As we approach Pakistan’s 70th Independence Day 14 August 2017, it is time to reflect on what it means to belong to a land we can call home – with sentimental national feelings expressed on great feasts and grand events. Yet, remembering, too, that most days are not Friday afternoons, after Juma prayer, or Sundays after church, or Saturday nights in our youthful days. Most days are every days, and most people who build and run the land are just common men and women with ordinary jobs, ordinary homes, ordinary pleasures, ordinary worries – and sometimes, too, extraordinary thoughts and actions. And everyone is unique and with importance to those who love us and those that we love and care for. Besides, King Salomon and Shoemaker Ali are more alike than we think when it comes to the big and small existential issues in life; the two may dream of being the other, or someone entirely different, only to realise that if they could change, they might not want to give away all that they love and cherish, be it humble and modest, or rich and wealthy. We should all say with pride: this is my family, my friends, my village, my land; this is where I belong – everything is mine, it is ours.

For the title of my article today, I have borrowed the title of a beautiful song by ‘The Seekers’ (1965): “I’ll never find another you”. We should remember that it is what we have and in what connections we exist that make us to who we are and who others in our lives. True, we all have daydreams and other dreams about something else and better, but perhaps we should also admit that we only want improvements, not outright change and different lives – at least not if we cannot include everyone around us on that journey. In political change, too, we should remember the simple human aspects.

Pakistan is a young land with deep development challenges in many fields, with shortcomings, deep inequalities and difficulties for many who live lives deprived of basic needs, being unable to realise themselves, improve their lives, and live to the fullest what God wants them to be. Even the rich and powerful cannot be happy when there are so many poor and powerless around them. Yet, we still love the land that is ours, indeed so if things keep getting better for everyone, indeed the lower segments, so all can feel good and be more proud of their land. Besides, if the land is statistically good or not so good, it is still our land, quoting another song title from ‘The Seekers’: “This land is your land”, adding, too: “I’ll never find another one like you”.

Many years ago, when I was a young student, I spent some months in Tanzania in East Africa at the country’s only university that time. I stayed in a guest house downtown, some 15 kilometers from the university, which was situated on some hills outside the city. The public transport was very poor and one had to wait patiently in the hot sun for the overcrowded bus to make its appearance, changing bus half way, and walking the last few last kilometers. We were all in the same boat, well, bus in this case.

When I came back some years later to work at my home country’s embassy, my employer gave me a car to use, and one of the first places I wanted to visit was the university. I saw many familiar faces, and found it quite embarrassing that I was sitting in an air-conditioned car while the others were walking, or just waiting for the late and overcrowded bus. Yet, I was impressed that Tanzanians more than many people I have met were proud of their land – and university students and teachers knew that the country’s first president, Julius Nyerere, nicknamed Mwalimu (teacher) in the Swahili language, had said that those who had the privilege of learning should serve their people with the book and as the farmer does with the hoe and spade. If they forgot that, they would not be much better than the men, who were sent from a starving village to collect food, but got lost in the city, and ate and drank up the money. Well, I don’t think many Tanzanians would have behaved like that, at least not that time, since Mwalimu and the other leaders had instilled in everyone the socialist political conscience to care for each other, inherent, too, in traditional values in Africa and everywhere else – before human beings went astray and became ‘modern’. It was those values that made the poor Tanzanians feel proud of their land, knowing they were on the right track, and students knew that special attention was given to education. The felt they could say: “I’ll never find another one like you”.

The same ‘life philosophy’ was expressed by the main character in ‘Babette’s Feast’ (1950), written by Karen Blixen under her penname Isak Dinesen. Babette, a French woman who in the 1870s sought refuge in Berlevåg in Finnmark in the far north of Norway, at a time when there was uprising in France. She settled with the locals. But when she was old, she inherited a big sum of money from a relative in France; everyone in the poor village thought she would now leave them and return to the life she had left in the fine and mundane France. But no, she spent all the money on a big feast for her fellow villagers so she could remain equal to them, because now they were the people she loved.

As the alert reader has already noticed, I don’t write about one continent, one country or one group of people; I write about people anywhere, be it in Pakistan, Norway, or somewhere else. The basic issues in life are the same, and we realise, too, that it is the small and ordinary things around us that count; they are the real gifts of life – with a portion of dreams, as long as we find back to our everyday life, because that is where dreams come true.

Allow me, dear reader, to be a bit nostalgic: In my youthful years, a Danish song entitled “De nære ting” (the near, everyday things), written by Aase Gjødsbøl Krogh, became popular in Norway in the 1960s, and it was common on the repertoire of village choirs and listeners’ choice programmes on the radio; in Norway, it was usually sung by Kurt Foss and Reidar Bøe,. For young readers, let me mention that not everyone had record players or other music playing gadgets since this was long before today’s Internet age. Let me also mention that the fairly simple text should not make elitist intellectuals brush the song aside. In the end, we are neither lowbrow nor highbrow; we are all equal, and that means quite ordinary human beings, in whatever land we call home.

As we on 14 August celebrate Pakistan’s 70th anniversary, let all of us do so in unity, in pride and dignity; let politics and debates wait till another day. Yes, there is still work to do so all can feel true inclusion, belonging and equality – and live as God wants us to live. And even those Pakistanis who have immigrated and live financially more comfortable lives, or have otherwise ‘struck gold’, will often miss their childhood land, realising that there were much to cherish and to be proud of at home in; many values could perhaps not quite come true anywhere else, be it nostalgia or reality.

Where about it all is, I hope all Pakistanis can take some time to reflect on the great land and good people God created: “This land is your land”, “I’ll never find another one like you”.

Happy 70th Independence Day 14 August 2017.