Since everyone in Pakistan seems to be in love with the Netflix’s recent show Narcos, I thought this would be the best time to share my personal experience of living in a country that most of my friends only associate with Pablo Escobar.
Colombia has been my home for almost 15 months now. It did not take me long to realize that I looked very Colombian to people around me and when my Spanish finally improved a little, I found myself occasionally pretending to be one of them. There were days when I also fooled some foreigners. Hey! Don’t dismiss me as a weirdo just yet. We all agree how much fun it is to pretend to be someone else. You’ve got to try it to prove me wrong.
Overtime, I realised it wasn’t just my un-explainable Colombian features that made me blend into the crowd so well, it was also the uncanny similarities between Colombian and Pakistani cultures. A lot of Colombians find it very amusing when I say I see a hundred different things every day that remind me of home. I am going to break it down so you can see what I am talking about.
Ammi Jaan and Mamá
So we were celebrating a friend’s birthday when suddenly a guy sitting next to me gets a call from his mom. Just to start a conversation, I asked if everything at home was alright. Guess what he replied? His mamá was just calling to check if he was alright and if she should keep dinner for him. Now correct me if I am wrong but don’t we all receive those calls from our ammis every single day. I am not kidding, sometimes my mom gets angry when I don’t send her a ‘good night’ message from over 14,000 km and 10 hour time difference away.
I also observed how Colombian mamás are over possessive about their sons. Does feeling like your son is your only treasure sound familiar? Yeah, our ammis tend to do the same. There is literally no difference between the tussles between ‘saas bahu’ in Pakistan and Colombia. Here in Colombia, you don’t even have to wait to become a ‘bahu’, it starts from the very first time you meet your boyfriend’s mom. Marriage or no marriage, from that day onwards, you have to refer to her as you ‘suegra’ (mother-in-law).
Shaadi ka bhoot
The stereotype about men running away from commitment and women trying to tie the knot ASAP is more true than not. Before all the feminists out there banish me from the clan, I am obviously generalizing. I have seen Colombian women of any age being more serious about marriage and commitment than men. Well, to be honest, we Pakistanis also add marriage to the list of goals to achieve before hitting 30. The ones who get married earlier feel a great sense of achievement and security. Well, let’s not get carried away with the debate on importance of marriage in our society.
I am not sure how much women in other parts of Pakistan can relate to this but in Lahore we all know those shopkeepers in liberty market and ichra who do not shy away from appreciating your ‘god-gifted’ beauty. They are so modest in their compliments that all you hear is “MASHALLAAAHHHH” while simply walking on the road and minding your own business. Well, Colombians might not know what Mashallah means but they definitely won’t refrain from whispering compliments into your ears while crossing paths. “Mamasita” and “Que Hermosa” are the two most common ones, which basically mean “how pretty are you!”
This reminds me of the kind of compliments we women actually do like. I still laugh at how my parents call each other “merijaan” even when they are arguing at the top of their voices. Well, I also love when Colombians do the same. My personal favorite is “nena” which means babe or baby but there are so many others like “mi amor” (my love), “mi vida” (my life), muneca (doll), mi corazon (my heart), mi preciosa (my precious)…
Thora aur lein na, aap ney tu kuch liya hi nahi
Remember the last time your mom awkwardly overfed the guests despite them repeatedly saying they are full. Well, I experience that every time I have the opportunity to eat with a Colombian family. Saying no to home-cooked food at someone else’s house basically means you do not like their cooking, which is more offensive than anything else. If a Colombian mamá cooks for you, do not dare to say no to anything on the table. Also, the serving size is huge in both the countries. We eat like there is no tomorrow. When I order lunch in Colombia, I usually divide it into 2-3 servings, which reminds me of my mom’s Biryani Sundays and the holy ritual of overeating to the point where you cannot leave the dining table without holding your belly and saying “ufffff bohat khaa liya hei”.
Pyar kiya nahi jata, ho jata hei
Most of the 80s kids in Pakistan grew up watching Bollywood movies which naturally strengthened their belief in the power of true love. We Pakistanis tend to fall in love very easily. We try to connect with people, get to know them, develop feelings for them and hence we deal with a lot of emotions on daily basis. Colombians aren’t any different. Some of my Colombian friends fall in love every other weekend, mostly with a new person but who cares? YOLO, right? Also, when I see some Colombian men having more than one girlfriend, it reminds me of our Pakistani men enjoying the company of more than one wife. Now this is a good time to remind yourselves that this comparison is meant to be in good taste. Do not get all patriotic here because I love both the countries just as much as you do.
Colombia and Pakistan also suffer with a reputation problem. One is known for drugs while the other is famous for promoting terrorism. However, people fail to realize that there is much more to these beautiful countries than what the media shows. The Himalayas are to die for while the magic of Amazons is incomparable. While Colombians drink and dance to everything, Pakistanis do not shy from giving away free food and sweets to express their joy. Although there is a long list of differences between these two cultures, I choose to look at the things that make me feel at home. So next time you hear about Colombia, instead of thinking about Pablo Escobar, think of a fellow Pakistani who sees a reflection of Pakistani culture in her everyday life in Colombia.