THIS is with reference to the article ‘Pakistan’s December invasion’ (Dec 31)’. Going through it, I was never sure if it was meant to be a satire or the writer was actually angry, sounding disgruntled and upset by the crowds at social clubs and high-end eateries where she probably could not find a table during the season.

In fact, the article felt like taunts from a desi aunty, who steps on everyone’s toes with her mean commentary and, in the end, says, “Oh, it was a joke, beta”!

Unfortunately, what was probably meant to be a humorous piece did not seem funny to me; a Pakistani expatriate living abroad for the last 19 years. The sense of entitlement of the Richie Rich of Karachi, who live at the privileged end of the infamous dividing bridge, boggles my mind. Their opinion on what a hassle we expats have become for them is flabbergasting.

If you are rich, there is no better place to be than Pakistan. The elites here enjoy the life of royalty. An entire staff to run your household, with 24-hour room service. Chauffeur-driven cars, a fleet of maids to carry the babies (and shopping bags), a chef who cooks an entire feast at every mealtime … These are just a few luxuries they enjoy all year round.

The residents of the house probably make a rare appearance in the kitchen to try a new viral TikTok recipe. These business tycoons of a poverty-stricken country ‘invade’ Europe, Canada and the United States during summers to stock up on their branded handbags and shoes, which they afford while earning in Pakistani rupee.

These ‘Pakistani-born confused desis’ have fake accents and only use their national language when communicating with their house staff. We, the expats, probably keep the culture, language and values alive in our ‘wastelands’ more than these ‘burger kids’ living in Pakistan.

Here is a little perspective for people living in this bubble of privilege in Pakistan, mocking our ‘invasion’ of the city for a mere ‘two weeks’.

In Pakistan, belonging to the middle class is probably the most challenging for survival; almost a curse, as they are the self-respecting safaid posh of society. They have to survive with grace and integrity in this era of spiking inflation without asking for help.

These are the people who make up the vast majority of expats. They move abroad to build a better future for themselves and their families. In fact, the middle class parents are the ones who encourage (read push) their children to move out to study, so that they may settle there and earn in a foreign currency, and, hence, change the fate of the entire family.

Overseas Pakistanis are the ones who not only help run millions of households, but also help the country’s economy. Pakistan highly relies on the remittances sent back home all year round, making up to $22 billion per annum. They also boost the economy when they visit Pakistan as they spend on shopping, eating out and sightseeing.

‘Decemberistan’, as the phenomenon is now called, is probably the most popular time to visit Pakistan because of the pleasant weather, school holidays and the busy wedding season. Many who flock back to Pakistan during the winter break do so to visit their families, in most cases their parents.

Indeed, it is the time of the year to visit Nani ka ghar, and, contrary to the opinion expressed in the said article, they are not the ‘hapless relatives’ forced to entertain the visitors from abroad. These grandparents in most cases spend the entire year waiting to embrace their children and grandchildren with open arms and hearts.

The Pakistanis living abroad have all the right to visit their own cities year after year, as they please, and even if it seems like an ‘invasion’ to some privi-leged individuals who feel inconvenienced at having to wait for their afternoon tea at elitist clubs and high-end hotels.

Shehar Bano Rizvi
Doha, Qatar

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2023

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