The Complexity of inferiorityJul 5th, 2011 | By Saad Lakhani | Category: Social
When I was eight years old, my family returned to Pakistan from the United States and a lot of things in the world suddenly changed for me. I remember (and my relatives won’t ever let me forget) that one of my very first statements was, “Why is everything broken?”. I’m pretty sure, I meant to refer to the buildings and the streets at that time, but today, I believe many other things are broken too.
I remember myself thinking about the prospects of going to Pakistan; a place my parents taught was home. I remember being worried about whether I was going to be that easily accepted. I knew for one thing that I was raised, till now, in a very different environment than the one I was going to.
One thing that really troubled me, then, was that I wouldn’t be able to speak my local language; English was all I knew. I wondered as to how I’ll go about in Pakistan, as I was expecting to have problems in interacting with other people. I was of the impression that once I get there I’ll be struggling with all my might to utter words in broken Urdu, the language of my parents, and people will see me as dumb as I would not be able to easily convey anything I want to say.
But such was the awkwardness that society was adjusting to me, rather than the vice versa. Instead of me struggling to speak to others, I would see people struggling to speak to me. I was also getting the scent that there was a factor of ‘showing-off’ in people trying to speak to me. People were desperately trying to speak with me in English. And I could see by their faces the difficulty many were going through. Personally, I felt a bit embarrassed seeing everybody put all their efforts in trying to speak in such a broken way. And after every attempt it was as though they were asking, through their facial expressions and body language, “how was I?”
Some may say well, what’s so awkward about all this? Well, for an eight year old it was awkward, and it should be ten times more awkward for a seventy year old. It’s actually bizarre! Imagine yourself going to the U.S.A from Pakistan and see all the people around you working their tails off just to speak in your language, Urdu. And not only do you notice this; you also notice that people are competing with each other just to prove as to who can speak the better Urdu?
I was taught to have pride for my country and everything in it, and therefore I was really disturbed on the way people looked down to their own language. Soon I reacted by refusing myself to reply in English, and instead tried to give my answers in Urdu, as much as I could. People were shocked at my behaviour. I believe they found it equally awkward. My aunts used to tell me that I was doing much loss to myself for refusing to use English in my conversation. They said that it is great luck that I’m fluent in English for people look up to those who are. “But why?” would be my response, just to get the what-do-you-mean-isn’t-it-obvious look.
Why are people looked up to just because they know English? The problem is because, for us, knowing this language is a sign of superiority. It’s as though just knowing it makes us more smart and knowledgeable. We become more liberal, more open-minded, and, most importantly, more educated. We can suddenly speak with more authority. When we want to make a point, or impression, we throw a sentence or two in English. As though by doing so just made the content matter anymore different then what it would have been otherwise.
It is because of this attitude of ours that a specific class dominates society just because it could afford good quality English language education. And if you were to analyse more closely you’ll realize that this has caused chaos in the lives of ordinary Pakistanis.
Why, I ask. Why the doors of opportunities are shut upon people, just because they can’t speak in a language which is not even local to the place? Why even in your own country, your own language carries no value? It’s all because we are still slaves mentally. By admitting their superiority we give up our identity, our pride and our humanity.
In 1948 the Duke of Gloucester, the brother of the British Emperor, was coming on a visit to Pakistan, and the British envoy requested the Quaid-e-Azam to receive him. The Quaid replied, “If I do so then the British head of state (King) would have to reciprocate when my brother would visit London”. Today our president feels no shame in carrying out a press conference with a third level U.S representative like Holbrooke. Today our most senior ministers get their body scans when entering U.S airports, while U.S citizens are given visas with zero scrutiny. Just recently, Senator and acting president of the ANP, Haji Adeel, was not allowed to enter the U.S embassy despite an official invitation. He was told by a guard that he needed a specific sticker on his car to get in or he could just park it outside.
You do not need to be physically captured to be a slave. Was our land occupied when our authorities handed over people to the U.S? Were we not independent and autonomous, when Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was taken to trial in the U.S and when Raymond Davis killed our citizens in the daylight and got away with it? No! We were a sovereign entity! But were we, ever?