They say there’s nothing new under the sun. So what am I writing about?
I am writing about a country where the sun never stops shining on those who brave something new every day. A new tragedy. A new storm. A new bloodbath. Where the mountains have been weathered by violence and extremism, where the salt-laden sea air mingles with the smell of smoke, dead, decaying corpses, grief and loss.
Where festivities and mournings are marked by equal passion and fervour. Where it is hard to tell the sounds of people wailing and moaning the loss of their beloved from those of people rejoicing and celebrating the victory of their country in a cricket match. The soil in which a thousand graveyards are dug every day and crops planted and harvested.
Where gusts of wind carry along with ash and debris the aroma of street-cooked tikka and biryani, the friendly chatter of a group of college students savoring a plate of French fries or samosas and the laughter of children running and frolicking about, playing a game of baraf pani. Where, lining the sun-drenched streets and winding alleyways, sweat-soaked vendors and shopkeepers sit all day, attempting to entice customers, hoping to take home their daily bread.
Where rags are so blatantly juxtaposed with shining riches, and decrepit ruins and bare expanses with luxurious erect buildings. Where rickety, sluggish carts move along with swank, gleaming cars, sputtering rickshaws and pedestrians, all of them snaking and navigating their way through a jungle of dust, carbon monoxide, gravel, and noise.
Where the social fabric resembles an irregular patchwork of religious, cultural, provincial, ethnic and tribal scraps woven together by the thread of nationalism, rather than a uniformly patterned cloth. Where this social fabric has been ripped apart several times by sectarian and provincial strifes, stained by the blood of innocent children and women killed in the name of honour, and mended by the occasional spurts of victory over the enemy. Whether in a cricket match or a battlefield, only to be torn apart at the seams once again.
It is a country floating about in an ideological cocktail of religious conservatism and Western liberal democracy, a nation still shackled by its colonial past. It is a nation that has drowned the vision of its founder in this miscellany of ideologies and ideologues but is still drawn to the charisma of that vision, though intermittently, only to be pulled back into the bedlam.
While I have attempted to sketch an honest and naked portrayal of Pakistan or at least one that approximates to it, it is not a country or a nation that can be captured and described by a single narrative, for its historical tides turn with the wind, requiring a revamping of the portrayal every now and then. For it is a country where the sky turns countless shades in the blink of an eye, but the sun never stops shining, indifferent to the hustle, bustle and chaos of the life that is lived under its warmth.