Wednesday, 14 September 2016

My life in Liberia

I have been working on an essay on Monrovia and my life here. I finished the draft and sent it to various publications to see if I could get it published. Honestly, I didn't even know where to send it to and, randomly looked for magazines.

Then, I thought of asking the closed Pakistani women's group on Facebook about ideas and, found a friend who connected me to a very good paper in Pakistan. The paper said they will publish my piece. Needless to say, I am very excited.

The way I have been describing my essay is that it is a tribute to the city of Monrovia where I've lived practically all of adult life. I've described my day to day life, challenges, how the city looks, and also interlaced the descriptions with anecdotes. 

Let's see if anyone would like to reach such an account? 

When I marked a decade in Liberia, I started thinking about a book about my life here. Now that I've clocked almost 14 years here, I keep thinking about my life here. 

Thus, my life here is always framed as "my life in Liberia" and not just "my life." I suppose I myself find it a novelty that I ended up in Liberia for so many years which should actually just have been a duty station in an international development career, a regular stop of 2-3 years, and then on to the next capital city of another country in the global south or if lucky, eventually end up with a nice stint at a regional headquarter. 

In the time I have spent here, I have seen life both as an international staff of a UN Agency and then as an entrepreneur, both very very different lives. I have lost a partner here. I have met another one and now I reside here with a family. I have very strong opinions about the the aid industry and the political, socio-economic scene here. I can also boast of a few friends who may be called prominent Liberians and, also have some close Liberian friends who have seen hardships and over come them. 

Since the idea of a book sprung in my head, I have wondered about my audience. Who would I write to? Is it it interesting to read about the experiences of a Pakistani woman in Liberia? What would make my observations and experiences different from the annoying and cliché-ridden commentary that Westerners make? What would be my purpose? Surely, I would not try to depict Liberia poorly, accentuating its obvious poverty, poor infrastructure and poor social services for the sake of doing so. And, there is more to Liberia than just its image of civil war, poverty, corruption scandals, and so on. 

I don't know if I have managed to write something honest and personal even while describing the infrastructure challenges and day to day frustrations. I also paid tribute to the city itself which I realised keeps on going despite how much we complain. 

Writing about "My Life in Liberia" made me realise that even if I spend a decade more and, learn even more about the city of Monrovia, make many more Liberian friends (hopefully, more and more intellectuals, writers, and artists), and carefully witness political developments and changes, my homeland will always be Pakistan and decidedly so. It's ironic that despite my present is here in Liberia, and, I learn more and more about how this city works and, contribute daily to commerce, am responsible for livelihoods, my identity is still rooted in Pakistan. I lay claim to my parents' Punjabi culture and heritage; profess a great love for Urdu, the language my parents spoke to me in and hope that Kavita will know Urdu even better than me; and consider myself a Pakistani for my memories and, that my parents hail from that country. For these memories and the little precious time I have spent in Pakistan, in a few of its cities on holidays, I still consider myself Pakistani and, as the time passes and I am nearing my 40s, I have spent very little time working and living in Pakistan. I feel like it'll become more and more of an artificial bond unless I actually live and work in that country that is my homeland. 

In this sense, I feel loyalty to my country. I also feel loyal to Liberia and, would like to see it carve a brighter future and that its people will see social, economic and hence, political justice. 

I hope the article does get published. If it does, it'll be a great boost for me and, I hope to keep writing about life in Liberia. 

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