Traveling not only opens the world for you, it also let you discover things about yourself and the part of the world you are from. I have always been fascinated by the kinds of responses I get from people (mostly Westerners) when I tell them that I am from Pakistan. The responses can be as varied as ‘oh, but you look Indian’ to ‘for a Pakistani girl, you are very smart’ to questions as intelligent as ‘Will you let your parents select your life partner (arranged marriage)’ to my personal favourite ‘are you allowed to vote in Pakistan?’
During my latest trip to Italy to attend the summer school, I met people from over 40 countries and their questions made me realise that apart from the requisite questions and assumptions about rights of (or lack of) women, people have some really fascinating questions and ideas about Pakistan. For instance, when I told them I am a Pakistani, a lot of people at the summer school reacted with, “Oh you have the bomb.” Initially I thought people were pulling my leg about something I said, but when I heard the same line for the third time, I realized that they were referring to Pakistan being a state with capability to make nuclear bombs. A Spanish guy asked me about how being part of the nuclear club has impacted my life. My response was, “Wait till I become the President, I wont feel the power unless I hold my finger on that all important button.” Who would’ve thought that there are real people out there who think being part of the nuclear club could have any impact on an ordinary citizen’s day to day life. Bizarre, isn’t it?
Another question that I have been asked is how can my eyes be so black. Random Italian women have stopped me on the streets and when they found out I am Pakistani, they have asked me to send them the special kohl (kajal) from the homeland. I have accumulated 7 chits with different addresses and will be sending them kajals from Pakistan soon.
Hashmi Kajal manufacturers do not know how big a market they are missing. They should start supplying to Italy, pronto (that’s one of the Italian words I have abused to death in the past weeks). They think all Pakistani women have dark mysterious (their words not mine) eyes after seeing my eyes and believe Hashmi kajal is responsible for that (and I thought it was genes from my mother’s side of family).
Another fact that I discovered was that some of the men think that all Pakistani girls are trained by ISI to be awesome. Imagine ISI training Pakistani girls to go sexy on random men, now that would be a laugh.
I have learned that there is an Arabic meaning of my name, apart from the Turkish, Persian and urban dictionary versions, which is quite different from the rest.
I have been told that I am the girl with the ability to out swear most; actually I am quite proud of that. Hell yeah! It is not the men’s domain only; we do it with far more style and look way better when we do it.
The question that was asked most was, “Are all Pakistani girls as funny as I am?” Frankly, I have been told that I am funny so many times in the past two weeks that I don’t really know how to take it. I don’t even know if it is necessarily a good thing to be this funny, some people make me sound like a court jester which I am so not. Witty, I can take, I know I am, but funny! Should it be taken as a compliment? What say?