Its over a month since I returned from my 3 month long hiatus in Pakistan. Still the images of Masi Hasina’s house haunt me. The sky-high pile of kachra (trash) says to me “Iffat what good are you? Clean it up”. And her meager one charpaiee (bed) and nearly empty dirty kitchen counter top says “Fill me up Iffat, havent you seen your own stuffed refrigerator, and over decorated home. ”
Coming back to US has been a culture shock to me. When I invite people over or when I go to dawats (parties) there are so many dishes that I lose the count. I cook a lot before dawats, atleast 5 main course items and may be two three desserts. Then we eat in a very clean, well decorated 4000 sq ft home. And all my friends own such (or even better) homes. This has been my life for last 20 or so years. But then this time when I lay out the variety of food on dining table, somehow Masi Hasina’s dirty neighborhood and meager abode flashes back and says “Hey Iffat, what about me?”.
When we come back from Pakistan we all talk about clothes shopping. and Yes, most if not all of my shopping was from famous designers of Dolmen Mall. A few Agha Noor shirts too for bragging rights. But this time around my feelings are different. I dont really feel like showing them off…….Oh shut up Masi Hasina!!! You have taken all my guilty pleasures away!!!
On my last day when I told her I am leaving she begged “Baji you cant leave today. Go tomorrow. Tonight your staying in my home.” And then proudly added ” I bought chicken today. I will make biryani for you. My kids want you to stay with us”. With teary eyes we both looked at each other. I was happy that in just three weeks I was able to make her feel that I can stay at her place. But then my real self asked me “Iffat would you have really stayed there? and the reply “No way, are you nuts”. I am just too spoiled by US comforts. And mind you, I have worked really hard for all these comforts. They were not presented to me in a silver plate.
I am spiritually at crossroads. On one side the glamorous yet lonesome US life and on the other the questioning eyes of poor Pakistanis. I feel like they are calling me and just sending out money is not the solution. I actively need to be there, not just Activism but the much needed Activity.
What do I do? Be there, be here …Or as usual hang somewhere in between?