I have this tradition, where I wear green on Independence Day. The celebration has always been constant and what better way to remember than to don oneself in the colours. I also listen to patriotic songs on the day; marvelling the maestros of the past, admiring recent attempts of contemporary artists and for one day, ignoring my abhorrence against everything Junaid Jamshed, and singing along Dil Dil Pakistan.

This year was different though. For one I am not in Pakistan anymore. I knew that the Independence Day was to fall after my departure from the homeland. To prepare myself for this, I made a point to take a green shirt with me. I also bought a small flag: plastic with a straw as its stick. I had a feeling the 14th August in a foreign land would be a very emotional moment and deserved nothing less. To go the extra mile in patriotism and indeed for good measure, I also took with me a packet each of banana (read green) Custard and Jelly.

All that said, I did not do anything I planned. In all honesty, besides the ‘Mime through Time’ clip, I did not even listen to any patriotic songs.

The indifference, if we are to call it that, stems out of my time here in the foreign land. Firstly, there were no television channels broadcasting shows with exuberant stages and over-expressive show-hosts talking about anything but Pakistani history. There were also no radio shows with promos cut short by national songs. There were no re-runs of bravados of the 65 war or of the absolute logic of escaping the hindu-dominance.14th August was a normal day here, a Friday with a very exhaustive schedule and the usual missed buses.

A few other things changed as well. I started classes in ‘Making sense of Globalization’, a course which was an explanation of the many types of interdependence, integration and nationalistic individualism apparent across the world. I also had the opportunity to recognise the many dynamics of a transnational way of familial living. The courses demanded an objective view of the world and one’s ‘rationality’ and strongly disallowed ignorance of socio-cultural context of events.

The people affected me too. I met more than a couple of Indians here; individuals I have since become good friends with. Moreover, I met Pakistanis here, Pakistanis who were either living here, taking part of the summer course at the university or were simply visiting the country before it got too cold. We interacted a lot. We formed a community.

All this played into how this 14th August 2015 was spent. Let me explain.

We celebrate (perceived) memories on this day; memories of our forefathers. History, as I have insisted in some of my previous columns, is as true to reality as one wants it to be. We, the populace at large, have been fed with a certain type of history and are expected to religiously adhere to it. It is with this indoctrination that we chalk out our plans for celebrating the Independence Day; a day which marks an escaping of sorts.

And yet, I argue, it is an escape from ourselves that we should hope for and eventually celebrate. Pakistan, if you wipe away the charades of superficial patriotism, is indeed in shambles. The forefathers, the founders, gave us a country to enjoy liberty and yet, the Pakistan of today, is morally, physically and indeed intellectually suffocating. Pakistan was meant to be the answer to the woes of discrimination, nepotism and political elitism seen during the Congress ministries of 1937 and yet, here we are, playing our parts protecting the same evils and accepting them as an integral part of the ‘Pakistani way of doing things’. Our Patriotism is incredibly limited to our fascination and admiration of the use of force by uniformed men; at times against the enemy, at times against democratic governments. The understanding of our nationhood is deeply dependent on threats to our borders, perceived or otherwise. Pakistan has been constantly suffering from demons of its own making and yet we refuse to acknowledge that. As millions of families remember the ones they lost to the menace of terrorism, the ‘elite’ on Facebook still marvel late ISI directors who were directly responsible for the country’s sad condition today. Some of the ‘educated’ are seen to find immense satisfaction in blindly following political leaders who propagate anarchy, childish mockery and unprofessionalism. The country has fallen back in its international commitments and has a notoriously weak motivation to cater to that. This country today, while ridiculing (hating would be more apt) its two Nobel laureates, continues to marvel internationally recognized terrorists, shamelessly hypocritical evangelists and orators who have an obvious habit of foregoing fact for fictition in their speeches. The country at large insists on solipsism and fails to recognize how the world has moved forward, leaving it behind, fixated in its sad obsessions.

If independence means freedom and it is freedom that we celebrate on this day, I found myself a lot more liberated here in the foreign land as compared to back in Pakistan. The Pakistanis living here too admitted this with no hesitation. There was freedom to move around, to think, to converse, to be educated, to put the thoughts forward, to work hard, to excel and indeed to succeed. The only times I saw these people remember their country was when they hoped for relaxation of rules or had sought a short cut out of what was a bureaucratic norm. Otherwise, they, all of us, were not afraid to admit that they were indeed in a better, more free, setting than what they left back in Pakistan.

All this said, I did celebrate Pakistan on the day. Pakistan was, remains and will forever stay as my identity. I celebrated the good things, those that were unfortunately pushed back into the very chaotic present of my memories. I also celebrated all that could be done to make Pakistan truly freer and the responsibility of the Pakistanis living in foreign lands to make their present the future of Pakistan. Only time can tell if such attempts would be welcomed by the country. For now, I would suggest that we all must spend some time reconsidering what we have to be independent from. Only then can we truly start our, rather this generation’s, independence movement.