Wednesday, December 08, 2004

BOYHOOD IN PAKISTAN

In 1955 and 1956 I lived in Pakistan.

In 1956 I enrolled in a Pakistani school (the Bai Virbaiji Sopariwalla boys school) where I was the only non-Pakistani student. My Dad-- an American advisor in a Ford Foundation-sponsored project-- and my Mom, both, were "internationalists" (remember: this was the era of Eleanor Roosevelt, Dag Hammersjoeld, Jean Monet, JK Galbraith, Nehru, ChouEnLai, Albert Luthuli, JW Fulbright, Abba Eban, Dwight Eisenhower). "Internationalist" had a connotation at that
time that included conciliation, understanding, and optimism. Like Liberal and Progressive, it is now a term that has lost its meaning and has been derided into inconsequence. As
internationalists, my folks wanted me to become a responsible world citizen as well as a
responsible citizen of the United States. As a consequence, I went to a Pakistani school, made Pakistani friends, learned to speak some Urdu-- though most of the classes were in English--
and generally, had a good time.

My parents were right about alot of things, but not everything.

When I speak languages other than English (and I speak a few)
in the United States, people seem increasingly wary of me-- as if I am being disloyal to Americans to use the idiom of people for whom English may be difficult. I use other languages anyway. But the U.S. way seems to be: ENGLISH ONLY!

Que sera, sera. Internationalism, with its naiive optimism is passe.

Still, some people insist on learning other languages.

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