The bitter-sweet Pie of Pakistan

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In attempt of transparency, I tend to write in honesty and it would be unjust to gloss over the issues that certain places face. Though I have far from written all negative that occurred during my travels over the world, leaving a country such as Pakistan, I cannot write a threesome of appraisal blogs without a pinch of cold-hard truth. More than once, I have been shown a paper that crowns Pakistan the number one destination for travellers. Puzzled, I wonder who wrote this, however I admit this massive country beholds many wonders for those of wandering nature. Incredible mountain ranges in the North, a stunning coastal line along the sea in the South and between the two are a whole bunch more to discover and with it tons of welcoming people. With lots to do and see, delicious foods and copious cups of chai tea to indulge in and getting seen as a fellow Pakistani due to its diversity in colour, there can be a lot of quality time spent travelling here.

As introductory to Pakistan, we had commenced with a meal and drink in Lahore. With a chai tea still steaming in one hand, I admired the views around and began to vision what lays further. As I sat there, seeming to wait an eternity to gorge on one of Pakistan’s many extraordinarily delicious meals, a tingle of excitement of the beauties to come brewed in my lower abdominal. Though I hadn’t been completely dreamy, having crashed upon multiple burning heaps of garbage in South-Africa, the same country where naive me had begun getting his feet wet with trusting people which resulted into the “neighbourhood-watch” Expendables acquainting the head of my phone’s thief with the pavement. Over the years, I met copious ill-minded people and witnessed horrors of countries and cultures that had me frustrated with the lack of respect and decency. So no, my head wasn’t in the clouds. Though, despite the traffic in Lahore which was frightening to say the least, for a city of eleven million, I would say that as far as my nose had gone, Pakistan had given me a warm welcome.

During the drive to my friend’s house, I learned the way of fining as my friend had slightly sped over the limit. Apparently, your reckless driving gets waved off with a minor, and I mean minor ticket which you pay and then gets shred the following day rather than put into the system. With a fee insignificant and little consequences, many behold the limit signs as advisory and drive away. Though this incident and majority of them can be waved away by calling it that what makes this country wild and exciting, opposed to the boring ‘nanny-state’ Victoria in Australia, taking Islamabad as example is proof changes are required. When accidents leading to injuries and at times even death happen on the daily, there is a large problem. When touring the capital, passing by a vehicle torn apart by an oncoming vehicle or watching a young man get back up with jeans torn and his scratched up bike some meters away had been far from rare occurrences. A danger to people with the way they drive and to imagine these are the same people cruising over the mountainous roads or zigzagging left to right on a crowded six-lane road without glancing behind them.

However, what had really gotten me interchangeably bitter and somber was the dilemma of waste. A nation filled with people exclaiming their love for their fatherland and praising it heavens-high had been the same group to have taken littering to a complete new level. Turning this massive chunk of land into a wasteland of garbage, muck and junk, they have managed to leave me in shock and surprise. Having witnessed parades in South-East Asia leaving the streets full, passed by pigsties created by humans lacking decency and having admired garbage piles in the South of Africa, I had now stepped onto the ground of professional litterbugs.

I meandered the streets in dismal as along the paths I walked on was a haven of mishmash. A river of plastic, cups, decaying food, fast-food bags and boxes, complete bags of rubbish from the homes and the list goes on. Piles after piles. Every step I took, I passed by filth and trash. There was no escaping it. Not in the villages, where fields or small creeks were dedicated as bin, not in the mountains where it gets thrown into the ravine, not even in the inner city where alleys and streets are full. There was no break. With that, I for so far of the countries travelled to, wish to crown Pakistan the country of garbage.

To top of, as cherry on the pie of junk, Pakistan is faced with a fair amount of corruption, though I hadn’t sensed it in any extreme form. One could say there is still a present homophobia and a slight inequality between men and women, however, if so, I’d say it’s more of mind than tangible. People seem to be more open-minded, men and women share the work-floor and there are even towns where the fairer sex leads in entrepreneurship. Everyone has their right to an opinion, but the way I see it, Pakistan is far ahead of what they could have been and with that, a progressing country. There is a strictness with religion and its customs and it’s a land with past conflicts, but I have not experienced the daily bombings I was promised by outsiders to be met with. Instead, it was open arms, people wishing me to be in their pictures, friendly chats and a helluva lot of tea.

Although I wish more compatriots would take on to the streets and sweep and clean every once in a while, to show the patriotism they claim to have, before we all sit and judge these people’s manners there is also a lesson to take. The bond of the family is one unbreakable and strong, entire families living in a grand house in the city and over the holidays in their second in a village. Affordable due to all working members pouring their wallets into a single account managed by the accountant of the house. That person is then responsible of feeding the cousins and nieces, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons with whatever money they require whenever, which releases all tension involving the green paper. When not working, siblings are willing to step the foot onto the gas for hours on end simply to drop off or stop by, which is huge as the nearest rides alone are a consecutive driving of minimal three to four hours. The ones rich enough to hire a guard or maid welcome them into the family and wind up paying expenses made by them. Be it college or trips. They tend to live their lives well and often caring for family.

So, Pakistan can seem cold, harsh and wild when viewed from afar, but once you’re in, you’re part of one big family. I am immensely grateful to have been part of it and I wish to one day experience it again and possibly tread to the North in the summer.

What has shocked you in countries you travelled to?