Thursday, March 25, 2010

Perils, Politeness and Paranoia

I arrived in Pakistan on the 15th of March after a gap of almost two years. Since my arrival the biggest thought on my mind was terrorism. It took me more than a week to stop worrying about suicide and other kinds of blasts. During that period, whenever I passed through security, each step towards towards the metal detector, sight of the men behind sandbags with guns pointed at you, barriers at all main roads of city reminded me of the movie Hurt Locker. I felt like walking in mine field where anything could happen at any time. During that crucial first weeks, any parked vehicle, motorcycle made me think that may be this one could go off... Wandering men/boys on the street made me think of all possible nightmares... I know that all of that is due my paranoia which you develop after spending too many days in a developed and secure society. I did not see or get that sense of anxiety among the general public. If any tragedy happens in any of the border towns or smaller places in far flung areas, no one talks about them except the news channels. If there is a blast in a major city (small or big) there is hoo ha, fear and agitated discussions for few days and all is forgotten as if nothing happened. Life goes on as before.

It sometimes brought tears my eyes to see the people who are involved with security checking--the "fodder" of the society who are at the highest risk to be blown off-- are doing their job with utmost politeness. In my view, some are nice and respectful to the point of risking their lives. Like the last week I had work in a highly secure building. During the few days I visited the place the guards became extremely nice to me just because I was "frequent" visitor, may be because of my gender and also because I treated them with respect and was very forthcoming to getting my belongings checked!!! While it feels really nice to enjoy the respect and trust, but at the same time I feel sorry for my country where we are slowly being forced to forego our culture of Tahzeeb, hospitality, care and trust in the name of security. Of course security comes first, but is there no other alternative? Are we doomed to live in a police state forever? I hope that we do not lose our culture of trust, respect and politeness in the mindless fight of terrorism and the state of paranoia, denial and fear is only for now.

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