Please bear with me while I take a stroll down memory lane… I was born and raised in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. At the naive age of 15, I moved to Canada. Now, you probably expect me to say that I faced many challenges, but that’s not quite true. Thankfully, my transition was very smooth and enjoyable, and there was only one reason for that: even though I grew up in Pakistan, I hated my country and its people. I hated everything from the food to the clothing. I am embarrassed to admit that I was “whitewashed” — it made me not-too-different from Canadians, since I aspired to live their lives anyway, so when I was finally given an opportunity to disown Pakistan, I did exactly that. Fifteen is a very impressionable age, to say the least. Living in Mississauga, Ontario, a cultural mosaic, I was exposed to true diversity. Fast forward to a week ago: my Filipino friend states, “I love your jaa-lay-bees“. “Excuse me, you love our what?” “Those orange disfigured sweets!” “Oh, those are technically Indian! And I’m Pakistani! BIG difference.” “Hmm…what’s the ‘big’ difference if you don’t mind me asking?” All I could tell her was that our religion was different. “They” are Hindus and “we” are Muslims. But looking back now, that’s completely false. There are a lot of Muslims living in India as well. And Hindus in Pakistan. So why was I so adamant about not being labelled Indian? Fast forward to two days ago: I was waiting alone in a restaurant and a waiter came up to me and started speaking in Arabic. “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t speak Arabic.” “But I thought you were Arab!” “Just because I wear a hijab? Haha…” “No, no! In general you look Arab, but it’s also the way you’re dressed. I’m so sorry though.” “No, it’s ok, I actually consider that a compliment!” I stopped for a second. Why was I so giddy with joy about being called Arab? Why was I so happy for not being recognized as Pakistani? For some reason, I felt guilty and ashamed. So, what am I really trying to get at? It’s true that I didn’t want to be affiliated with Pakistan, a country that has such a corrupted international image. I can list a billion bad things about it in a second — but I neglect the fact that I should be able to list a billion good things about it. Because there are a billion good things about it. Because the culture and language didn’t do anything wrong. Because it’s home. And most importantly, because Pakistan made me who I am today — and I love who I am today. Today, I am a proud Pakistani Muslim with a beautiful and rich Indian heritage. I am proud to wear shalwar kameez. And I am proud to call Jalebis my own.