If I could take back something, it will be the lessons

Kiran Nazish

Going to a new country, city or town, outside of Pakistan I always and inevitably make comparisons.

My country versus the other. I look at the roads, infrastructure, cleanliness, working habits, diversity, social tolerance, religious freedom and the lack thereof of these.

You may want to call me a little greedy, but I often want to take all the good things back to my country.

Now while I am in the United States for this Fellowship, I look around and see one of the most developed countries in the world, with a vibrant agrarian and industrial economy, and one of the most diverse – the nation of immigrants – countries that is home to people from all religions and political views.

If you come from a developing country in South Asia, where we are striving to tame our economic and social monsters, you’d envy, be startled and be inspired at the same time. And to my mind, I insist again and again, how much of this can I take back?

Kiran at Coney Island, NY

I can not pick up the incredibly well-planned and efficient N.Y. transit system from the U.S. and take it back to Pakistan to alleviate the colossal traffic problems that bring millions of cars on the streets, polluting and deteriorating the city life every moment. Neither can I borrow the clean beaches, nor Central Park, to transform Karachi’s slovenly and unfortunately polluted Sea View Beach. Certainly I can’t take the world’s most premier, although highly expensive, education system, to a country, which is struggling with its religious and private education system. In my view, lack of free and good education is a primary cause of most ills in Pakistan.

What I can do, is to take lessons back home. The lessons of how the machinery and mechanics of a developed country with personal and social freedom, work.

That’s what I plan to do. But first, let me take it all in.

The impressions, the nuance, the clutter, the vanity, the elitism, the eloquence, the freedom and the liabilities. The skyscrapers, the libraries, the education system, the art and culture, the preservation of history and democracy as a largely desired and cherished notion. The perseverance of a people who, despite many odds and differences, remain resilient and work hard everyday to ensure that no one takes away their freedom.

Freedom to express themselves, and to ask questions, freedom to believe in whatever they want to believe, good or bad, or different. And the paramount freedom: the freedom to be different.

So many colors in this prism and so many walls down, despite all the perception the world for and against the U.S., I feel it is truly a country that overcame its meanderings and challenges successfully. 

Despite all the bad reviews that condemn the U.S. for its negativity, hegemony, malfeasance and opulence, people in this country work very hard and enjoy its benefits.

Isn’t that the most important thing? What a country means to its people.