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I had half resigned myself to the fact that I will always be the newcomer or the outsider. I would barely start feeling at home somewhere and soon enough it would be time for us to move again. It got to the point, where I preferred not to get too attached to any place, as that only made saying goodbye that much harder. 

As the son of an army officer, I was used to the fact that we would not be staying in one city for more than a couple of years. Sometimes, the thought of starting somewhere afresh sounded appealing, but that was very rare. Feelings of nostalgia and a rising panic at having to settle into a new place were more common.

The people of Nowshera weren’t so quick to welcome an outsider in their closely-knit groups. The more time I spent in one of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s largest cities Peshawar, the more I realized how culturally different the locals were from me and my family. The Pakhtoons would almost always prefer to speak in their native tongue Pashto amongst themselves, instead of the national language, Urdu. Women, and children however, were liberated here. Education was emphasized on, and devotedly pursued. 


Just when I began to understand this new life, it was time for us to move again. And this time, to an entirely different city: the capital of Baluchistan, Multan. Much in contrast with Peshawar, I began to witness the control of the feudal system: to maintain their power they relied on oppressing the masses, especially females, by denying them education. The province bordered with Afghanistan, and hence, we were forced to live a life of seclusion in an army cantonment area, cordoned off to the outside world.

Year after year, we changed cities. Questions upon questions remained unanswered. Why must I leave my house just when it starts to feel like home? Why must I leave my school when I just started to fit in?  Why must I make new friends just when I start to form special bonds with the previous ones? Living this nomadic lifestyle had its downsides, but as I grew older, I realized how these new vistas introduced me to new dimensions. For most of my childhood, I felt as though along with each place and person left behind, I had left behind a part of myself. Yet, I had also taken something from them, and a memory of that place that remained engrained in my mind and became my companion for the next two years in a different place. 

In my current city, and on meeting my current social circle, I realized, that my lifestyle had been anything but a problem: it was rather a privilege. Contrary to the stagnant, one-dimensional attitudes I witnessed here, I understood now that the exposure to diverse backgrounds, values and mindsets had enabled me to view different perspectives. It has been enlightening to experience how different people behaved and reacted to certain things; how their culture, religion and socio-economic conditions affect the way they look at things; how certain ways and acts are considered right among some, while others consider them wrong. 

Contrary to my early-life apprehensions, instead severing me, the pieces of all the things I have loved, places I have lived in, and people I have met became part of me – built me into ‘me’. Rather than making me insecure, this life has made me confident…accepting; rather than a misfit, it has molded me into a perfect fit for any place or scenario; rather than leaving me homeless, my home’s boundaries have extended across ethnicity, cultures and backgrounds. My apprehensions have translated into a need to keep adding to my experiences, currently out of reach. I want to be a source of connection between people, empowering them, and playing my part in creating a harmonious global community aided by my multi-cultural experiences.

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