Because I know it wasn’t ever like this

Zainab Syed, Pakistan (AC 08-10)


Somewhere in this war on terror that we began to fight, we forgot that there were human lives at stake. That the innocent people we’d kill on the way had no part to play in world politics. We forgot that the places we’d burn down were also homes. And so no, I don’t understand this war on terror except that it’s taken the Pakistan that I grew up in and turned it into a land where chaos and desolation run rife.

As I watch the numbers of those dead, of those injured and of those displaced rise I do so in disbelief because a life of fear, bomb attacks and protest is not one that I know of. These images are hard for me to picture because this was not the Pakistan that I grew up in. It’s easy to call it a failed state, to caution people from venturing down there in fear that it’s not secure. But these cautionary remarks leave me mournful because the memories of my childhood in Pakistan are coloured without fear.

I remember the cruel July heat and how beads of sweat would break out on my forehead as I played hopscotch under the scorching sun with my cousins.

I remember when it used to rain, the monsoons would be a cause of jubilation as the dust would be washed away from the flowers and trees and all that was left would be an array of vibrant colours glistening under the sunlight.

I remember how exciting it would be to eat mangoes, and how they would leave stains on my clothes.

I remember hearing the boys play cricket on the streets outside and the occasional breaking of a glass when the ball would have ventured too far into someone’s house.

I remember family gatherings where the smell of spice would drown the sweet scent of roses in my grandmothers spacious lawns where, as a child I would sit in awe of all the grown ups.

I remember when Eid- (Muslim holiday) used to be in winters and the markets would be a buzz with shoppers looking for the right clothes. I remember how, the night before we’d sit in front of the gas heaters and dry the intricate designs of the henna on our hands.

I remember Fridays, when we’d get off early from school so that no one would miss the Friday prayers. The streets would be lined with cars. I remember watching people, from all walks of life, standing shoulder to shoulder, humbled before God.

I remember going up to the mountains. We’d watch the snowfall from inside my grandparents’ mountain house as we sat there sipping tea.

I remember the wedding seasons- the gorgeous hand embroidered dresses, elaborate jewelry sets, fireworks and dancing.

But most of all I remember how I’d walk out on the streets, sit in a restaurant or pray in the mosque and I feel secure.

This was the Pakistan I grew up in. My memories of home are bathed in honey-coated nostalgia. So no, I don’t understand how the person who worked in the shop I bought a packet of crisps at, the waiter who served me at my favourite restaurant or the muezzin who called us to prayer could be capable of killing many. I don’t understand how the people I grew up with; my people could be capable of such hate on their own accord.

Something went wrong somewhere and it wasn’t only our fault. But I don’t even understand all of that. All I know is that my country has been blamed over and over again, my people have suffered, and my sense of security has been taken away by this war that we’re fighting- globally.

I don’t understand this war and im not shirking away from responsibility- but I have watched too many of my people- innocent people suffer. And though I have the option of living abroad in a safer place. They have nowhere to go.

I don’t know what happened to the Pakistan I grew up in, I just know that I want it back.


 – United World College Student Magazine –


One thought on “Because I know it wasn’t ever like this

  1. This was really nicely written! Props, girl 🙂
    As an Algerian having witnessed (to a significantly lesser degree) the quite similar Civil War here, I can relate somewhat, too.

    ~Idir, MUWCI ’11.

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