yesterday, i was talking to my one and only mongistan (the mustache on the far left of our blog banner) while she was in the promised land (america) and i was in the repressed land (pakistan). god bless the internet for making distances less severe, and for converting all goodbyes to tentative brbs. she asked what i was up to, and i told her that i just got back from dance practice for a friends brothers wedding, just like last summer, just like last winter. for a country that is always in some sort of upheaval* we** manage to dance a fair bit, and most of the time, we dance because we are celebrating something. but even then, outside of eight counts and left-right-jump-jump-bumwiggle, we dance our way past hurdles and sadness and ignorance, simply because there is no other way to cope, and because coping is necessary if you want to survive and push further and continue. sure, there is sadness and grief and the mind numbing shocking pain one experiences when shitty things happen, but where do we take these sadnesses and what do we do with them? we’ve had years and years of practice with our poker faces***, and as always, there are deadlines to meet and bodies to attend to and commitments to keep. if the world stopped for sadness then the world would stop altogether, forever and ever.
every semester at school, i am always impacted and changed by student work and the awesomeness that my friends produce and think of. this semester i went to a super nice gathering of student presentations where the coolest person ever, stacey liou, spoke about her end of semester wgss**** project, which was about difference and commonality in theory and identity politics. her point (or what i gathered as her point) was about moving towards languages of commonality, because irrespective of how different all of us are, we share in more ways than we know. in particular, i remember her saying: we are all vulnerable, and i remember thinking that i had never conceived of a commonality based on shared emotion, as compared to a shared identity, or shared ideals.
back in 1947, the nation of pakistan was carved out of british controlled india because of our constructed commonality and produced difference from the majority hindu population. and now, at sixty something years old, pakistani nationality is based on the same strands of commonality: that we are muslims, and that this land is for us and that we are safe here. but this commonality has worn thin over the years, and its purpose has been disguised into monsters that we ourselves are now afraid of. today, there was an attack in lahore against a particularly marginalized sect of islam (Changing Up Pakistan has a great post about the events of today here) and here we are again, striking out at difference in the saddest and most devastating of ways. and this is not new; my city, my beautiful broken down city, has played host to a carnival of difference, of fear, of rivalry, of conflict.
and then again, we are told that we are one, that we are one nation- and although that may seem questionable on days like today, we continue to share more than we know. we have all experienced fear, we have all experienced strain and if anything, we have all felt vulnerable. and this commonality applies to good things too; we have (or heres hoping we all have, and do, and will) known laughter, we have experienced excitement, we have shared and given and received. and perhaps this is where we need to concentrate: on expanding our notions of who is a pakistani, and what they are and are not allowed to be, and that irrespective of how we relate to our nation and how our nation relates to us, we share intimately in experience and reaction and feeling. that at the least, we be allowed to love and to worship and to pray and to wish and to desire. and that in all these instances, in all this variance and all this multiplicity, we are doing and knowing as pakistanis, and that this commonality in and of itself is often enough to feel a sense of community. that if there is enough room for our bodies in this country, there must be enough room for our ideas and our beliefs and our joys and our melancholy. definitions are fluid and easy to add to and subtract from while it is difficult to fit people into boxes that dont account for growth spurts and hunched bones and tired tired tired toes.
*there was sectarian violence in lahore today, there is suffering every day, there are class differences and institutionalized inequality always. not to mention that hope went into coma in 2001, and hasn’t wiggled even a finger since.
**in our states of privilege, in our relative luxury and disconnect from the cruelest aspects of living in this place and at such times.
***i cant stop listening to this version of poker face. gaga, thank you for showing me how to celebrate my crazy:
****women gender and sexuality studies at mac.