Call Me:

Till I was 26 years old, I lived my life in Lahore within the confines of a posh locality. I completed all of my education in the city, worked 30 minutes away from where I lived, got married and moved 10 minutes away from my parent’s house. Everything centered on my life in Lahore. Each street had hidden secrets, and every nook and cranny had a special story. I was at work from 9 am to 6 pm, and then at my parent’s place. Home for dinner. Watch TV. Sleep. Repeat. Weekends were interspersed with lunches at Cosa Nostra, trips to the tailor, family gatherings where aunties interrogated me about promptly producing children, and coffee dates with friends. There were no risks involved. I lived a comfortable, boring, happy life. Still, there was something missing. Lahore was beautiful, but it didn’t fulfil me as I entered that mysterious realm of adulthood. People were judgmental; there was always something to be said about my life and decisions. There was nothing new to do. Security threats had shut down half the city; a city where previously, theatre, arts and culture had thrived.

Then, my husband got a scholarship and we had to move to the US for two years for his degree. At first, the prospect daunted me. How could I move away from Lahore when I had spent 26 years of my life here? I had to leave my job, my friends, my family and the comfortable familiarity which had cocooned me for far too long. That little part of me which had begun to show discontentment with Lahore urged me to embrace the adventure. I did, and what a truly unforgettable experience it has been.

I have exactly 60 days left before we move back and I am terrified at the prospect. I don’t know why, but all I know is that I wish I could freeze time and savor my independence here a little longer. I had not realized that while living in my beloved city, I had been shackled in ways untold. It had hindered my creativity and my identity, and turned me into someone afraid to explore, to speak up, to take risks. In these two years, I finally understand why people want to live abroad. It teaches you so much about yourself and your relationships. It helps shape you, because when you step out of your comfort zone, the possibilities are endless and there is no looking back. Lahore was my comfort zone. It was time I took a step forward.

America has broadened my horizons. I have got opportunities to be friends with people from other countries, and with difference perspectives. I can join a samba class, I can walk alone in the night without fear of getting mugged, go do my groceries in my gym clothes without bumping into that quintessential class fellow who comes to Al-Fatah with her blow-dried hair. I found friends who don’t have the emotional baggage of your childhood buddies. Not that childhood friends aren’t great, but with new people you blossom, and with old friends you are pegged into conventional roles. I travelled all over the US, experienced new cuisines and new cities, did activities which I would never have got the chance to do otherwise. I found an amazing job where I could finally work in a professional environment. Where the value of my work was the only standard on which I was judged.

I feel free here. My marriage flourished. In Pakistan, living in close proximity with one’s in-laws and other relatives, there are far too many things happening, too many things being said that chip away at your marriage in small but measurable ways. I love Lahore but I would be lying if I said I am happy to be moving back. I have resigned myself to the prospect, but there is a little part of me which feverishly hopes I can find my own happy corner in my country once more. I guess I will find out in exactly 60 days.

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