By: Tasbeeh Fayaz Ali
Pakistan for me is like an enormous converging lens, where people emerging from a wide spectrum of ethnicities, each drenched in the distinct colors of their respective identities travel parallel but do coincide and converge at some focal point.
As an amalgamation of tastes, flavors, festivals, and climates ranging from those of Kalash to the ones of Kashmore – we all are just as different as we are similar.
There are terrains up north which support sky-high mountains, each of them intricately cloaked by layers of pearl-white frost – all singing their own songs of glorification (in a language that we do not hear but can sense) for the Almighty and the bounties of nature that He has so effortlessly crafted. These towering mountains have seen everything – from making headlines for devastating earthquakes to tourists pouring in from places far and wide to shut down the mundane noise and seek solace next to picturesque views they thought only existed in movies.
Whether it’s the peak of Himalayas or that of the Kirthar, these landforms have heard people speak every language when they trek and utter every form of prayer by those who feel terror-stricken at the sight of the magnificence of these views.
The crystal blue lakes streaming amidst these mountains have supported countrymen from each corner of the Quaid’s land – all travelling miles to sail across the unsurpassed artistry of our waters – the waters which often fall prey to the carelessness of those who dishonor it by dumping all sorts of trash in it but it never protests. The freshness and the novelty of these lakes has stayed intact despite of the dirtying and is welcoming as it was seventy years ago.
And then there are narrow, cramped streets of our bazaars, all clustered with shops squeezed into constricted spaces barely leaving room for one to effortlessly breathe. The streets where the smell of undisposed garbage, fumes of burning tyres, emissions of rickshaws, and sometimes comparatively pleasant aroma of spices steaming out from wooden cabins of street hawkers forces its way up one’s nostrils.
The walls of these shops are mostly found in a dilapidated state, with an infrequent, non-uniform pattern of cracks – and at times splashes of tobacco and other related items so mercilessly puked off by the passers-by – dominating the wall design.
The streets seem tired and worn out after years of shouldering the burden of the puddles that appear at irregular intervals, causing difficulty for not just the vehicles which screech to a halt when they come near them but also for the children whose fortune signed them up for a lifetime of playing next to the puddles and not the coin-driven amusement rides.
But within the mesh of intertwining threads of deprivation and hollowness tangling these shops, there is a light which illuminates the bazaar as a whole – the light which radiates as a result of the virtue of hardwork which is common to both the man sitting in a dilapidated shop and the wooden food cabin.
What makes the walls stand tall and proud since years despite of the vulnerability of its cracked state is happiness it has churned out for those dependent on it. The child dirties his clothes thrice a day due to the uncleanliness of his surroundings but dreams of being a ‘Shahid Afridi’ when he grows up.
That’s what makes us all similar and yet, different. That’s the binding cohesive force between the narrow neglected street of a bazaar and the crystal blue lake of the north. They’re both fatigued and overworked. Their inhabitants speak languages not known to that of the other. They have customs and rituals not considered appropriate by the other.
Each has his own definition of faith, patriotism, and liberty yet each is bound to the other by the undying love they have for what belongs to them. The street hawker who sells fruits in the street and the man who rows the boat across the lake both find themselves unable to hate what belongs to them, they will not ever exchange their territory for anything in the world.
The sound of kids running across the shabby street playing with displeasing stuff is music to the ears of the street hawker. The boat rower holds his water sacred and equates its freshness to unprecedented grace despite of tetra pack boxes floating on it.
One’s home and all that’s associated with it is holy and nothing in the world can make you hate what belongs to you – and that’s where we are all different, yet similar.