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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Handbag Walee & The Self Hating Pakistanis




Photo: Saba Gul had done both her undergraduate and graduate studies from MIT, which is considered one of the greatest universities in the World. She is an Engineer by profession, and was working in the Silicon Valley with a potentially great career lying ahead of her, when she decided to come back to her home country, Pakistan and start doing something for her people. She is the CEO and founder of BLISS (Now Known as Popinjay), which is an NGO which works for the welfare of under privileged School Girls who are taught the skills embroidery and needle work, which are later finished into handbags and sold in the Global Markets. Apart from the Human Capital, which involves incorporating skills in these girls, the proceeds from the sales of handbags enable them to continue with their education.

Saba Gul has also worked in Sri Lanka and Ethiopia, and is a World Economic Forum Young Global Shaper, as well as a fellow of The Unreasonable Institute. Her work has been recognized by the US State Department, and featured in the MIT Technology Review, Vogue Magazine, NBC News and Fast Company, to name a few. 

Saba indeed is a very patriotic Pakistani, leaving behind an illustrious career at Silicon Valley to work for the welfare of the Pakistani nation. Pakistan needs more people like her.

http://www.popinjay.co/
http://bagsforbliss.org/



Very recently an acquaintance of mine shared some information with me about a young Pakistani entrepreneur based in Lahore. The name of the young entrepreneur is Saba Gul and she is the brains behind the venture Bags for Bliss. The project itself now known as Popinjay manufactures highly quality designer hand bangs which are made through the employment of under privileged young girls and trains them with the skills related to embroidery making and needle work. Later on the proceeds from these very hand bags are used to facilitate these girls in continuing their education and take necessary steps towards empowerment and economic independence. Now how many people know that the founder of Popinjay/Bags for bliss is actually a graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States of America and had a successful career in California's Silicon Valley which she left behind to return to her native Pakistan. For those not familiar with the school, it is the top tech school in the world and their graduates the most sought after ones by tech and engineering companies. Now how many of us know foreign graduates, especially those with great careers overseas who leave behind everything and feel a sense of national duty and obligation to give back to their country in some way or the other. I personally do not know that many and for me some one like Saba Gul is a source of inspiration, those foreign graduates I know personally still living in Pakistan actually hate being dream and are still dreaming of returning to foreign shores.




 One doesn't have to sink into wonderful ventures immediately upon arrival back into this country, just returning under a sense of patriotism or national obligation is a good starting point  to reduce the effects of the brain drain damaging this country. It is not by any means an easy journey back into this country, especially if one has lived abroad, life here is very difficult and demanding and can take a great many years to get used to how things are and how they work here. The best way to go about it is to have an open mind and be accepting to the challenges of every day life here. Some cities have a high crime rate, some cities have a problem with running water and electricity, but then again these things are part and parcel of living in the developing world. Such patriotic Pakistani's returning back from foreign shores out of love for their fellow Pakistani's and the land that may or may not have given them much will always be a source of inspiration and their efforts are worthy of ever lasting praise.


At the same time, our country has no shortage of self hating Pakistani's, regardless of whether they have had a foreign education or not, have lived abroad for some time or have never set foot on foreign shores, there is no shortage of Self Hating Pakistani's especially among our youth. Those that have lived or studied abroad at some point, especially the recent graduates or those that stepped out for the very first time desperately yearn for the day they will hop on a plane out of Pakistan. I am not sure what it is they miss, I will treat this as a no fixed rule approach. Some might miss a loved one abroad, some might miss their real life social network that they have left behind, some might miss the creature comforts and state of the art facilities of a developed nation or some are just missing the uncontrolled freedom that life abroad seems to offer. The freedom bit I would say is a relative thing, freedom is but an illusion, we are never really truly free, there are degrees of relative freedoms some places offer and some do not. Even in the West you are not fully free, you have laws of even those countries to adhere too as well as social norms.

You also have the lot among the Pakistani youth that does not feel a sense of ownership or belonging to their country even when life has been good to them with or without ever setting foot on foreign shores. They show signs of apathy when their country is ridiculed or mocked, it could be because they have been conditioned by their surrounding environment i.e. they have been brought up in an environment where their made to believe they do not owe Pakistan anything. In some cases, it is considered trendy and mainstream to be extremely critical and devoid of attachment, i.e. it is considered cool to dislike your country and see it from a judgmental angle. Some young Pakistani's are only able to associate themselves with their own ethnic group or community going with the identity of ethnocentrism versus broader national thinking. In some cases the broader perception is that their ethnic group is the superior of the lot and all others around them are non deserving of what this country has given them. Nationalistic feelings tend to become surface level visible for Pakistani's during a cricket match especially if it is against India, that is no surprise, observe the apathetic and unmoved attitude of some of your fellow Pakistani's, or even joy at the failure of our national cricket team or its star players. This would probably be the easiest way to identify a self hating Pakistani. Not to generalise but I am quoting this just purely as an example.

In some cases, some young Pakistani's take it to the next level and only identify with the identity advocated by their political party of choice, and it is no secret that some political parties in Pakistan do not advocate a national stance or attitude among their followers, and play the ethnic or region centric card limiting the self adopted identity of their followers to a particular region or linguistic community. Some even keep obsessing about where their ancestors came from instead of accepting the reality that this country was founded over six decades ago, they have no realistic ties to land lying in another country, their fore fathers migrated to Pakistan because of their belief in the idea of Pakistan and political shifts do not change their national identity.  Realistically in the short term nothing can be really done about the attitude of such self hating Pakistani's, the same way nothing can be done about very judgmental and narrow minded people, for now we can continue praising the efforts of young entrepreneurs like Saba Gul and see her as a sense of inspiration especially for those young Pakistani's that feel a sense of pride in their Pakistani national identity.

Saba Gul, wherever you are, I hope you come across this blog, cause your story truly inspired me and I hope one day you can inspire millions more who like you also willingly took the decision to return to my native soil.

Pakistan Zindabad

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