The one thing I miss the most about the Western World (which I take to mean America and England, cause they’re the only two places I’ve ever lived) when I go back to Pakistan is getting to be alone. Whether that means at home, going out shopping alone, or getting to sit in a cafe alone – I hate the fact that you can never be alone. Yes, I know, things are changing, there are wonderful cafes where people can sit and work, women can be alone in many places now.. but it’s not the same because it’s still somewhat of an anomaly. If not to the people in the establishments, to the people you live with.
I remember in my last year of school, when everyone had paired up with their future significant others – everyone but me – I began to seek solace in my own company because it was the only place I didn’t feel unwanted. So on one such day, sitting outside the building on a bench, I was working on my homework when some guy who liked me – hence the comfortable authority of telling me what to do – asked me why I was alone outside. I said I was doing my homework, so he replied, acha nahin lagta.. andar chalein? (it doesn’t look so great, do you want to go inside?) I said what, acha kyun nahi lag raha? (what doesn’t look so great?) and he said I don’t know, just looks a little odd doesn’t it? I ended up not going inside, but he – in all good intentions of course – ended up sending someone to sit with me.
It’s not so much that it’s unsafe for a woman to be alone, so much as it’s that a woman alone seems to be inviting a companion. I don’t know if it’s like this in the bigger cities of Pakistan but I have felt that in Rawalpindi for sure. Even when I was in school, if I was ever sitting alone, the guy that liked me sought it as an opportunity to come sit next to me (but o course in those cases, that might somewhat have been my subconscious intention too.)
Regardless, the point is, I have been feeling very blue lately. A combination of being stressed with work, being annoyed with the cyclicly repeating nature of life and a fight with my husband was making me feel trapped in my own house. So I came here today and I feel much better, but what will I do next year? Where will I go when there’s nowhere to go, and everywhere I go, someone is waiting to see me?