‘Saba Masood was marked safe in Lahore’, flashed on my Facebook.
My fingers got ahead of me as I pulled up the news. A bomb blast had killed dozens in a park where Christians were celebrating Easter.
I was just there—in Lahore. I was in the parks, with families celebrating Jashn-e-baharan, the advent of spring. Families had gathered to relish the sunshine, the sparkle of color, and the joy of new life. Families were picnicking, children taking rides on the swings and Ferris wheel, vendors hawking their wares, couples strolling. I took it all in, as I sat by the juice stand, sipping freshly squeezed sugarcane juice. And all seemed well with the world.
Wherever I went, whomever I met, people exuded confidence that comes with normality:
“The ship has turned.”
“The army chief has made Pakistan a safe place.”
“Things are back to normal in Karachi, thanks to the Rangers.”
“It will only get better. Just wait and see.”
I felt the same way, seeing Lahore as a tourist as I walked through the Old Walled City, took a rickshaw ride navigating the traffic of cars, donkey carts, and motorcycles, sat atop a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Badshahi mosque with live music playing. “Is there a song you would like me to sing?” The singer stopped by my table, mike in hand, and to my utter delight, sang mujhe tum nazar se. We were family hopping—reuniting with uncles & aunts, cousins and siblings, friends and more friends. The culture of hospitality, the aroma of biryani and kebabs, and sounds of music had seduced me. I was enveloped in love, and when my plane to New York took off from Islamabad airport, as the city receded, my heart felt a tug.
Every time I go to Pakistan, people ask me, “But is it safe?”
Every time I go, I settle my affairs. And when I get there, I am embarrassed at having even considered safety as an issue; such is the feeling of ‘business as usual.’
And now this! Indiscriminate killing of innocents! Actually, not so indiscriminate. Christians were targeted. On their holy day, no less. Can it get worse?
Today I don’t feel as if the ship has turned.
@@If Pakistanis don’t steady the ship and change course, the ship will sink.@@