By Myra Ahmed
This is Myra. I am the founder and executive director of Land of the Pure, and I am effectively hijacking this week’s article because I have a lot of thoughts. Anyone who knows me will know that I, very often, have a lot of thoughts. They will likely also tell you that hours of their time are consumed listening to me ramble about my thoughts. But this time round, I felt that there was no one better to put them to than an audience that had been following my work and our journey for so unbelievably long. This was partly because I am becoming growingly comfortable with presenting myself and my ever-changing perceptions towards Pakistan on this platform, and partly because I feel the thoughts are very relevant to the discussions we often have in LOTP articles.
The matter at hand today is the Pakistani diaspora. As an overseas Pakistani, my admiration for Pakistan has always been romanticised as an entirely utopian perception of the country, limited to pictures like the one at the top of this article -- and to some extent, it could be argued that this is true. Being diaspora is a privilege, where we can turn a blind eye to the plight of those who struggle to make a living each day, looking instead at the beauty they call home, or the economic support they bring. It means that there is a certain distance - physcial and arbitrary - between us and the average Pakistani.
But equally, while this distance is something difficult to navigate around, often giving us all sorts of identity crises and survivors' guilts, it is also what becomes the stimulus for deeper exploration of Pakistan - in all its glory. We are exposed to Pakistan in a very unique way, where we are both 'within and without', seeing a place we call home through the eyes of others, and from a birds-eye perspective.
For many years, my perception of both Pakistan and patriotism was distorted by those around me; the same people, places and occurrences that I now say widen by view of the country once inhibited my view of the country, and my patriotism was reactionary. My patriotism was formulated around the ideas that people held towards Pakistan, and in my own, somewhat selfish defense-mechanisms, I failed to look beyond those very, very limited ideas. People's comments and casual remarks, that I did not, at the time, know how to respond to, blinded me to Pakistan's nuances, both good and bad. My surface-level understanding of my own country was built around the standards of others, and my deeply flawed idea of patriotism revolved around dismissing the possible existence of anything that went against these standards. My argument to all comments would simply be 'no', and that obviously was not the best of things.
The paradigm shift I experienced came through many things; studying Politics and Economics forced me to strip the good and bad of its ideology and look at things through a critical, objective lens. Writing gave me a cathartic outlet that meant patriotism wasn't just expressed, but explored. I saw the impact that my presence in certain rooms had on the various identities I represented, and how that tied into the perceptions I was trying to negate. But most significantly, Land of the Pure showed me THE real 'land of the pure' in its true, real light. In writing with and for a completely Pakistani audience, with the sole focus on Pakistan, I was forced to question, on numerous occasions, the impact that our work was having, and that is why Land of the Pure has undergone such immense evolution over the past year or so.
From 'changing perceptions', to 'changing Pakistan to suit the perceptions we want people to have towards the country' - it has been a long, long journey. Some would say this journey has made me a little less optimistic. Others would argue this journey has meant I talk a lot more, about a lot more. But my personal view of this journey would be that it has opened my eyes to Pakistan in ways I'd never before imagined, and it has shifted the role I saw myself play in the country's progression. It has made me less optimistic in that I no longer believe saying that an issue does not exist will make it not exist. And it has made me more talkative in that I am more willing to discuss these issues, because discourse is where I now see the greatest potential to move forward. Whatever it has resulted in, is definitely better than where we started; but then again, this is an ongoing journey.
Thank you for joining LOTP on this journey, and for listening to my little ramble! As ever, we'd love to hear what you have to say, so please do feel free to send us any and all comments and feedback.
Here's to the Land of the Pure!
Follow us on Instagram