Moving Back To Pakistan Was The Worst Decision Of My Life, Let Me Sob My Heart Out.
I’ve just bled through my panties. I can feel my insides bubbling and churning like a dough kneader. I’m in an Uber, and I’ve got around 200 rupees give or take left in my wallet (and unfortunately, my bank account) — so I can either sensibly pay for my ride like the law-abiding citizen that I am, slither my way into my home and weep to my boyfriend to bring me tampons… or I can try and wiggle my way out of paying; I cede to the former and stumble out.
This has been just one of a hapless heap of situations where I’ve found myself struggling with expenses. However frugal I choose to be, I find myself short of any deus ex machina as the month adjourns. I’m currently paying a rather large sum of money for my rent — and with the electrical and gas bills surmounting — my already-mediocre-salary is drained and it’s not even mid-month yet.
Beyond financial confinements, I, like many women have been harassed on multiple accounts; the first occasion was incredibly morbid. I was in a loose kurta with leggings and a dupatta wrapped around me going to my local grocers. Note, I did not wear a bra. While I was picking out biscuits, a man approached me and asked why I wasn’t wearing a bra (which baffled me, I mean, was he eyeing me up before he came to the conclusion that I wasn’t wearing anything underneath)? before attempting to grope me. I was in a state of shock — I dropped all biscuits and bolted for the door. Another, more recent account was when the owner (married, with two children) of my local gym decided it was alright to call me “sexy” on two separate occasions, right before he tried to corner me in the gym’s kitchen because he was dying to “tell me something.” On a regular basis, I have been gawked at and cat-called to the point I feel gauche and almost ‘unwelcome’ in my own society. Cars chasing me home are the norm, and life as a woman here is withering.
Living in Pakistan is incredibly futile for most if you’re independent of nepotism and a cozy net to fall back on. It’s a country where corruption befouls the streets, with a fetal, newly-institutionalized government in absolute shambles as an inexorable discrepancy between the poor and rich rises by the day. Setting aside monetary matters — and attempting to not be labeled a champagne socialist — Pakistan is plagued with monopolistic capitalists swindling the bourgeois class; exploitation has often galvanized protest movements in the past, but little or no change follows as an incapable government looks on. While this political front is chaotic and unkempt by its felonious participants, the consumer front has one of the worst wealth distributions in the world, with cities gentrified and melded for the elite, by the elite. The inequitable nature of our society is conspicuous with unaffordable education and healthcare. The Lahore Air Quality Index currently blares a vexatious 453, so getting into the climatic turmoil of Pakistan is another, terrifying matter to the letter.
As a financially independent 26-year-old living in Lahore, while I relish in the thrill of having ensconced myself into an enclave of self-sustaining troopers in an otherwise very cushioned society, the blaring truth of trying to make ends meet in this city — and ultimately build a life here is hare-brained. Money really isn’t everything — I must stress that — yet the woozy discord in the economy makes living intolerable, even if you have a solid degree from a decent university… I’m no banker or doctor — I’m a writer who grew up entirely in London until I was 24, and if you’re working in anything other than the paradisical jobs most Asian parents salivate over, very rarely do you make a decent living and envision a truly nestled trajectory for yourself.
A few months into moving, I found a decent job at a media company and became an Entertainment features writer, hobnobbing with the industry’s finest — it felt like a dream; I was given credible freedom to write about my passions, primarily dabbling in the world of television (and to a lesser extent, film). While I wasn’t too familiar with Pakistani entertainment, I quickly adapted and melded into a fan-cum-specialist and even toplined a teen-speak entertainment brand for the company where I was given complete leverage. It did fantastically well, but it wasn’t making any money, so my boss shoved it.
Working in entertainment, I quickly understood the extent of just how political the realm was. Everything was a hoax, and everyone was plastic (more so on the inside than anything). Celebrities and their tantrums unspooled, along with personal agendas they unfailingly pushed, deceiving almost anyone to maintain their ‘chaste’ persona and climb the jagged, social ladder. Oh, and you can throw impartiality out the window when it comes to reviewing films and television dramas; I recall writing an honest, negative review of a Lollywood film whereby as soon as I published it, the lead actor of the film (who was also the producer) called my boss and threatened to never work with our company again if we kept this review up on the website. To my surprise, my boss succumbed to the pressure and I found my article re-edited without my consent in a far softer blow (still, with all culpability falling on me). I continued to become embittered as I was forced to write faux reviews of films and shows to butter up self-entitled celebrities of Pakistan. My didactic moral compass drowned deeper each time, and I quickly became an anchored robot, blindly churning out whatever was demanded by the hierarchical ‘titans’ of the media industry.
I found myself inept at adjusting to life here, as my creativity and identity as an impartial writer perished away along with a dearth of honest people to confide in as acquaintances. I wasn’t growing at all career-wise, and my dream job quickly became my very own nightmare. I felt I wasn’t being compensated on the monetary front, considering my skill set and education — worst was other counterpart organizations were offering an even lower salary. I was lost, and am still lost. Being eager to work and actually excelling in your job led me nowhere.
My career isn’t taking off any time soon. In hindsight, I should have never come back home. It’s a jarring situation that just isn’t cognisant with a future I ever desired for myself.