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I spent my childhood in Europe. I had not seen Pakistan much less hear about it anyone from outside home. The language I spoke at home was Urdu, but outside I had to speak the language spoken there. Home life and the world outside were completely different. When I used to watch TV, the stereotypes of the 'Exotic East' were shown. Turbans and women covering their faces as if they were characters from some fairy tale. Women outside everywhere barely dressed was the norm - it was more of a way of life than anything else. There was no sense of emancipation it was just there, nothing to think about. The poorest of the poor and the wealthier lot - all looked exactly alike - colourless and bland. It was a huge grey patch, nothing else.Public rudeness a way of life. It was an ugly aspect of that society. Being civil was very rare - virtually invisible.
Considering the type of schooling I got - the complete disregard to what religion I may belong to - as if it did not exist all that mattered was Christianity - it was virtually impossible to accept that anyone could be anything but Christian. It was ingrained in the system - it was inconceivable that anyone could belong to some other faith. I encountered a tremendous amount of racism - being of a different colour is a stigma. White children refused to play with me.
When I came back to Pakistan - the most welcome thing hear was people speaking different languages, particularly Urdu. It was like I had come home. I had returned to the 'Exotic East' - women dressed up in a whole range dresses. Burka clad women were fascinating, still are. I found more diversity here, more acceptance that people can belong to other religions - contrary to the opinion of many - more tolerant
What one experiences in ones childhood leaves a mark. Treating women badly, humiliating and degrading them round the clock Belgium - people looked away. A woman would offer herself for anything in return for a packet of cigarettes or a bottle of wine. Looking away as if nothing was happening was standard behaviour. Gauging events how women are treated there, in Pakistan at least I have not seen anything like that.
Growing up,I found out that respectable Pakistani women living in towns and cities have stopped wearing burkas because most prostitutes wear them. Besides a class matter. The doffing of the Burka is an indication of moving up in society.
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