Nomad or Refugee?

Reading Esra’s posts reminiscing about her athletic, idyllic years in Canada makes me envious – and identifying with her sentiments on Iraq makes me sad.

I’m from Pakistan – or at least, my family is. Wait, let me qualify that. My parents are. (Their parents were from India, so that makes us three generations of immigrants – but more about that another time.) And as much as I try not to romanticise any aspect of the nomadic lifestyle – we all live with more or less the same conveniences and constraints, in my opinion – there are some things about it that make me terribly conflicted.

For instance, why I left Pakistan this time ’round. I married a wonderful guy from Karachi, who has a wonderful family and a lovely, comfortable home there – and three months into the marriage, we had moved to the Middle East. Admittedly, we have better-paying jobs and more prospects of career advancement here, but sometimes I wonder if that’s the only reason we came here – and the answer is most often a resounding no.

Just last night Pakistan reported a fresh round of ‘clashes’ between the ruling politicians and the judiciary. The papers and online news sources are screeching about “impending political instability” and “an inevitable return to martial rule”. Meanwhile inflation has hit 40%. Power outages are part of the daily routine. Public utilities such as roads and hospitals are non-existent in rural areas, and in the larger cities, creaking under the weight of an ever-growing population. Street crime and general violence and instability has become a part of people’s lives in my home town.

And yet I have friends and family who continue to persevere. It’s home, they say, though it may have its problems. Where else can one have such a fantastic support network? A roaring social life, without any effort? All the comforts and conveniences of home?

It’s questions like those that make me wonder how much of my lifestyle is nomadic, and how much has evolved out of the need to be someplace safer, calmer, more predictable, more secure, as I get older. In other words, am I a nomad, or a refugee? On the cusp of yet another executive-judiciary clash in Pakistan, the jury’s still out on this one.


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