Greetings from Bahrain! Did you know that the Islamic Republic of Bahrain has been proposed as a site for the Biblical Garden of Eden? Interesting, huh?
All is well and safe. I just finished eating a meal at McDonalds with Baba. It was my second time ever ordering something other than Fish Fillet off of McDonald’s menu. Why? Because McDonald’s in the U.S. do not sell halal—or blessed by Muslim standards—meat. My first time eating chicken from a fast food restaurant was last summer when I was in Dubai for a week. And boy have I been missing out on the good life! Needless to say the Grilled Chicken Deluxe was delicious.
I flew out of Dulles International on time. Thank God. We were in a bit of a rush, actually. There was a lot of traffic on Capital Beltway 495, and Baba, who always likes to get to airports a billion hours early, feared we would miss our flight. His impatience with cars in front of us pressured Maryum to drive faster, which did nothing but make us all nervous. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a safe driver. But when you have cars cutting in and out, it can be a little scary. OK, very scary. But you get the point.
Flight from D.C. to London was about 7 hours. It was my first time at the Heathrow airport, and surely, it was exciting. Though very large, I was a bit disappointed with its beauty, however. But then again, nothing can compare to Dubai’s opulent airports. Not even JFK International. Our stay in London was short, only 3 hours. It was morning time there so Baba and I ate a quick breakfast before heading over to Terminal 4 to catch our next flight to Bahrain. At this point, both Baba and I were tired of the constant security checks. Taking out my laptop and camera over and over again became a hassle. I know this minor inconvenience was necessary, and I was glad greater security measures were taken.
In London, my backpack did not pass the security check. I wondered why the beeper buzzed; the only things in my backpack, other than the laptop which I took out and placed on the tray, were my journal and school supplies. I was confident I would be let off easily. Except for the darn Purell! First, it leaked and made a mess in my front pocket. Second, the officer with an evil grimace took out all of my contents and displayed them on the table for the world to see. Luckily for me, I had nothing to be embarrassed of. Other people, however, were not as fortunate. Talk about privacy of packing. No body wants to see undergarments of anyone out in the open, especially not in a public place such as the airport where people are silently and secretly—let’s be honest—judging.
I was judging. And I felt judged also. Never in my life did I travel with so many Asians—and by Asians, I mean South Asians. Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Muslims everywhere. The security officers were Asian. The guy who stamped our passport was Asian. The guy sweeping the already shiny floor was Asian. The woman who searched my bag was Asian. What was this? A comeback of imperialism? This time it would be the Asians who would triumph—just look at how many there are! In Professor Murthy’s South Asian Popular Culture class, I learned how Asians in Britain—or “BrAsians” according to Brah and Ballard—had made home in the diaspora. Neither British nor South Asian, these ‘BrAsians’ struggled for an identity others could recognize them by. It occurred to me that perhaps that my own struggle of finding a middle ground between my Pakistani and American identity would never end. It is a continuous battle. And ‘battle’ isn’t even the right word for it. I’m not fighting “anyone”—or at least I don’t think I am. I suppose I’m fighting myself. Why can’t I define myself however I want and call it a day? Why isn’t it that simple? I don’t have a direct answer to this, but I can speculate. We live in a society where validation from others is vital for our survival. If others can’t recognize us, then we don’t exist. If Billy Joe can’t see me as the Pakistani, American, Muslim Mariya—then I’m invisible….Right?
For some reason, I felt uncomfortable at the Heathrow Airport. It was one thing to be in Pakistan and be surrounded by Pakistanis; it was completely another to be in London and surrounded by all sorts of South Asians. I wasn’t used to seeing such masses of Westernized South Asians. Baba wanted to carry our American passports in his hand so we can show off our American citizenship. That only made me more embarrassed—not because we were American citizens, but because it wasn’t a big deal. I saw countless other people with American passports. We didn’t stand out; we were part of the crowd. And perhaps that’s why I felt so out of place: for the first time, I was part of the majority in a Western nation.
We are patiently waiting at our terminal to catch our next flight to Islamabad. Four more hours and I’ll be home! But not really, add another 4 hours of driving from the capital to Abbottabad. Talk about jetlagged. First thing I’m doing when I get home is taking 50 bills of Tylenol and passing out.