Growing up in Karachi as a child of the 1970's, Maliha Masood was enamored with Abba and the Bee Gees. At home, she was taught to be a good Muslim girl, observing prayers and fasting and recitations of the Holy Quran in Arabic. To learn English, she attended a private all girls’ school run by Iranian exiles of the Zoroastrian faith. Her favorite class was Elocution, where the legacy of British colonialism ensured a proper education in Wordsworth, Blake and Keats. Life in Pakistan involved a heady mix of East and West, traditions co-existing with modernity.
Maliha’s world started to change when General Zia ul Haq took over Pakistan’s leadership during the early 1980’s. Martial law and stringent Islamization policies began eradicating the Western pop culture that had defined her generation. Next door, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan catapulted Pakistan into a frontline state funneling American money and weapons to the Mujahideen resistance. Pakistan was becoming a less desirable place to live.
In 1982, just before Maliha’s 11th birthday, her family decided to leave Pakistan for good and immigrate to the United States to uncover better opportunities. Maliha made a new life in Seattle as the girl from Karachi dissolved into memory.
For 21 years, Maliha ignored anything to do with her birthplace. But after 9/11, she could no longer avoid the tense standoff between Pakistan and America. When Maliha landed a summer internship in Islamabad in 2003, she was on her way back to do some root searching and reconcile the past with the present.
Upon arrival in Pakistan, Maliha finds herself in a country that is culturally schizophrenic, politically deadlocked, and morally bankrupt. By day, she works at a think tank, deciphering the ins and outs of President Musharraf’s Devolution Plan. On weekends, she ventures into the hinterlands, from the treacherous Khyber Pass to the spectacular mountains of Hunza. In Islamabad, Maliha lives with a group of college students and gets the inside scoop on fashion and dating. She crashes the drug-soaked parties of Karachi’s elites and puzzles over the contradictions of contemporary Pakistan, where stock quotes vie with bomb blasts, burqas with catwalks.
Dizzy in Karachi immerses readers in an intimate journey of migration and exile, of culture and identity, and the universal search for home. Dizzy in Karachi: A Journey to Pakistan
Maliha Masood is a Pakistani born writer, teacher, and educator on global affairs based in Seattle, WA. When she's not writing, Maliha loves to teach and likens herself as a classroom diplomat whose lifelong goal is to build bridges between the Muslim world and the West at the local, grassroots level. She is the founder and director of Diwaan Project, a non profit organization geared towards public diplomacy through the arts. Her work has been featured on NPR and PBS.
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