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10 Terrific Traits of the Average Pakistani

Posted by yourpakistan on June 2, 2011


Tehmina Khan

This piece is not based on empirical data. Not even on a wide array of anecdotal data. This is just one person remarking on her observations over the course of her relatively short life. And, of course, the term “average” is employed pretty loosely here since the true “average” Pakistani is busy making ends meet and incapable of reading such self-indulgent articles. So of course, I mean the average person among the English-newspaper reading segment of society. I hope this serves as a sufficiently verbose disclaimer.

1. Our warmth: I was halfway through the journey on a PIA flight back home from Toronto and the lady next to me, who was a complete stranger, said in a gruff/indignant/too-assertive-to-leave-any-room-for-argument tone of voice:

“You haven’t eaten throughout the journey, eat your dinner.”

So a lot of people, especially of the Western individual-is-might mentality would consider this rude or nosy but it really warmed my heart. A random stranger caring about what I eat is touching. I mean, really – who does that? A sweet, motherly Pakistani aunty on a PIA flight, that’s who.

2. Our sense of humour: Yeah it’s inappropriate, kooky, nonsensical, illogical, and sometimes plain outrageous (not to mention incredibly politically incorrect), but it is our sole surviving mechanism through these incredibly hard times.

When I went to work the day after the raid in Abbottabad that launched the latest round of condemnation of our beleaguered country, a co-worker said to another:

“My condolences, I heard they shot your good friend Osama. What a tragic way to die.”

It was totally random. The co-worker at the receiving end blinked, was slightly confused, and delivered a bored comeback and went back to work – just one exchange in a series of silly exchanges that tickle the funny bone and make it easier to get through the tough challenges that face us.

3. Our passion: For food. For lawn. For bargaining. For cussing out news anchors. It is everywhere. Observe it and absorb it. Some people complain about the ‘boisterousness’ of the Punjabi people, but it was such a soothing balm after spending a stretch of time doing my Bachelor’s in the West. People are decidedly mellow there (to the point of being eerily unresponsive).

4. Our levity: Somehow the true gravitas of a situation is lost upon us. Heart attacks? Failing you’re A-levels? Root canal? Survived a suicide blast? Just observe the reactions of those around you (after the immediate aftermath of intense care and concern, of course).

It can drive you nuts when you are trying to extract the appropriate amount of sympathy and concern, but in the long run having these things brushed off changes your perspective.

Nothing is insurmountable, nothing is terrifying.

We’re pretty brave if you really think about it. Of course, you could replace “brave” with less flattering adjectives, but I’ll go with brave!

5. Our wisdom: We have a rich, ancient, and deep-rooted culture that is the opposite of superficial. Well, superficiality will always be present, of course, but I’ve noticed a depth of soul that seems to spring from our very soil (if not the people). Pay attention the next time someone offhandedly cites a Punjabi mahavra. I love such mass-scale, non-esoteric, indigenous nuggets of wit and wisdom. I mean, just the other day I saw this written on the back of a rickshaw:

“Sajjan koi koi, dushmun har koi.”

I laughed, and then I thought about it. Funny yet thought-provoking and from such an unexpected source.

6. Our stamina: Not physically – we really could do with bolstering ourselves in that arena!

I mean our stamina for things that are not necessarily fun. When our grandparents are sick, we are by their bedsides. When it’s time to study, we buckle down and study. That is a remarkable trait in everyone but especially for the young. The West is troubled with the “rebellious teenager” stereotype, but it isn’t that rampant here – quite the opposite actually.

7. Our earthiness: We are not high-maintenance; we will make do with almond oil in our hair instead of fancy products. We’re happy to wear local-artisan created kola puris. And now it is actually fashionable to be “environmentally friendly” and go for “organic” products. Yeah, we’ve been doing it for generations.

8. Our culture: I’m commenting on our culture of making sacrifices for our parents’ happiness. My friends choose their majors to make their parents happy. We have to suck it up and paste a smile on our faces when we are dragged to random people’s weddings. This ties in with our ‘stamina’ but it is our culture that snuffs out the “me, me, me, only me” monster (of course some people are impervious to this and still run around spouting that as their mantra).

9. Our talent: ‘Jay’s Toons’ on Facebook, anyone? Coke studio? Olive handmade soaps? With all the challenges these people face, somehow, their talent and genius slips through the cracks of the obstacles that are there. I can only imagine where we’d be if we actually had proper platforms and monetary incentives.

10. Our festivity: No need to elaborate. When it’s time to celebrate, we know how to do it. Good food, merry people, and our homeland – the combination is very joyous if you stop to think about it.

There you go. Yes, this is a naïve, limited, somewhat contradictory and by no means comprehensive list, and I’ve employed a generous dose of the “card stacking” fallacy to keep the positive vibe going.

But, really, we need to lift each other up, not tear each other down. There are enough people in this world to do that for us.

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