That’s what my friend said, this girl I once knew — this girl I once traipsed the earth’s ceiling with, trading transcontinental approaches to feminism that were really all the same, recycled western approach to feminism.
I watched that documentary last week. We debated it fiercely once, in a Land Rover, somewhere between Chitral and Rumbor. I argued that punk was real and that, that was an art project — argued even though I hadn’t seen the documentary and had no frame of reference. But it’s theoretical, so what does it matter anyway?
My friend is in New York now. And that documentary reminded me of things. You have the privileged Pakistanis, and you have the 99 percent. We have our 99 percent, too. But our 99 percent has drinking water. No one walks ankle-deep in shit.
My Pakistani friends defy all the stereotypes.
Some are religious. They don’t drink, they dress traditionally, they’ll marry other Muslims. They are all rich, but some are richer than others. My closest friends were the poorest of the wealthy. In Pakistan, there is no middle class. There are tiers of posh, tiers of poor. There is the one, and the Others.
The religious girl would take the train alone from Karachi to Lahore, would wedge against strangers in the filthy, open air ferry to Manora, the propellers churning fuel all around. That ferry was unlike any American ferry I’ve known. It was this motorized canoe, overloaded with passengers, and we were all one with the fumes and the raw sewage and the murky water. One woman who wet her dupatta and rubbed her baby’s face. And this girl, my friend, bought some dough to feed the birds, or the fish, I can’t remember, and she handed me half the ball. This girl will go to Canada for grad school, will speak better than I do in my native tongue, will choose her path deliberately, even if her path will ultimately be a traditional marriage with children.
The other Others: I forgot how much they drink, how childish and under-developed certain things are. It feels stunted living with your parents as an adult, seeking their permission, asking to take a car. Buying your liquor from bootleggers, feeling like you have to finish it all. Drinking on Friday nights in your friends’ bedrooms, or maybe in their gardens or on their roofs, if you’re luckier. Drinking desperately because there is no other way and you can’t see where this is going. Or can they see, and I just can’t understand how they can want where this is going?
I don’t mind if you’re square, as long as you’re active. Active is alive.
Up north, it was about the lushness. It wasn’t just about the wilderness, it was about the wildness. About being tracked by Military Intelligence, being unable to get a plane out. About being tracked in a place that was called, until recently, The North-West Frontier Province. It was the thrill of being hunted, however half-heartedly. The illusion of escape among the car-wide passages through rocks. All the times we rolled back, all the times we nearly tumbled off the cliffs.