Let’s Build Bridges

After a professional marathon of 20 plus years, I am moonlighting with the idea of quitting  full-time  work or at least taking a break. I tell you it’s not an easy decision to walk out on a well-paying, stable career just to take a break. First of all, money…oh the fear of starvation! We have always been a two income family and we love to travel which means a good chunk of our income goes to seeing far off lands. Quitting work means quitting on the bucket list item of an African Safari and I have to come to terms with that. And then the fear of loneliness! Friends and family are forewarning of boredom: “What are you going to do with all that free time?” Some even came as far as to share anecdotes on how many people died right after retirement, “Oh you know Sadiq Uncle. He died shortly after retirement,” or “Zareen’s husband dreaded her staying home. She became a monster.” I realize that having plenty of time for me, someone who has always operated on its scarcity, can be dangerous and we all know about the empty mind’s capability of securing successful employment at devil’s workshop.

So here is my idea of keeping myself occupied. While still working, why not explore writing as a hobby? Hmm…it’s not that farfetched actually. I have been writing Urdu poetry for years because that’s the language of my tongue. However, lately it seems that my audience can be much larger if I write in English. Hence this blog in English! As for the subject, growing up travelogues used to be my favorite genre in literature. Reading Ibne Insha, Mustansir Hussain Tarar, Colonel Mohammad Khan, and many others, I would find myself totally engrossed and amused walking in their shoes to their destinations and situations. The only thing that I now find hard to believe is that they landed in as many romantic situations as they did by sheer coincidence—that part of travelogues seems to me more like Disney Dreamworks than reality. Other than that, travelogues are a great way of building bridges. In today’s highly divided world, they create the much-needed familiarity and friendship between far off lands and defog the mysterious beyonds.

Bill Bryson, an American writer who lived a good portion of his life in England, has written newspaper columns about the duality of his life in both places. These were later published as a book I’m a Stranger Here Myself. Reading the novel Brooklyn by Colm Tobin, my American book club members wondered why on Earth its Irish heroine couldn’t decide whether to continue living in Brooklyn for good or to move back to Ireland. To which my Jewish-American friend who lived in Israel for 11 years calmly replied, “Once you have lived in two countries, you don’t feel quite at home in either, you’re constantly making comparisons.”

Yes, for me being a Pakistani-American is like riding in two boats both of which are equally dear to me. And for that reason I would very much like to continue this paradoxical ride. Joining a book club remains a serendipity in my life. Instead of relying on biased opinions and common prejudices, I have learned more about American culture and history by reading my book club novels. What fun way to get a little perspective through quality, absorbing fiction! Of course these are not facts out of history books but one gets a good enough picture of what life was like back then and what formed the fabric of society in a certain time period.

So, my dear reader, the idea of “Building Bridges” is by no means new or the road less travelled. On the contrary, it’s quite stolen from all the great writers mentioned above. However, the fact remains that you can never build enough bridges between two lands, especially when they are at odds with each other and even more so when they happen to be America and Pakistan. By living in both lands I have seen that they are equally good and bad in their own ways. Their ideologies, looks, and governance may differ but their hearts and desires remain the same. If only they knew how good the other is (and this applies to both), they would never miss out on each other.

Staying clear of political and religious debate, this column will take a peek at my day-to-day life in a chipper manner. So, dear reader, let’s build some bridges. Get your hammer and elbow grease ready, it’s going to be a fun ride.


26 thoughts on “Let’s Build Bridges

  1. Yaay!! I am so excited! I have always loved of what little i have read written by you and i am absolutely looking forward to this. I hope to learn “how good the other is” through this blog as we have discussed some aspects of it earlier as well.
    To my ‘most visited’ blog from now! Cheeers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Iffat, this is Amy from the library book club. I think a blog of this type is a marvelous idea! Reading books has provided me with so much knowledge of other cultures and countries, and I love to hear different perspectives from those who have lived elsewhere. Thank you for being willing to share your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Iffat my dear, expect the unexpected from you. Just when life seem to be settling, we want to get out of the comfort zone, shake it, get creative & find new ways to explore. I look forward to be part of “building bridges” journey with you. Wonderful idea!


  4. Dear Iffat,
    Thank you for your new blog! I enjoy the library book clubs as a bridge to others as well. Yes, “retirement” is something of a mystery. Mine was involuntary due to moving and then office closings. I welcome your insights, and am somewhat soothed that women with knowledge of more than the culture of the United States hve most of the same concerns as I do. It disturbs me that I have this “bag lady” complex….fear that I will become ill, destitute, and an anonymous shadow on the streets and alone. This, though I work at staying healthy and solvent. Most of my family is gone, and connections to others has become a problem now that I have no employment to go to and most of my life and friendships occurred miles from Texas. The library book club and our lively discussions is certainly a way to get out of the house and a “bridge” for me. Now I look forward to your new blog as well!


  5. What wonderful and informative comments. I have been retired since 2011 (which is why I belong to the evening book club), and I absolutely love it. I spend time now doing things I enjoy, and I’m never bored. I definitely think you would be a wonderful writer. Thank you for the insights on other cultures.and allowing us to know you better.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know I’m your favorite child, that’s why I chose to withhold my opinion saving best for last.

    This blog is awesome! I could semi-understand your Urdu poetry, but loved it nonetheless. I feel like I’m experiencing what you did growing up in so many cultures.

    Yay mom!


  7. Just saw this comment Humair. As it turns out I am quite a novice at tech side of blogging. You are the one who pushed me to start this blog……just like I got you into Urdu literature.


  8. Yeah for you! Great writing. Look forward to reading more. I also feel that book club broadens my perspectives – even when I am not sure I like the book.
    Has taken me three years to adjust to retirement – but it is just a different lifestyle. Depends largely on what you want to do and how you pursue it.


  9. Hi,
    Very few people can make a living blogging, if you are thinking of quitting for that reason.
    I met you in the Community Pool where you indicated you are a new writer. I help new writers at my site. Tips for engaging readers, improving content, and increasing traffic are waiting for you. I brought you the link to my About page, so you can read what my blog can do for you
    I host ten networking events each month where you can get new readers, and I offer free incentives for subscribing.


  10. As I said the book club remains one of the best serendipities of my life. It adds depth and dimension to mere book reading. We are lucky to have such wonderful members. I love your comments and insights and the way you sum up things so beautifully.


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