Impressions From Pakistan

May 01, 2013

Impressions From Pakistan

Brian Jose

Executive Director, Fine Arts Programming

I am finding it difficult to highlight any single experience from my Center Stage trip to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, so I've been putting off writing this post for several days. It's not that there aren't standout moments, there are, yet not one even seems capable of transmitting the gravity of my time in that wondrous country. Finally, it was on the streets of Washington, D.C., that this blog crystallized for me.

I ask you to view this image:

I know it's a rather benign picture, but allow me to explain its importance (and how Washington, D.C., is involved).

I was in our nation's capital this past weekend for an Association of Performing Arts Presenters board meeting. I covered a good bit of the city by foot, including a two mile walk from the Capital to DuPont Circle. As I ambulated around town, I had a total of one person say hello to me, and just two people responded to my greetings. The other 100 would-be-sidewalk-acquaintances feigned deafness, or just plain ignored me.

Please look at the picture from above, taken in Lahore, Pakistan, on April 4, 2013. I didn't know that Pakistani. No, no, he was just one of a thousand Pakistanis who stopped me on the street to say hello, make a new friend and to welcome me to their country. In D.C., had I been handing out Franklins, maybe I'd have received a dozen handshakes, but in Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad, the dispensing of a smile warranted thousands of budding friendships. Each of these street exchanges had the same arc. "Hi, I am _________. Where are you from? What do you think of my country? Do you think we are all terrorists?"

It didn't strike me until this weekend that I should have asked my new friends in Pakistan, "What do you think of my country? Do you think we are all untellable cowards who are afraid to say hello to a stranger on our own streets?"

My take away from Center Stage: the people of Pakistan are brave, delightful, and ready for change. Let's hope we are too!

Center Stage Team with US Embassy Staff outside Mohatta Palace in Karachi after touring an exhibit of internationally acclaimed visual artists Rashid Rana. L-R, Cultural Affairs Officer Kristin Haworth, Brian Jose, Sarah Long Holland, Deirdre Valente, Rob Richter, and Cultural Affairs Assistant, Ali Chauhan.

Undergraduate student members of the Music Society at Government College University/Lahore campus perform for the Center Stage team.

Brian joins Sindh performers outside of Lok Virsa Museum, Islamabad.

Chand Tara Orchestra in performance at Pakistani American Cultural Center in Karachi.

NEFA's Sarah Long Holland gives an opera workshop at Hunerkada College of Visual and Performing Arts, Islamabad.

Badshahi Mosque, Lahore

The Lahore-based band Laal serves up an impromptu performance along with high tea.

Rob and Brian beachside by the Arabian Sea, Karachi.

Photos Courtesy of Brian Jose, Rob Richter, and Sarah Long Holland.