This past summer I was able to travel to my birthplace in Pakistan after ten years. I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from Barnard college which allowed me to stay in Pakistan for three months and intern at a small OB/GYN clinic located in Lahore, Pakistan.Even though my time in Pakistan was originally intended for academic development, it gave me so much more. Every single day spent in the streets of Lahore to the sugarcane field in pind restored pieces of my Pakistani-Muslim identity that were once shattered and broken by America. The three photographs below were all taken during the call of azan in different parts of Punjab, Pakistan.
During azan, the chaos all around the city suddenly comes to a standstill and everything becomes so calm, tranquil and simply beautiful, thus inspiring me to capture such powerful moments in time. .
Even though my trip was short, it marked the beginning of a new journey in my life. A journey that allowed me to reflect on my past mistakes and better understand myself. I think back to when I refused to speak Punjabi in public because I didn’t want to be considered an outsider. I feel ashamed to think about the times when I felt embarrassed because abu ji spoke in small fragments and had a thick accent. Abu’s broken English is what bought me to America, what allowed me to be where I am today. I am grateful for his resilience, and for his courage in not letting this country break him down the way it broke me down.
I will never forget the way America colonized my mind in believing that my Pakistani-Muslim identity was not good enough. This trip was a way to decolonize my mind, to reclaim my religion and my culture that was once forgotten by the illusion of the American dream. These photographs captured one of the many moments in Pakistan that helped me embrace and fall deeply in love with my roots-mera Punjab.
Text and Photography by Sania Khalid