The other day while watching the so called ‘friendy’ cricket match between India and Pakistan, I asked myself the question – what is my first memory of Pakistan. I don’t remember clearly, but I am quite sure that it has to be someone from my family telling me about their life before partition, in what is now Pakistan. This memory recall almost always had something around how rich their families were over there. They had huge landholdings, bricks of gold (!) and lots of servants. I heard no one say that they were not so well to do or were just about ok. Everyone was very rich which I find hard to believe. I think it was ingrained in everyone’s mind that they were rich because this way they could convince the refugee settlers to give them a good deal in India.

At some point in my life I became quite fascinated with Pakistan.  The idea behind the fascination I think was that here is this country of 160 million people who are of exactly the same gene pool as Indians, who speak the same language, who consume the same culture and I know know more about its intelligence agency than its 5 major cities ! Indian media was of no use and all it could talk about was how Pakistan was meddling in India’s affairs. They had to be more to the country than that. Sitting in India there was not much I could find out except read Pakistani media. For almost a year, I think, I read Pakistani newspapers as often as I could. I mostly read Daily Times, Dawn and Friday Times. All of these made fascinating reading. Over the months a few things became clear. Day to day life in Pakistan was similar to the grind that a lot of Indians go through everyday. There was the usual gripe about prices, jobs and lack of development. There was a lot of talk of the nuclear deterrence and how Pakistan is the first Muslim nation to get it. Foriegn policy was mostly restricted to India, US, UK, China and the Arab world. India was as poorly represented, or rather misrepresented, in the media.

I now have the oppurtunity to speak to more Pakistanis and read more of their news. I still think that there is a lot of big talk without any attention being paid to the some of the more boring day to day stuff. The big talk is about Pakistan’s right to have nuclear weapons, Kashmir issue, the Af-Pak politics, military strategy, debates on islam etc. The boring stuff about poverty, development, employment, trade is somehow glossed over.  It irritates me to no end that the country can’t get its act together. The nation is rich in national resources, it has demographics on its side, it is neighbours with two of the fastest growing economies in the world, next door to most of the oil and gas in the world and yet the country’s leaders are always so involved in the ‘big stuff’ that this gets neglected. If the anecdotal evidence of support at international cricket matches is  anything go by then it also has a diaspora willing to engage in the country’s development.

The image in my head is of a man standing on an island, that is being slowly washed away in a flood, and lecturing the world on how to manage its affairs. The world’s standard response to the man is that if you are so smart then why are you still stuck on that island.