Gora [white] privilege.
It’s a real thing here in Pakistan.
Not in a rock star, everyone follow you in the street kind of way. It is more subtle than that.
For example, it is now two nights in a row where the restaurant manager will not allow us to pay the bill. The reason given in both occasions is that I am a foreigner and therefore he is compelled to look after me. I sense there’s also a marketing element to. Does having a gora eat in your restaurant bring some validation or prestige? Probably. But why should it?
Both times I felt uncomfortable accepting charity, however, neither guy would accept money. What to do?
But it really hit home today when we went back to the first class ground to try catch up with Misbah again.
The aim was to complete the push up challenge. He suggested we stop by at the ground as he would be more appropriately dressed. Now, I’m not going to give away the result of that. You will need to watch the documentary and see. Suffice to add that the result was so very Pakistani.
Around 200 people were watching the match. It was a Sunday and it’s always good to see cricket lovers support first class cricket. Misbah was there. Yasir Shah was there.
Adnan Akmal was there.
I started taking photos as the teams were behind a rope. Some security against the fandom and paparazzi. Now and then a player would walk to the rope and offer up his selfie services to the masses. When Adnan had a go, I got within his eyesight to ensure a proper pic with my DSLR.
When he saw this gora in his bogan canary yellow “Australia” T-shirt, he vocally ushered me through the crowd.
“Where you from? You want a picture? Oh, you have a film crew with you? Want an interview? What channel is this for? Meet me after the game. We can talk.
Now, let’s take a selfie.”
I’d never met an Akmal before. There are seven brothers, but three of them are international cricketers. However, this response from Adnan was true to the stereotype I had created about him in my mind.
If you aren’t a rock star, just act like one anyone.
The problem for me now was that the Pakistani crowd who where curious as to my presence, but had left me largely alone all wanted a selfie with the gora. Apart from the odd guy, most had no clue what my name was or why I was there.
The guys kept coming one after another. It was tiring, but what other reaction is there to give than be polite and smile?
“Momma, look. I took a pic with this guy at the cricket.”
“Who is that gora son?”
“I don’t know momma, but look….he’s from Australia.”
After the day’s play, Adnan marched over directly for me. We did an on camera interview with about fifty onlookers crowding us. I asked Qasim to share numbers with Adnan so we could stay in touch. A couple of smart arse locals tried to watch the digits that were being pressed.
We walked together across the ground and towards to National Cricket Academy that he wanted to show me. Adnan shepherded us through a side gate and into what is essentially a college campus. Lush lawns. A recovery pool. A gym. Indoor nets. Outdoor nets. 5 star accommodation.
Pakistan have nailed it with this facility.
A bit more chit chat and we called it a day. But not before I was reminded several times about his Test and ODI record, that he’s been a 1st Class player for 17 years, he has 2 young kids and that at 70kg, he can squat 140kg for 6 reps.
But our day started in Iqbal park. The place, where in 1940, some dudes conjured up the idea that splitting Pakistan from India was a good idea.
The guys took me over to a monument called the Minar-e-Pakistan. A tribute the historical significance of this place to Pakistanis.
Now, I have no issues with the history. But the monument is largely underwhelming. A 70 metre tall piece of engineered concrete. The crew didn’t like that I couldn’t fall in love with it. I tried to explain that just because you think something is impressive, doesn’t necessarily make it so.
I think Pakistan could have done much better. In my mind, concrete is not the best way to celebrate anything, unless you are at a concrete convention.
After this, I was invited to watch some traditional wrestling. Grown men wearing nothing but loin cloths, lathered in oil and rolling around in the dirt. I think this is how jelly wrestling started.
But I did learn about the Great Gama. A machine from the late 1800’s who had a professional wrestling career of over 50 years and never once lost a bout.
Does that make him the greatest sportsman of all time? He’d have to be close to the top I’d think.
Next up was some tape ball cricket against the Badshahi Mosque. On the game I joined, there were three matches happening on the one pitch. Total chaos.
It was brilliant. Happy men everywhere. Banter. Amazing feats of swing and hitting.
I was given 6 balls to face. I hit most of them well, including a drive through point off a bloke who called himself Shoaib Akhtar. He had modelled his bowling action on the great man, and was doing a bloody good job of imitating him.
Finally, we visited the old Walled City.
We entered via the Delhi Gate. I can only assume it is named this way as Lahoris would rather be living there, and look up to that city in some way. Now that I’ve been to both Lahore and Delhi, I would advise changing the name to the Melbourne Gate. Or at least the Vancouver Gate.
My field producer wanted to create some funky timelapse imagery of we walking through the city to the main mosque. To do this, he would have to take approximately 2500 individual photos and me walking step by step by bloody step. Pausing after each one so he could compose the shot.
It was nearly 40 degrees outside, but like the trooper that I am, we completed the task. We were all stuffed at the end, but the results are unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Dinner was with the Cricingif crew in Food Street. A reclaimed area of Lahore that used to be a thriving Red Light district.
There are metal detectors that you walk through at the gate. Now is the busiest time of day here, yet no one is manning them. Come to think of it, the security provisions in Lahore are dramatically less than in Karachi. Hardly any metal detectors at all. Less visible police presence on the street. No pat downs when entering buildings. Cars aren’t being searched at stop points.
Is this the Pakistan that we should be showing the world?
I witnessed the ugly sight of animal cruelty with a guy forcing a monkey to dance by hitting it with a stick or jerking at its collar. As we sat and had some chai, he brought the poor distressed animal over. It made me sick and I asked him to stop the display.
I appreciate it is an ancient custom, but that doesn’t make it right.
God knows what tomorrow, but Pakistan is putting on one hell of a show for me.