(Featured Image: Minaret overlooking our neighborhood)
I only stayed for 2 weeks.
I distinctly remember booking the tickets and breathing a sigh of relief because for once, I would not be spending the whole of my summer in Pakistan.
Memories of past trips were stifling; the restless heat, disorienting pitch black nights and pervasive sense of melancholia. As a child, this arose from discomfort in a strange environment, almost unheimlich dread.
If it was ‘home’, as I was told, why did I feel so utterly removed from the culture? The language barrier was puzzling to me; why was what should have been a temporary stay prolonged into a month-long holiday? I was perplexed.
The days stretched on endlessly; in my diasporic mind, Pakistan was everything the U.K. was not. The culture shock distanced me from engaging in everyday life and I felt myself becoming increasingly unsympathetic.
Days were filled with perspiration and a general lethargic temperament, whilst the relentless chirping of crickets accentuated my disorientation during the night. The atmosphere hung heavy with humidity; its impenetrability seemed hopeless. The monsoon season seemed unnecessarily cruel. I felt a sense of whiplash, tormented by the false hope of rain clouds during blistering dry spells.
But this year, I wanted rose-tinted glasses. Pastoral stretches of greenery were a display of unrefined beauty. Honest and unpretentious, I felt a sense of pure homecoming.
It confused me at first. What changed? Nothing, on the surface. The fields were still littered, which undoubtedly took away from their stark, natural beauty. But they were anything but artifice — bold and organic. I felt lucky.
Stern buildings of grandeur and eminence somehow retained the magnificence of a bygone era, despite the suspect moss growing on the sides and clear neglect. But they were spectacular to the unrefined eye and induced humility and reverence.
This time, the simplicity and mundanity of the countryside were charming, elevating my mood to carefree bliss, disregarding the constraints of time. The fiery orb of hot gas in the sky held all the authority, not the man-made dictates of urban life. Time lazily stretched from morning to restful afternoon, with leisure being the rule of the day. I felt myself unwind and dread the thought of leaving.
It was deceptively inviting, precisely because I knew my visit would soon come to an end. Permanent residence didn’t hold the same allure, yet the simple truth of existing there at that time was wholesome enough, and seemed as obvious to me as the sky was clear.
As the daughter of immigrants, it is inevitable that I idealize Pakistan to a certain extent, perceiving it as the romanticized ‘other’ and polar opposite of high-powered life in England. But I experienced simplicity.
It was freeing, a reinvigorating respite.
I no longer perceived my fellow village inhabitants as prying and invasive. I no longer craved the privacy I felt I had previously been denied. The collective mind was a unified body of selflessness, and for the first time, I felt home.