Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I am a man without a Home

A short story by Almas Akhtar

I was born in Mir Pur Khas a small town in Sindh, Pakistan. My father and uncles were farmers who owned mango farms. They had lived in Sindh all their lives, enjoyed the simple life style of Wadi e Mehran. They had many friends some were Hindus and some were Muslims. All of us kids celebrated Basant , Ashura, Eid, Holi and Diwali. Then came the "partition" of my country in 1947. I had just celebrated my 8 th birthday in August that year when many of our distant relatives decided to move to India. I remember them telling my father " India is for Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims, we all must leave".
" This is my land, my farms, my home I will not leave", he told them. Many of our relatives moved to India but we did not. All my friends were scared they did not want me to move maybe because they loved me a lot or maybe because I was captain of the cricket team and their star batsman!
Days past by and our friendships grew closer. We enjoyed playing " Baraf Pani " and " street cricket".

I moved to Karachi when I got admission in St Patricks College,  in 1957. My family rented a small apartment in the Saddar area near the college where I lived along with our Munshee Jee who took care of the house, did groceries and kept a strict eye on me. He prepared fresh vegetarian food for me, every day.

I spent summer vacations and Eid and Diwali with family  back in Mir Pur Khas. I bought a small radio and enjoyed listening to Sufi music.

I was able to get admission in the prestigious Dow Medical College. My parents distributed mithai and new clothes among all the farmers and workers back in Sindh. After all there will be a young "doctor babu" returning in few years to serve his community.

I completed my house job in early 1966. Karachi was a beautiful city at that time, roads were swept in the mornings, I enjoyed watching films in the newly built film theaters and enjoyed the tram ride across Bandar Road. Yet I greatly missed my village and my family.

I went back and started my own dispensary in Mir Pur Khas. My two older sisters got married to two brothers in India and they moved there. My parents went to India for the wedding ceremony. My younger brother started helping my father in running the family mango business. I also got married few years later. My father wanted me to go to "Wilayat"( foreign country usually used for England) for higher education I started applying in various universities in England, then one of my college friends told me about America. I applied and got residency in a medical institute in New York.

I arrived in New York in 1971, worked hard day and night for 7 years to complete my medical training. I became father of two kids during this time. I greatly missed my family, hated the winters in NY which I thought were worse than the summer heat of Sindh. I also missed the game of cricket, asked my brother to update me on the latest tours of Pakistan Cricket Team during our phone conversations. I got a job as a cardiologist in one of the leading medical institute in the country. They help me acquire US citizenship, now I had dual citizenships of Pakistan and USA. I had two passports a green one and a blue one.

I visited Mir Pur Khas in 1979 with my family with lots of gifts for everyone. I was the " Doctor Babu" the pride of my small town, every one came over to visit me. My brother had taken over the business from my dad and he was doing very well. He had renovated the house, started exporting mangoes to newer markets in the Middle East. " I want to move back and built a hospital in this area", I told my dad during my visit.
" Don't do that in fact call me, your mom and brother to America, we are Hindus we are not safe here,your brother has started getting threats from the government officials, I can't go and visit my daughters, we were refused Indian visa when we applied for it and your sisters could not get Pakistani visa from India, the new textbooks in school says all Hindus are enemies of Pakistan, why?" he sounded very depressed.
" But Papa you did not move in 1947 and now you want to leave Pakistan?", I asked.
" I did not know that I will be interrogated and humiliated so badly just to visit India for few weeks. I am a Pakistani, not a terrorist, the people of this town respect me but the government officials do not trust us, I did not know that my grandchildren will read that their are enemies of their own country", he replied.

I returned to US with a heavy heart and started the immigration process for my parents and wife"s parents. My parents came to US after a year and my brother moved his business to Dubai where he settled with his family. My sisters and my parents started meeting every year in Dubai as all of them could travel easily there.

Me and my wife went to watch the Cricket World Cup in London in 1983, we cheered for Pakistan they lost in the semi finals. I was not happy that India won the final and lifted the trophy, how could I ? How could a Pakistani be happy at India"s victory in Cricket?

As I am getting old myself I dream about our farms and my friends. My most cherished memories are of my childhood spent in Sindh, Pakistan.

I regularly follow the game of Cricket on Dish Network now and am one of the biggest supporter of Pakistan Cricket team.I travelled to Australia to watch the 1992 Cricket World Cup . I cried when Pakistan won, I cried for the country that I belonged to, I cried for my "Pakistan"!

I listen to the Sufi Music of Shah Latif Bhittai and Sachal Sarmast. I enjoy eating Pakistani mangoes. Me and my wife are leading a semi- retired life we like to travel across the globe, when ever I see the sign " Karachi" or " Lahore" or "Islamabad", I feel an ache in my heart.......

My parents passed away in the late 80s. I still go to Dubai to visit my siblings. I applied for Indian Visa to attend my sister"s son"s wedding but was refused the immigration officer said you can get Indian Visa if you surrender your Pakistani Citizenship.
How can I give up my Pakistani Citizenship ? No never!

I am scarred to go to Pakistan, have no association with India and will always be an immigrant in USA.

My children call America home, my father did not move to India in 1947 and called Pakistan home. I have citizenship of two countries but I don't have a home. My name is Raj Krishan and I am a man with no country to call home.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Why you but not us?

Thanks Brandon Stanton and Humans of New York for writing about my people, my Pakistani People

Dear Brandon,
I have enjoyed reading and looking at the "common man and woman" in Pakistan through the lens of your camera . A Salute to you who travelled to Pakistan and captured its beauty, it's warmth and it's hospitality by taking images .......images worth a hundred words.....a story associated with every face.

I wonder why an "outsider" had to go to capture all that , why can't we? we who belong to that country? Those who have Pakistani blood running in their veins?

Maybe because we are the
"hypocrates" , maybe we just accept what the western media says about Pakistan. Maybe because we have stopped caring about our birthplace!
It's not that Pakistan has ditched us but we have ditched it.

Yes our trips to Pakistan are not that often anymore, we are more concerned about the heat and the " hungamas" than visiting our old sick parents. We tend to focus on searching the internet for designer Pakistani outfits rather than actually visiting our birthplace.

Yes we write paragraphs after paragraphs criticizing the latest season of TV serial Homeland for not portraying the image of Pakistan correctly but are we really promoting the true image of Pakistan to our children and our " Gora friends"?

Thanks Brandon for sharing the stories of the silent warriors, neighborhood cricket teams,hard working fathers and mothers trying to give their kids all that they never had, arcade owner from Lyari who runs a social hangout for the children, critically ill patients, true love stories of husbands and wives taking care of each other's in sickness and in health.

Actually news media has infused images of corrupt politicians and radical religious leaders in our minds which deviates us from looking at the big picture........that of the hundreds of loving and caring Pakistanis. Yes there is violence in Pakistan, yes the law and order situation is deteriorating every day and it’s not that the reports of violence are false. But they are only a small part of the big truth. There’s so much more in Pakistan ......so much more " good life"!

I don't know about how much warmth you felt during your recent trip. But I can tell you it's a place where parents and grandparents pray for the security of their children and grandchildren every day, where mothers and aunts spend hours in the heat to cook your favorite food. Where brothers take days off from work to drive you all over town for sight seeing and shopping. Where sisters spend hours to bargain with shop keepers so you can save some money. It's a place where friends of friends and relatives of relatives are also treated like your own.

Thanks for capturing that twinkle in the eyes and the the gratitude in every smile.

To you Brandon " thank you " for making me believe in my birthplace once more, for all the heartwarming stories. and hopefully next time you will be accompanied by many individual who once belonged to Pakistan.........

take care,

Almas Akhtar

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bin Roye Michigan Premiere

The wait is over it's here........ the mega blockbuster of 2015 BIN ROYE is here in Michigan !!!
Enjoy the epic love story of Saba and Irteza in a theatre near you. The first film produced under the banner of Hum Films, a Momina Duraid production !!
Pakistani film Bin Roye has so far received an overwhelming response from viewers across the globe and has presented impressive figures at the box office. Running all over the world even in remote places like New Zealand and Fiji island and Singapore this week, the film is holding its cinemas in the UK (No 12 at the box office), US (No 32 at the box office).
Limited seats........

Friday, August 7, 2015

Why to ask? Why to hurt ?

"So you will tell the kid that he is adopted later on in life, when he grows up", some one asked.
"It is very difficult decision I could never have done this",another person said.
" there are so many new fertility treatments; did you check with a doctor", another person tried to provide information.
These are few of the millions of questions commonly asked a couple who have adopted a baby.
The answer of these questions is "yes we will tell the child that he or she is adopted, after all if we have told people around us then why would we not tell the child".
And " yes it is a very difficult decision, thank God you were blessed with a healthy child of your own that is why you did not have that go through the excruciating process of adoption".
" generally couples try medical treatment, pray a lot before opting for adoption .......can some one else count the needle pricks or gaze at the doctor visit schedules or count the amount of money spent on treatment".
"Adopting a child" can be joyous and intense at the same time. Adoption is a process whereby a person or a legal married couple assumes the parenting of a child from his or her biological parents or a community organization.
The social stigma attached with adoption can be nerve wrecking especially in our culture when people constantly poke their noses in the lives of the parents and the adoptive child.
Adoption stereotypes and stigmas continue to be fairly pervasive in society – so pervasive that they quite often get unrecognized.
A common myth among is that Parents can’t love an adopted child as much as they would a biological child.
In reality Love and attachment are not the result of or guaranteed biologically. The intensity of bonding is the same regardless of how the child joined the family. Often parents of an adoptive child show more love and compassion towards their kid as compared to biological parent. Maybe it is because of the fact that they have gone through a very rough path before adoption that of infertility or other medical issues.
Individuals or couples who adopt a kid and raise him well are to be saluted and not to be interrogated, they are noble souls .......

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Victor and The Vanquished

the Victor and the Vanquished
Just read a beautiful article by Mishal Kidwai on why she hates Malala Yousufzai.
"Its not a news item picked up by Western media, its one of the "I told you so" episodes of Western agenda. Its most certainly not a representation of girls fighting to go to school in Swat or northern areas, but it is an incorrect reflection of how many girls in Pakistan don't, not or can't attend school. As much as the deprivation of education is horrible for any country or an individual, I hate Malala because she fails to emphasize on the number of girls who did, do, or will go to school in most other parts of Pakistan. I hate Malala because she never said I want to go to school like my fellow girls in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Gujranwala etc. Malala never said how her dream is to put a pen to a good use such as the cause for education, just like other 64% of women in Pakistan who teach, work, raise kids, or simply are skilled and literate individuals. I hate Malala because she has done more damage to the reputation of an educated, everyday school going girl of Pakistan who is seen either as a rebel or just lucky".
I quite agree with her , I don't hate Malala but I certainly don't agree with her notion that girls can't go to school peacefully in Pakistan. There are many girls across Pakistan who go to school every day, there are many girls who attend college, there are numerous women who are sole bread earners in their families. The cleaning lady aka "Massi" at my mom"s house cleans houses every day to send both her sons and daughters to school. Her husband is a driver and they both work to support their family. Isn't she a hero?
Many foreign fast food franchises, starter-up companies and mega shopping malls have opened in Pakistan in the last decade. Numerous women are working in the sales department who are well- educated and confident. They are selling anything from a hamburger to a car......quite confidently every day.Are they victims? Not at all.
Many women are tutoring neighborhood children, many are running small businesses, many are working in IT department and many are running charitable NGOs.
People abroad find it difficult to think that its a norm for women to gain education in Pakistan.
There maybe one Malala but there are many more highly educated doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs, factory workers who happen to be women spread all over Pakistan.
I just don't approve of any "easy fame" in the name of victimization, and not at all at the cost of defaming the people of Pakistan.
It's easy to become a victim and gain sympathies but it is very hard to face the challenges and emerge victorious .......don't you think so!