Bombs, Taliban, Terrorism, Extremism, Danger. This is the Pakistan that the media portrays. Since my arrival to this country of 162 million a week ago, my picture of this land has transformed into a grand landscape painted by one of the Hudson River masters.
The sketches of this masterpiece began to take shape when I arrived late on a Saturday evening to the house that will be my home for next 10 months. The family that welcomed me immediately accepted me as one of their own. Now, I must confess that as a Southerner, I have been brought up with certain ideals of hospitality, but the level of acceptance that I received that evening makes us Southerners look plain old rude and shallow.
The first color began to hit the canvas as I traversed the land to visit poor farmers in the desert. Dust and desert shrubs stretched on for many miles in every direction. The only colors to break free from the abyss of shades of brown were on the bright pastels of the kurta shalwars that the women wore. As we neared, women would shield their faces with vibrant orange or red or pink fabric. 80% of these people live on less than one dollar a day and are entirely dependent on Mother Nature’s grace to give them rain during the summer.
The dabs of color began to mix together as my colleagues and I sat on the side of the road drinking tea before embarking on the rest of our journey. Converted WWII-era trucks that the British had brought many years before passed us decorated with intricate detail and hauling several times the amount of cargo that they had originally been designed for. Their unique horns seemed to posture toward one another in an attempt to dominate the others. Men sat on rope coaches conversing about the day’s events and enjoying the comforting warmth of a teacup that warded off the coolness of the evening air. A nut vendor passed roasting small chickpeas and selling peanuts by the bag full.
This is the REAL Pakistan and I have only gained a glimpse of its complexity and beauty. Now, I am not denying that there are elements Bombs, Taliban, Terrorism, Extremism, and Danger in this country, but which country can repudiate the existence of these elements within its own borders (minus the Taliban)? I wonder how might the world’s view of this country be if a more balanced portrayal of its reality were shared.