cultural, immigrant, Pakistan, USA

Immigrant ramblings

Scene: a graduate class. Students poring over papers. I’m sitting by, alert to signals from anyone.

Suddenly, I’m in Lahore, in Pakistan, and I see my mother’s hands. Her frail, busy hands are laboring on something as usual. And as I sit there, in a clean, institutional space on an American university campus, I’m suddenly lost. Where is the dust? The noise? The family? The chaos? The smells and sights?

Suddenly, my classroom, my space, my work and my persona are unreal. I need to reach out and touch what was real to me for so many years of childhood and adult life. How is one to move out of one real into another, and stay there?

We talk incessantly about how “people are people” and “life is the same,” but the concrete realities of life are dreadfully different between the U.S. and Lahore. I am shaken by this again. It just takes a moment of reflection, and I am transported.

The next moment, when I am called on with a “Dr Mir, I have a question -” I have to return.

Something about the chaos, the dust, the sights and smells is too real. When I go back for visits, its realness stuns me almost to the point of immobility. I can barely function in it. And yet I yearn to go back and touch it again, so that I may feel real again.

A minaret against a cloudy sky. The sound of adhan in a quiet evening. The sound of a donkey braying, a child laughing, a peddlar calling out, all at the same time. It is too much, when I go back. It overwhelms me, the routineness of it, the gray-dusty-normalcy of it. The clean, angular lines of life here sometimes feel like they are synthetically designed. They are predictable. The phones will work. Traffic will be bad on game day.

Home is noplace in particular. Home is in hot chaos. Home is in cold routine.

28 thoughts on “Immigrant ramblings”

  1. Only you can write a poem worth a million in just three phrases and unintentionally. Refering to the last line.
    Only you can make me cry in office 🙂 plus 😦

  2. what are you doing doing what you are doing? Drop all daktargiri and write fiction so that I can read more of your writing. “Home is in hot chaos. Home is in cold routine.”… Ahhhh how I wish I had written that first, I would be so proud of me instead of being proud of you!

  3. so poignant… i can thoroughly relate to this. i have moments like this every now and then when im simply over whelmed at what different realities and worlds i’ve inhabited and was it really me living in those worlds and is it really me right now “over here” which I can so clearly remember being “over there”…

    thanks for articulating this feeling so beautifully.

  4. Aik choti nazam

    Jub talk
    safar main rehna
    ki aarzoo kerna
    ghar main beth ker
    beete safar
    ki guftagu kerna

  5. Beautiful! It’s almost as though you suddenly realized that you belong neither here nor there. While, at the same time you’re still torn between two distinct identities.

  6. wow this really resonates with me. I put it more crudely to my brother when I try to tell him what I feel like, basically I feel like a “dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghaat ka”.

  7. So true! I usually *pause* when someone asks me where home is. My grandparents were immigrants, now we are immigrants, sigh, the never ending cycle. :S

  8. miss your regular posts…this one reminds me why!My feelings were so shaken by the similarity with yours! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Shabana, Welcome back. Since you are associated with education and are also missing Lahore, I would like to draw your attention to the recent formation of the International Coalition for Education Reform in Pakistan. Your eloquence and insights would be invaluable.

    Best wishes.

  10. Salam,

    I hope you are enjoying good health. I remember, a few months ago, you were hosting your blog somewhere else. Is this the same writer i occasionally used to follow? And secondly, i need a few links too from that blog’s sidebar. Is that possible?


  11. Your eloquence often makes me wish you should speak my mind also, which now at my age is full of all kind of things. In addition I have difficulty in translating them into words for which I wander around in the two or three languages at my disposal and yet I fail or remain un-satisfied;
    like; “sapnay main moray pee milay ker na saki koi baat”
    Well, you know I am proud of you, baitee.

  12. but I am proud of you too, mamujan!

    GH, I think that domain is lost to me, and the links too, but if you have any specific link requests, what are they?

  13. Wow, i am actually struggling with the same thing…often times i find myself reliving the time i spent there…i can never forget the warm rain on my skin, and i found it so amazing how instead of running from rain ppl come on their roof tops and embrace it…my family is from old town lahore, and i would never give that up for defence or the like…every corner speaks history…shopping in anar kali is priceless..

  14. Lovely post, funnily enough though, I always felt the opposite. My trips to Lahore are a treat for the senses – the colours of the bazaars, the noise of hawkers and traffic, the taste of mangoes, dhai bhalle and coke in glass bottles. I do find it so intense though, sensory-overload which I bring back and mull over for a very long time. In contrast I find the grey light of home (London) and the order of life so soothing and easy.

  15. This is so simple & touching..
    It just reminds me of Shafiq Saleemi..

    بے نام دیاروں کا سفر کیسا لگا ہے
    اب لوٹ کے آئے ہو تو گھر کیسا لگا ہے۔

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