Chapter 8: Pakistan

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     Dawood awoke slowly and found Rana standing up and fixing her hair in a bun. He sat up and rubbed his eyes slowly before scratching the side of his head and glancing around the cabin. "Good morning, handsome," Rana smiled as she noticed that Dawood was awake. "What's happening?" Dawood mumbled and looked at Ahmed. "What time is it?" Ahmed shook his head and smiled, "You slept through the entire flight. We're almost there. Go brush your teeth and fix your hair." Dawood nodded sleepily and stood up. He noticed that Ruby was nowhere to be seen and the entire cabin was now fully awake. Some people were excitedly chatting amongst themselves as they looked out of their windows and others were busy filling out forms. Dawood headed towards the restroom and found Ruby busily conversing with the flight attendants that had served them throughout the flight. "Right, well then just write all of this down," Ruby said with a nod. "I'll see that something is done about this." "Thank you, Madam," one flight attendant sighed in relief.

     "What's up, Dawood Bhai?" Ruby asked with a smile as she turned to look at him. "All set for your first trip to Pakistan? I hear someone is getting married." "I-how did you-huh?" Dawood mumbled in confusion. "Rana Baji filled me in. I'll be honest, I feel like you'll be eaten alive by the eligible bachelorettes of Lahore, but Rana Baji reassures me that she'll watch out for you. She has awesome judgment so you should be good. Also, your family members are wearing outdated shalwar kameezes. I understand wearing traditional garb, but I get the impression you guys think everyone in Pakistan only wear traditional garb. That's a misconception only first-timers make," Ruby smiled and shrugged. "My only advice to you is to remember, everyone in Pakistan lies. From the beggars on the corners of busy streets to the esteemed politicians of the country, everyone lies. Be careful and don't trust anyone."

     "Even you?" Dawood asked with a smirk. "Oh, I'm being as honest with you as possible. I'm American, not Pakistani," Ruby smirked in return. "Yeah, but your parents must be Pakistani. Doesn't that make you one too?" Dawood asked curiously. "Oh, dear. You've convinced yourself you're Pakistani, haven't you? I used to be like you," Ruby sighed and let an elderly lady pass by her to go to the restroom before continuing. "You don't realize how American you are until you visit Pakistan. Sure, heritage wise, I'm of Pakistani descent but at every corner you turn, everyone in Pakistan will continuously remind you of your American roots. I used to be ashamed of that, like I was an outsider in a community that I should belong in. My struggle in Pakistan for my own identity was excruciatingly difficult. I don't want any other fellow American going through what I had to. Be proud of being American. It's the one thing they will always be envious of, regardless of what they say."

     Ruby smiled at a row of women who seemed to be eavesdropping on their conversation and sighed, "We will always be the outsiders looking in. Why not milk it for all it's worth? One day, I'll share my story with you, Dawood Bhai, but for now, I think my advice is enough. You should go ahead and freshen up. The restrooms will soon be clogged with middle-aged aunties and uncles who reek of fake cologne and hair spray." With that Ruby made her way back to her seat and sat down next to Rana. Dawood watched as some of the women that were eavesdropping, tried taking discreet selfies with Ruby. None of them dared to get too close, but they seemed to be excitedly chatting amongst each other as if they had just noticed that Ruby was on the flight. This was the first time someone of Pakistani descent had told him to just be who he was. In fact not only that, but to milk the fact that he was American. To be honest, he had no idea what that even meant. He had spent a good portion of his life identifying himself as a Pakistani. What did Ruby mean when she said that the people of Pakistan would continuously remind him of his American identity? He sighed and made his way to the restroom. Whatever she meant, he would just have to face it head on.

     After refreshing himself, Dawood headed back to his seat and before he knew it, the captain had landed the plane at the airport in Lahore. "Did we just land?" Ahmed asked in surprise as he watched his fellow passenger's scramble around the cabin for their belongings. "That was the smoothest airplane landing I have ever experienced," Rana said in surprise. "Pakistani pilots are some of the best commercial pilots in the world. They take off and land without a hitch," Ruby smiled and sighed. "The Pakistani people, however, have to be some of the world's most unorganized people. The captain clearly said not to stand up until the plane has come to a stop, but here we are fighting for our bags and standing up in the aisles. The flight attendants will soon come over and start telling everyone to sit back down." Dawood looked up in surprise as two female flight attendants yanked the curtains dividing the first and economy classes apart and looked at the passengers in anger. "Please SIT back down," one flight attendant said irately. "THIS is why you people are never given any respect abroad. You can't even follow basic directions," said the other in Urdu.

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