KafirGirl

We read the Quran so you don’t have to.

Last night.

with 10 comments

It’s my last night in Pakistan.  I’m kind of geeked about leaving, so I’m having problems sleeping.  It’s been a hell of a week.

Flying from Karachi to Dubai on Emirates is a harrowing journey.  Not because it’s long or something — it’s only a 2 hour flight.  Emirates calls this kind of short flight an Aerobus.  I call it a BeardoBus.  That’s all you’ll find on these flights.*  Bearded Islamic scholars who don’t wear deodorant and recite the Quran in loud whispers through the entire journey.  The really fun part about traveling with these guys is catching them ogling the flight attendants’ legs as they sashay up and down the aisles.

It’s been an interesting thing coming back to Pakistan after several years.  The last time I was here, I would have freaked out a little at even the idea of getting groped in a market or something.  It’s happened before.  A lot.  And my reaction was always to ignore it and walk away as fast as possible, my blood boiling.  My dark brown face would be beet red if I was capable of blushing.  Duck down and try not to be noticed.  That was always my policy.

This time, though, I’m older.  Bolder.  There was no ducking down, no trying to blend in.  I walked around in properly fitted t-shirt, ass-flattering jeans and flip flops.  No baggy clothing.  No scarf covering up my chest.  And I carry around a bigass, sturdy handbag that I could easily beat the shit out of someone with.  I walked about with a swagger, my head held high.  Fuck anyone who thinks that’s not the way a woman should behave in public.  I’ve been here a week and I haven’t been groped or messed with even once.  Success.

I soaked in some culture I haven’t ever really experienced before.  I went to a Shi’ite temple with my friend’s parents.  They know I grew up Sunni (and assume that I still am), so they asked me if it was OK.  Meh.  Curiosity wins every time.  Besides, the building was kind of pretty and I wanted to see the glasswork.

It was the only time during my trip that I had to put a scarf over my head, and it was a pretty lame attempt at doing so.  All I had with me was a very sheer scarf.  I half covered my hair and my shoulders, which were bare thanks to my sleeveless ensemble.  It wasn’t doing much to hide anything.  They let me in anyway.  Formalities, I guess.

I went in and touched the flag pole like everyone else (no idea why they do that).  I took my shoes off.  I followed Friends Mom into the mosque-like building (through the separate ladies’ entrance, of course) and we walked up to a gated area.  She touched the gate with both hands and peered inside, praying in whispers.  I didn’t touch the gate but I peeked in.  It was an above-ground tomb.  Friend explained later that the guy was a very prominent figure in the Karachi Shi-ite community.

Then we went to a corner that houses what appears to be a miniature baby crib made out of metal.  Friend’s Mom asked if I would reach over and rock the thing.  I did.  And when i saw her big toothy grin, I realized this was something that’s supposed to “help” me get pregnant.  Good fucking luck with that one.  My ovaries are non-functioning but I went ahead and got an IUD just to put my mind at ease.  My odds of getting knocked up are about the same as those of God’s existence.

Anyway, spending time with Shi’tes was interesting.  I don’t know a whole lot about Shi’ite culture and I learned quite a bit from Friend’s family.  We also went to an Ahmedi lady’s house.  She was one of the sweetest, most genuine women I’ve ever met.  I didn’t even mind that she kept saying “God bless you,” because she kind of made me realize that not everyone is a total asshole.  Color me jaded, but it’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt like that.  It was refreshing.

I didn’t do much aside from spend time with my family and Friend.  It was nice, but I’m ready to get back to my other family.

I’m bringing back a suitcase full of pashmina scarves for my friends…and for myself.  KafirBoy’s getting a carved wooden statue of a fat Buddha looking all happy.  The fun part is the underside of the statue.  When you pick it up and flip it over, there are two figures hidden underneath.  A man and a woman.  They’re all wrapped up in one another’s arms, smiling.  When you look closely, you realize that the man is actually sucking on the woman’s boob while giving her a handjob.  No joke.  I just had to get it for the only other person I know who would find that hilarious.

He’s also getting a handful of pirated DVDs and a ginormous bottle of spiced rum from ye olde duty free shoppes.  The real present, though, is little old me showing up at 7 am on Saturday to wake him up with some serious snuggling followed by a week’s worth of dorky shenanigans.  Whoo!  Lucky man, that one!

My advice to anyone going to Karachi:  bring your own coffee.  Seriously.  Bring a small coffee maker and some grounds.  You’ll find nothing but instant here, unless you’re willing to seek out a decent coffee shop.  And even that’s hit and miss.  Order a coffee with cream and you’ll get a teeny drop of espresso underneath a mountain of whipped cream on top.  Dunkin Donuts coffee here tastes like it was ground in someone’s butt.  And fancy coffee places are a high pretentiousness zone.  Meh.

* That and the occasional brown twenty-somethings traveling back to the states after spending a week with their families.  You will know us by our giant backpacks and giant headphones.  And our lack of beards.  We sort of nod at one another and hope we get seats together on the next leg of the journey.

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Written by kafirgirl

November 1, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Rant

10 Responses

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  1. WTF, no pictures?

    Interesting to learn of Pakistan through the lens of an atheist familiar with the culture. I get the impression Pakistan is more open than Saudi Arabia. Other times I get the opposite impression from reading elsewhere.

    “I don’t know a whole lot about Shi’ite culture”

    Shi’ites are interesting. I grew up a Shi’ite in Saudi Arabia, which helped in my deconversion. I don’t know about Shi’ite in Pakistan, but in Saudi Arabia they are a despised and hated minority. They tend to be more tolerant (I think not because Shi’ite are open-minded, but for various other reasons.) On my last trip to Saudi Arabia, I openly say I don’t pray when people I know head to prayer, this is a dangerous thing to do outside of my native Shi’ite town. There is also a big percentage of Shi’ite who don’t practice and don’t go to mosques, in quite contrast to other parts of the country.

    Have a safe trip back home.

    Ned

    November 1, 2008 at 4:12 pm

  2. Friend’s Mom asked if I would reach over and rock the thing. I did. And when i saw her big toothy grin, I realized this was something that’s supposed to “help” me get pregnant. Good fucking luck with that one. My ovaries are non-functioning but I went ahead and got an IUD just to put my mind at ease. My odds of getting knocked up are about the same as those of God’s existence.

    Hey, Allah can do anything, including forcing non-functional ovaries into producing babies! I have to wonder why He’d bother, though. If He’s so intent on there being more babies in the world, He could just make them from scratch, right?

    Nathan

    November 1, 2008 at 6:02 pm

  3. Now we know why the Budhha smiles :) I would too.

    Rahul

    November 1, 2008 at 7:33 pm

  4. Ned, I’m the worst at taking pictures of anything. I didn’t even take a camera. I suck. I think I agree with you on the open-minded thing, but only to a certain extent. My friend’s family is very open to Shi’ites marrying non-Shi’ites, for instance, but some things are just not OK. One example: the friend I went with is gay, and he can’t come out to his family. Ever. So that was an interesting situation to witness.

    Nathan, I’d love to see the one guy try. My doctor laughed at me when I asked about an IUD. “You’ve got nature’s birth control on your side.” Seriously though, God would save everyone a whole lot of trouble if he’d just *poof* babies into existence. One day, you’d come home from work and there’d be a baby hanging out in your living room. No morning sickness or swollen feet or stretch marks. Now that’s my idea of a merciful god.

    Rahul, that’s a deity I can get behind. OK, not really, but at least he has a sense of humor and doesn’t think sex is icky.

    kafirgirl

    November 2, 2008 at 1:20 am

  5. Kafir Girl, did u got any place near Orangi Town which is North Karachi side and Madina Colony for a vistit cos that where me dad’s relatives is all from, they are also running parts of Empress Market.
    Now me, i was in Karachi after me suicide attempt, i got trapped there, couldn’t get out, like u know maybe, it was the Forced Marriage Unit that got me sent back to UK.
    Karachi- i even just feel bad to hear about it, and one thing i know, i ever ever ever go back to Karachi- i don’t think i will be coming back out.

    Jasmine

    November 2, 2008 at 1:26 am

  6. Kafir Girl, can u think for a minute….. please please please i want u to think about this!!!

    People get annoy with me and stuff cos i bang on out street harassements and stuff in our countries. OK, u can handle maybe getting touched (but ure blood is boiling also). But ure strong…
    But Kafir Girl, not every personage is the same, for me, i CAN NOT DEAL WITH IT, i just feel like i am getting picked apart by crows or something, i got ocd’s, i had a bad incident when i was 15, this stuff is getting me and many other girls mentaly sick.
    U been subject to this for just 1 week.
    What about perons like me who got to live with this whole time, who can not tell in their own society what they are feel or even mention even- cos we will get blamed and stuff.
    It goes beyond blood boil, it just changes who u are and how u think.
    I got a lot of anger in me, but is it me mistake? Lokk what we are SUFFERING, this is makeing us ill with it.
    Thank u for this evocative and powerful post- YOU are a ally of Pakistani women, really u are, ure not just whitewash and talk privelaged nonesense- u are defer to our experience, u are a HERO.
    I am sorry i annoy and me attacks is all against men, u know there is context, u seen it ureself. For me, i just feel SHAME when i get felt up in a market, just total SHAME, i blame meself also sometimes (but i done nothing wrong), i got a terrible rage in me, and i try to deal with it.

    Jasmine

    November 2, 2008 at 1:33 am

  7. That Buddha statue looks like an awesome gift. Can you post pictures of it?

    Mauro

    November 2, 2008 at 3:11 pm

  8. KafirGirl:
    I’m just glad that your trip was without any significant problems, and you are home safel We all look forward to your continued posts and further reflections on your trip.

    Jasmine:
    I cannot speak to your situation – it sounds horrible – but maybe you just need to make a stand. If some ass is making inappropriate advances, slug the bastard! Let him know that you are not that kind of a girl. When you walk through life fearful of what is around the next corner, you inadvertantly invite prey. Please learn to hold you head up high. Don’t avert your eyes when someone threatening looks at you. Look them directly in the eyes, with malice, and let them know through non-verbal communication that you are NOT a play toy!

    a4atheist

    November 2, 2008 at 11:23 pm

  9. a4atheist, thanks for reading me comments and stuff, and yes, i get what ure saying, cos in UK i will just shout back even.
    But in Arabi countries, Pakistan and even me community in the UK itself, only way to survive actually is invisibility u can say. Or to have parents or brothers around- like that.
    In our culture and stuff- it’s very vital to avoid eye contact cos men see even anger as a expression of interest from our side. They want attention- even negative attention is better than blanking. This is why- when u get groped, not only cos it’s unpredictable what might happen, u can end up shouting with a mob of men all at once and ure suddenly isolated and getting touched and stuff all at once. It’s not if we get touched we are letting it pass- no, ure just like ready to explode even, but u know, if u lose ure composure in our society- ure really exposed even more. Blame is on us by the way- me, i am not hijabi, i got highlights in me hair, i wear a mix of Pakistani and western clothes, it’s very clear also when i am in Pakistan that i am a overseas Pakistani- and just the fact that i am alone even – it stacks up all the cards against me- meaning the crowd and stuff is not automatically by any means ever going to assume that i am in the right. When i fought back in Kaarchi meself and tried to hit one of them guys was appearing from nowhere to ‘calm me down’ and guess what- they was within seconds haveing their go at me also. i CAN’T deal with it, really i can’t.
    Best defence? Look like ure rich and from a family who will take revenge and stuff. Otherwise, u just got to disappear sort of, walk like a ghost, always aware, sharp, aware of personal space also- and never never never have eye contact. it’s hard for me, i am just 5ft, born in UK, i am more into London than Karachi, and i am on meds and stuff-i don’t think i will ever go out in Pakistan without me family around me.

    Jasmine

    November 3, 2008 at 1:31 am

  10. ‘One day, you’d come home from work and there’d be a baby hanging out in your living room. No morning sickness or swollen feet or stretch marks. Now that’s my idea of a merciful god’

    That is only merciful if he takes it away when it gets to be about 2 years old.

    Lynn

    November 3, 2008 at 1:07 pm


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