pakistanis I know have the same kind of thoughts & routine

      • Anonymous

        Sarah is new here in the U.S. It ll take her some time to know all different strides of Pakistanis.

  • Anonymous

    Sarah is one of those bloggers whom I read knowing it’ll be worthy every time.

  • Anantha079

    well written article.

  • Khan Munib

    There is bit too much of distance between the reality and your article

  • Anonymous

    Oh please don’t be upset with our foreign Pakistanis. Be nice to everyone please. We wish Pakistan the best and we wish prosperity and education for everyone. Please try to be kind and nice towards everyone Ms. I hope you can be loving towards all. Make friends and don’t distance people. Pakistan needs friends , everyone needs friends.

    Lastly Pakistan perhaps may reconsider embracing Indian customs and instead embrace more modern , western ways.

  • Hassan

    Well, Gillani supports the notion that dual national-Pakistanis be allowed to become members of Pakistan’s parliament. However, why is he not moving a motion in the parliament so that a constitutional discussion can take place in the lower house on this matter.

  • Anonymous

    ‘yes’ you can see that nostalgic pakistani ‘but’may be the specs need a bit of cleaning. What if he acts as decribed in order to hold a mirror to his observers?! After all, the greatest Philosophers have also employed the same techniques of ‘yes, but and what if’!

  • M.Saeed

    Correction. There is is no such thing as Non Resident Pakistanis, like well known NRIs of India.
    We have dual nationality holder “immigrant” Pakistanis who are an outclassed entity for all practical purposes except, “Home Remittances” which are not free from any taxes or special concessions.

    • jija-ji

      Agree Saeed Sa’ab.The blogger is trying to paint the whole picture rosy-cosy.The ‘fair’ complexion(?)..lol. I have seen hw it pinches to Pakistanis even with their ‘fair’ complexion when they are reffered as Indians on street.Ha Ha Ha.Why they are called Indians in general if they have a ‘fair’ complexion.Food for thought ma’am.

  • NRP223344

    Being a NRP (Non resident Pakistani) myself, I can definitely to some ( not all) the things in the article. However, we can’t ignore the fact that a vast majority of Pakistani community in US are the most educated and skilled professionals , who left there homeland for a reason. And NO, Money is not the main reason. We are cream of Pakistan, who survived in a very inefficient educational system to be doctors, engineers, MBA’s, IT professionals. But once we acheived that milestone and entered in practical life, we realized that we don’t belong in a corrput society controlled by feudals, military, politicians, bearucrats and religious leaders. If you don’t have roots or connections to these five dominating mafias in the country, then you are an outsider and always will be unless you choose to accept their values of corruption and deciet. Like they say in America, ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. But most of us refused to join that system and opted for a country, that treats you with diginity, respect and fair chance to compete. Being the top 1% of most educated lot from our home country, it didn’t take us long to figure out the right place where we actually belong to!

  • Anonymous

    Sarah has tried to write on the same lines like the narrartive in ‘Mehran man’.U.S. is a vast land from sea to shining sea and you see Pakistanis in every corner of this great land.I guess because she is new here and many Pakistanis who come here think that they know a lot about America and actually they dont.Being an investment industry professional,I have had the opportuntiy to ssee very closely the ‘Pakistani brand’ in America.And Sarah,not to be harsh on you but you need a lot more research than using ‘Mehran man’ type simple narrative to fit the whole community into one stride ….

  • Anonymous

    How about NRPs in the UK and Canada? How about their economic status?
    “despicable dress” & “fairer complexion”: Sign of a shallow mind (Offense Intended). And some still believe that we treated Bengalis fairly!!!

  • Rimibra

    There is prime difference between Rehman Malik and common Pakistanis living abroad. Those in politics run away with the wealth they have possessed through unfair mean where as common man is away to earn their livings as well as supporting their kin’s in Pakistan. Even though they might have citizenship in other countries but their hearts are with country of origin.

    These overseas Pakistanis are an asset to beloved Pakistan and they can bridge between the country they are living and the country they belonged to.

    You cannot compare the common man with Altaf Bhai who is living as asylum seeker in England and controlling the masses in Karachi. It’s here one should point out whether we should allow such parasites to live abroad and play politics in Pakistan or Rehman Malik who is doing business in U.K. with looted and plundered money from Pakistan and having also luxury life in Pakistan ?

  • S Nasrullah

    As many mouths, as many opinions. There is a qualitative difference between the Pakistani migrants in USA and the UK. During the Sixties and the Seventies the immigrants from Pakistan consisted of “Fortune Hunters” of the type of “Dubai Chalo”. People from a wide spectrum of society, mostly, the labor and the skilled labor class migrated to the UK with some segments with basic education and some with higher qualifications. “But” their successive generations are doing lot better with British education, better Health facilities and an environment conducive for intellectual advancement and pursuits. USA exercised greater control and selectivity in their INS Policies and Procedures. As result we see more of the Professional class of Pakistanis who made a mark on the US Society.

    Like a typical Pakistani feminine writer, Ms Sarah being no exception,there is an exuberance, if not exaggeration, to details and the sweeping statements do not reflect the truth of the matter.

    • Anonymous

      Nasrullah Sb

      Were not the migrants of 50s to 70s to the United Kingdom, whether from Pakistan or other parts, generally the labour class imported to fill a gap post 2nd world war which devasted Europe a lot more (USA was far away from the day-to-day turmoil!).

      Policies of manpower export and certain changes in Pakistan (Mangla project for example) played a role – and people arriving in the UK at the time had no long term intention of staying in UK, hence those palatial mansions (generally unihabited) in Mirpur. Sadly, investment was generally not made then (or even now) in educating the Pakistani migrants young ones born in the UK but in property acquisition in Pakistan. This is a contributory factor for the Pakistani diaspora’s social problems in the UK.

      On the other hand, people who generally migrated to the US, were better educated and did so with a lot more choice in the matter. US immigration policies encourage the ‘cream’ from any country to migrate there as they did not need unskilled manpower as plenty was available at home or nearby. Obviously it has worked well too from the economic point of view of both the US and the migrant Pakistani – even if Paksitan lost a large number of very able and skilled people. Unstability of society, polictical or social, in Pakistan makes the choice easy for before one is any nationality, one is a human being and your friend Maslow shows up in their thoughts!

      • S Nasrullah

        Qalim: I have always respected your logical assertions and you have correctly traced the origin, motive and method of the manpower export that Pakistan capitalized on those days. Each visit of mine to UK re-affirms my faith that those pioneer Immigrants from Mirpur, Sylhet, etc, have prospered and their successive generations have made positive impact on the British Society. They have Representation in the House of Commons as well as the House of Lords. A Pakistani British lady is the Chief of the Labor Party.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t worry uncle, I don’t know about other countries but we Pakistani Americans are very well assimilated even beyond your imagination. That is why I have a hard time agreeing to the blogger’s narrative because she could be right about Pakistanis living in other countries but not here. To give you a very basic and crude example, because I am a private banker, I recently visited a Pakistani in Florida who is from a very small village and now he is next door neighbor to Ricky Martin (the famous singer) and one would never imagine that such a simple Pakistani would be so nicely assimilated into American way.
    I went through boarding school in England, college in Canada and MBA here in the U.S.,so I have very closely observed the top three countries where most Pakistanis live but the American story is nothing like any other country because its America and that is why I have made it home despite having an option to live in any of the three countries mentioned….Its fascinating to see success stories of Pakistanis and how well we are invested in America and how much we believe and love America….I wish us all Pakistanis Americans lots of success …..
    And may God bless America ..

  • Farooq M.Hashmi

    The word-picture drawn in the blog,is of a typical Pakistani-American whose mind is torn among multiple sociological conflicts.The word-picture drawn in the blog, is of a typical Pakistani-American whose mind is torn between the incongruous American and the Pakistani cultures.The word-picture drawn in the blog,is of a typical Pakistani-American whose patriotism is torn between America and Pakistan.He has love for his foster-homeland,America but he has no hatred for his native homeland,Pakistan,and the vice-versa.However,it is but natural for man that he comes closer to an object that attract him and stay away from the one that repels him.The same is true of the Pakistanis,especially of those who are highly educated and unwillingly want to flee their native home-land in pursuit of bright future.The mentioned Pakistani is one of those who had to abandon their native country,Pakistan in quest of their cherished Garden of Eden.Those who make the relative Pakistani a target of their oblique sarcasm deserve to be made the target of a frontal counter-sarcasm.The Pakistani’s long-winded talk about Pakistani politics and his faith in Imran Khan speaks of his nostalgia for Pakistan.A strong undercurrent of pathos runs underneath his long-drawn-out talks about Pakistani politics insinuating that his heart aches at the unfortunate circumstances which have beleaguered his country of origin.Unconsciously,he is asserting that he would not have abandoned his home and immigrated to USA if opportunities had not been closed on him.His disdain for Indians’clothes and their complexion is the natural outcome of his nourishment in a prolonged atmosphere of Indo-phobia.Other Pakistanis who immigrate to USA share the situation with the protagonist of the story.After having spent the prime of their lives in education,youths in Pakistan find the portals of jobs shut,closed,barred and padlocked on them? Does the jargon of ” patrotism ” has any significance if they have to go from pillar to post for paraphernalia?Do the platitudes as ” service of the nation ” not pepper their souls wounded by their joblessness?What fascination the argot,” ideology of Pakistan ” has for them when the state has failed to provide them basic necessities of life?What attraction the bourgeoisie parlance,” state is an end in itself ” has for them when state has failed to ensure the basic human necessities to them? State is not an end in itself.It’s a means to safe-gaurd its citizen against all oddities.State is not sacred as the Tabernacle.If the state fails to cater to the basic needs of its citizens,it loses
    its ‘raison d’etre’.Name any evil that does not exist in Pakistan.Today’s Pakistan is a living example of Hobbesian state of nature___ the scourge of ‘sefarish’ and bribery among runaway joblessness,sky-rocketing dearness,terrorism,bigotry of mullahs,ever-widening gulf between halves and have-nots,and others are rampant.A Pakistani youth,after getting alchemized into gold through university education,sets out to hunt out a job but in vain.A Job-hunting youth’s dismay multiplies when he faces the schadenfreude of the executives while he is weighed down by utter dejection.It’s the defining moment for him that he is a non-existent in his own homeland and that his hopes for a brilliant future are a mere moonshine,hence he struggles to flee his native country where miseries of different hues and shades hold sway.If he is lucky to land on the soils of America___the land of opportunities___he finds avenues of success,progress and advancement opened to him.The beauty of the pluristic American society is its heterogenic culture.Again,the Pakistani’s love for his native food is a positive trait of his personality,hence commendable.His traditional hatred for Indians is a negative trait of his personality,hence condemnable.

  • Shahzad Butt

    I have seen few of the replies. Although NRPs have to struggle a bit however less than folks who just landed in any foreign land (specially when they are landed on foreign soil) with a limited sources, money contacts etc. These people really work had and prove that they benefit from the freedom and opportunity ( even if the field is not a leveled as for others). However the biggest struggle is done by Mid level folks living in Pak since hard work is not the key to success. One need to have a lot of contacts, money resources to get into winning stream. We belong to a respected family. In Bhutto days our “Hard earned” investments were taken over by Govt but being an educated family my Mom and Father still worked hard and established new Halal source of income. They even give a reasonable educated us (rest of kins) with moral and some financial support. I have lived in few countries and in 2009 I came back to Pak with a vision that may be it is the time to serve my land. I got few projects however corruption was the evil. Than I decided to join some multinational organisation since I was having a desire able management experience. However to cut the long story short…I still have finances but I am struggling to settle without using my Dads or Grand Dads name. One of the recent incident is when I tried to contact one of known MNC in Pak. Someone told me to contact and get a feel but my first call is may be my last call. Why??? When I call their local office they directed me to their PTC-L head office number. I called that number and got connected with a senior trade guy ( I believe he was a senior person. I don’t remember the exact name). I talked briefly. In return I got a very strange answer within my own country. The guy on other side said ” I am very good in interpreting people and numbers because I am a Bangladeshi and you are a typical Pakistani”. By that time I was not sure that the person I am talking with is a foreigner. I think he was too rude. Folks I have seen Mohd.K blog and I would completely agree that Challenges are much more in Pak than outside. You guys NRPs or residents should be thankful where you are unless you have very competitive “Germs” to come back and serve your country. Difficult since positions are gradually taken over by foreigners.

  • IShahzad Butt

    I have seen few of the replies. Although NRPs have to
    struggle a bit however less than folks who just landed in any foreign land
    (specially when they are landed on foreign soil) with a limited sources, money
    contacts etc. These people really work had and prove that they benefit from the
    freedom and opportunity ( even if the field is not a leveled as for others).
    However the biggest struggle is done by Mid level folks living in Pak since
    hard work is not the key to success. One need to have a lot of contacts, money
    resources to get into winning stream. We belong to a respected family. In
    Bhutto days our “Hard earned” investments were taken over by Govt but
    being an educated family my Mom and Father still worked hard and established
    new Halal source of income. They even give a reasonable educated us (rest of
    kins) with moral and some financial support. I have lived in few countries and
    in 2009 I came back to Pak with a vision that may be it is the time to serve my
    land. I got few projects however corruption was the evil. Than I decided to
    join some multinational organisation since I was having a desire able
    management experience. However to cut the long story short…I still have
    finances but I am struggling to settle without using my Dads or Grand
    Dads name. One of the recent incident is when I tried to contact one of
    known MNC in Pak. Someone told me to contact and get a feel but my first call
    is may be my last call. Why??? When I call their local office they directed me
    to their PTC-L head office number. I called that number and got connected with
    a senior trade guy ( I believe he was a senior person. I don’t remember the
    exact name). I talked briefly. In return I got a very strange answer within my
    own country. The guy on other side said ” I am very good in interpreting
    people and numbers because I am a Bangladeshi and you are a typical
    Pakistani”. By that time I was not sure that the person I am talking with
    is a foreigner. I think he was too rude. Folks I have seen Mohd.K blog and I
    would completely agree that Challenges are much more in Pak than outside. You
    guys NRPs or residents should be thankful where you are unless you have very
    competitive “Germs” to come back and serve your country. Difficult
    since positions are gradually taken over by foreigners.

  • pakistani at heart

    Happy B Day…..

  • Naeem Khan Manhattan,Kansas

    I had a big kick out of reading your blog, it really hit the spot and could see myself so clearly, Yes, I was married to a farm gale from Western Kansas, had a son who is grown up now and have his children, his mother passed away last October and we all miss her so much. She put up with me and my shenanigans, she was one of a kind, although I was a political junkie but she was a writer and an intellectual like yourself. She visited Mardan and Peshawar and stayed with my family and she loved them all till her death.She made American food from scratch while in Pakistan and they always talk about her recipes whenever they prepare her favorite foods.One time she made Thanks giving feast and they still talk about it. Be patient with “Him”, believe me eventually he will come down to earth and the realization that there is no going back.This is home here and kids will stay here and grow up and marry and have their own kids, this is the way it is. Thank you for writing such a nice article.