Most people in the world work hard all year long and plan a vacation once a year depending on the free time and financial resources available to them. Europeans, living in colder climates, fly off to tropical or exotic destinations to get away from it all. Likewise, people living in hotter climates venture into colder destinations.
South Asians, specially people from Indian sub continent, are unique animals. They never consider such vacations. Since most holidays are in summer and their kids are out of school, they gather all their offspring and head back to their respective countries of origin.
Our vacation destination is not the Caribbean islands or the rain forest of Costa Rica. Not even European, Latin America or African culture centers but Malsi, Bore Walla or Tundu Allah Yar.
Heat, filth, flies, unending lines of dubious relatives make "vacations" unbearable for our North American or Europeans born children. On top of that, all of the "vacationers" get violently sick of waterborne or food related diseases.
Pakistan has been going downhill since its inception in 1947. Every functional institute, legacy of the colonial rule, has broken down. Boiling frog syndrome comes to mind on my every visit to Pakistan. Not that Pakistan's rich are not comparable to the rich of the rest of the world. Their riches has limitations. Food, water, medicine, infrastructure, i.e roads, trains or air travel is extremely dangerous. The security situation is so perilous that returning home after a trip to the market or visit a friend is a blessing.
On my every trip I think to myself that Pakistan cannot sink any deeper than it has this time but I am amazed to observe on my next trip that Pakistan is capable of not sinking deeper but it can beat all my expectations.
One goes to visit a friend at his office. The friend will ring a bell and order tea. Tea will not arrive for half an hour and the servant will be summoned again. This dialogue follows:"Ali Muhammad, where is the tea"? Ali Muhammad: " Sir, I had told Wali Muhammad to bring the tea". Off goes Ali Muhammad to investigate. No tea materializes.
Now Pakistan may be the only country in the world where servants have servants and that kills the efficiency. Anything one desired to achieve has become a layered task and most people who have not lived in Pakistan for a while are not capable of understanding or resolving that riddle.
Subtle understanding of the new norms is required to survive there. No one in Pakistan today will say no to you but you will not be able to get anything done either, unless you have the proper pull. People speak in metaphors and euphemisms which are unknown to the people who have been absent for a while now.
A direct question no more yields a direct answer. One is surrounded by visitors, known or unknown to one. When a new visitor arrives and the host asks if he will like to have a glass of milk? This is how the conversation goes:
Host:"Would you like a glass of milk?"
Visitor: " is it cow's milk or buffalo's?"
Host: " cow's".
Visitor: "warm or cold"?
Visitor: "sweetened or unsweetened"?
Host: " sweetened"
Visitor: " Sugar or artificial sweetener?"
Host: " Artificial sweetener" (since most everyone in Pakistan who has been tested has disabilities and others has not been tested yet).
Visitor: " but artificial sweeteners cause cancer".
Invariably one person present there at this point will chime in, but cancer is not a problem anymore. Near Hassan Abdul, Baba cycle walla, spits in a glass of water. Whoever drinks that water his or her cancer is cure within a week.
At this point everyone jumps in the conversation with his on Baba and his "karamaat". There always a person present who thinks that these Babas are big fraud but a certain Sura from the holy Quran can definitely cure cancer. There is no disease or evil in the world which cannot be cured by one sura or the other of course. That is where that person takes over the conversation and people slowly start to remember how late it is and how much work they still have to do.
Pakistan has become a a retail plaza for a few families. Of course they have to keep the plumbing working and lights on at least a few hours a day to collect the rent. This rent seeking class does not live in Pakistan. Their main residences are in Gulf states, Europe or North America. Their children live overseas. They have foreign passports and will have no problem expatriating once they are deposed.
Then there is the white elephant in the room no one dare mention. The holy cow of Pakistan, the Army. A mercenary force of awesome proportion. There has been no war this army has not lost but still was able to convince the gullible people of Pakistan that they have won all the wars against its so called arch rival India.
India with all its weaknesses and problems is a world power. It has made strides in the field of medicine, bio technology and IT. It has established world class educational institutions. An Indian student can boast today that if he cannot secure admission at Indian institute of Technology, MIT will be proud to take him.
Can Pakistan Army fight Indian army? Not even in its wildest dreams. We have Iran and China as our neighbor. One can have traditional wars with ones neighbors. China is Pakistan's only protector in the world. The war with China is out of the question. Pakistan Army may contribute to protect oppressive Gulf regimes and fight their proxy wars against Iran and their other enemies but Pakistan has no real enemy of its own. Even if it did, it can ill afford a million man strong army within its means. Something has to give here and soon for Pakistan to survive.
When Om Puri or Young female Sikh Indian soldier comes out against aggression and war on Indian media, I always wonder if Pakistan can ever produce its own Om Puri or a female soldier who may oppose the army or war.