Iffi, our 16-year-old American born desi cousin was always questioning his roots. One day when the patriot kid was complaining how his parents had kept him away from his culture, the Pakistani couple instantly decided to send Iffi to Pakistan in summers. We and my aunt live together in a joint family system; so Iffi instantly decided to stay with us. Zain and Iffi are the same age so naturally, Zain was responsible for Iffi’s religio-socio-cultural tour in Pakistan.
After partying till dawn, Zain and Iffi would go to sleep after having sehri. The fast was easy, Zain only got up to offer prayers and recited the holy book half an hour before iftar. Iftar was delicious and the nicotine doze afterwards made it soothing. Zain’s routine to me is pretty usual. She does well at school and her parents are happy with her.
Iffi was a branded gora kid so he instantly became popular among Zain’s friends; who at one end hate American policies for Pakistan but on the other fancy their language, their brands, their life styles and anyone who follows them. Some of them drank occasionally, some had girlfriends/ boyfriends, some, who, religious lived by the Islamic values even refused to socialize with Iffi.
Iffi was probably more confused about his identity now than before. He was neither expecting Saudia nor Malaysia but he, probably like most of us, didn’t know which one to choose over the other. At one dimension he thought Veena was right that she has the right to choose what she wants to do, on another he thought she does represents the ‘Islamic republic of Pakistan’ so that should be her consideration too while deciding what she wants to do, on yet another angle he just couldn’t observe that the preachers of Islam can’t tolerate the minorities settled in Pakistan when Islam lessons equality, justice, mercy. He shared, probably to confuse us too, that:
“It grieves me that whenever I see a group of men in beard wearing shalwar kamiz, terrorists or fundamentalist are the first things that pop into my mind. When actually they have adopted to even adjust their life styles according to the same religion that I follow- that calls for a lot of respect from a fellow Muslim. I don’t know if media is the culprit here or a few rotten eggs but this is wrong by all definitions. I thought coming to Pakistan will change that image, but it didn’t. It also grieves me that when I see a hot chick, if I may say, wearing skinny jeans and a backless shirt; modern and cool are the first impressions I get. That’s not modernity to Islam. I am no one to judge either of the mentioned; the hot chick might be a better Muslim. What is our identity, anyway?”
My uncle answered him that, “We are neither secular nor theocratic but we have lost tolerance for other communities residing with us. And this tug-of-war between the two extremist classes is not only increasing this intolerance, which consequently even turns in violence, but also confusing us more about our identities. You should know that you are a Muslim and a Pakistani, wherever you are, and be loyal to your identity in your own way, not the media’s way or the popular way but your way.”
I don’t know if that helped Iffi, but it did help me. One thing Iffi was happy about before leaving was that he was not an ABCD because he didn’t know his roots but he was an ABCD because desi’s, anywhere are confused, even in their own country. LOVE PAKISTAN!