Monday, December 31, 2007

To Recognize the Loss

In 1992, I spent the summer in Pakistan. We landed in Karachi to a whole new aroma and individual security inspections in private booths in the airport, to squat toilets, to spices in burlap bags in the open markets. Our first night's meal in Lahore won me the chicken neck and watering eyes. They made it mild, they said, but our mouths all burned with the discovery of true curry.

All that summer we girls wore shalwars and covered our heads in public. We learned to count and to say useless things in Urdu that made the children laugh. We ate lemon cakes from the old man who carried them down the mountain in his tin trunk, chose live chickens that were summarily beheaded and stripped of their feathers just steps away, learned to eat around the water buffalo bones that were never taken out in stews. We gave good business to the shops in town, becoming more savvy with each purchase, and growing to accept that some things wouldn't change upon request. (Every pair of shalwar pants I had made by the tailor were big enough for at least three of me.) We washed our hair in water cold enough to give us headaches. We put on puppet shows for the children who would gather around the mountain to stare at our pale faces. We learned the ways and the customs of the people, honored them as well as we could, and were generously rewarded with the trust of our neighbors. It was a heartbreakingly beautiful summer. I cried when it was time to pack up and fly away. There's a soft spot in my heart for Pakistan.

And so when I heard of Benazir Bhutto's death, it hit me in the heart as much as it did in the head. I won't pretend to completely understand the politics of Pakistan, but I do know that Benazir Bhutto was a woman who lived to serve her people. She had great hope for Pakistan and a willing heart to make her country a better home for everyone. She loved her home, and she loved her people, and the loss of her is a grave one, not just for political reasons, but because she was an amazing person.

The world is poorer without her in it.

3 comments:

amy said...

i didn't know that you spent time in pakistan, what an experience that must have been. have you read the book "three cups of tea" by greg mortenson? you may have a different response to it than i did b/c of your connection to the country but i highly recommend it.

Em B said...

well said

k-stin said...

Yes, I have had a soft spot in my heart for this region also. It seems like over the past month I have read and seen things about Pakistan AND Afghanistan that have raised my awareness on these countries. Normally, I would not have understood the significance of Bhutto's death, but the news truly saddened me.