Pak-Brit Mess

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

Pak/Brit Mess

Hira Butt

Looking back to really understand what exactly happened, I found it extremely difficult to put things into perspective initially, and then to express them in words is even harder. There isn’t any simple way to explain so I called it a MESS.

While living in a marital relationship for four years in England, I encountered many idiosyncratic psychological, intellectual, physical, cultural, linguistic, religious, atmospheric and emotional challenges. There were too many events happening at the same time. The meaning of life I knew originally was changing constantly, striking me with shock and sometimes surprise. I had to adapt to this change. I had to meet the expectations. But the question was what expectations? And what change? I was wanted for being born in Pakistan, but then, I was rejected for being too Pakistani. I was accepted initially for the way I was brought up, but then, I was expected to change the way I lived life. I was desired for being educated, but then, I was shut down for being opinionated. I needed to change, and I changed, but then, the issue was that, I changed. Forget what I wanted as it didn’t really matter, but then, questions were raised that why wasn’t I providing an amusing chatter.

I didn’t know who I was anymore. I must adapt to the language, culture, weather, traditions, routines, lies and truths. But I must not adapt too much and wear traditional clothes to show where I am from. But where do I actually belong? Do I belong here or there? ‘There’ is where I lived once and left to live ‘here’. But I am not really allowed to live ‘here’ so I must mentally live ‘there’. But there is no ‘there’ anymore, so where should I really live? And why am I not being allowed to live ‘here’? I left from ‘there’ to live ‘here’.

I went back after a few years. I was wearing English clothes as I felt comfortable in them, but everyone else felt very uncomfortable. I was changed. No one expected me to change that much. I mustn’t change too much and respect where I come from. Eyes were everywhere scanning me inside out. What a strange creature I am now. My accent, attire, selection, reasons, laughs and cries are so strange for these eyes. I am trying to fit in here now which became ‘there’ because I left from ‘here’ to live ‘there’. But regardless, I don’t fit in anymore. I am an outsider ‘here’, where I was born and bred. The sense of un-belonging struck hard. Where do I actually belong?

I am a British Citizen with Pakistani origin. I am Pakistani women who was living in a Pakistani household in England. I was wanted for my cultural background but then there was their own version of Pakistani culture which I, being a Pakistani born and bred never experienced in Pakistan. How should I behave to be belonged?... I disagree on a lot of things on so many levels. But who cares? I guess British passport is stronger, so Pakistanis living their own version of Pakistani culture in Britain is more powerful too.

What have I become?

“Kawa chala hans ki chal, our apni bhi chal bhool gea”

Literal translation: the crow tried to walk like a swan and forgot its own walk.

Closest English statement: He who apes other will never be himself.

The story beings now…


People do some out of character things in foreign countries. They strike up conversations with strangers in bars, even if they would never do the same back home. They wear unflattering hats. There is something about being a stranger in a strange land that’s equal parts exhilarating and disorientating, and this messy mix of feelings is what the French word depaysement-literally, de-countrification, or being without a country-means to capture. It’s ‘feeling of being an outsider’ and though getting lost because you can’t quite read the street signs as well as you maybe thought you could be unsettling, the feeling of being somewhere else just as often swirls us up into a kind of giddiness, only ever felt when far away from home’

This piece of Allama Iqbal’s poetry from (Bang-e-Dra-152) Mazhab, teaches to be yourself. (Bang-e-Dra-152 Mazhab, Iqbalurdu.blogspot)

“Apni Millat Par Qiyas Aqwam-e-Maghrib Se Na Kar Khas Hai Tarkeeb Mein Qoum-e-Rusool-e-Hashmi”

English translation:

Judge not your nation on the criteria of Western nations

Special in composition is the Hashimi Prophet’s nation

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