A writer’s journey to Pakistan

Rigmor Solem, a Norwegian writer, looks back at her stay in Pakistan in 1985. It was a defining journey in her life. In 2001, she published a novel inspired by her trip. (Published by Almater).

“Pakistan here we come,” Marit and Lubna in my novel “The Girl from two Worlds” are singing on their way to the airport. The novel is about betrayal, love marriage contra arranged marriage, but first and foremost about a friendship between two young girls from different cultures.
During my five weeks stay I gathered background material and travelled with a Pakistani colleague. The two of us got a scholarship from the Teachers’ Union in Norway. My colleague`s family received  me warmly in their village just outside Lahore. Several people from the village came to the house asking a lot of questions about me, my family and about Norway. One lady said: “Are you not married and 44 years old? You poor thing! Who will look after you when you get old?” “The state will,” I answered.
Now I am 76, not married, living on my own. Will the state look after me, I ask myself when I am listening to promises from the politicians. We have an election in Norway the 11th of September this year.
During my stay I was invited to a wedding and got to know that Ijab , the marriage contract signed, is very important to a family`s safety-net and economy. If the marriage does not work, the contract is broken. This is a serious break-up. A marriage does not only concern the couple, but also the two families involved, as the tradition in Pakistan is for the whole family to look after the elderly- like it used to be in Norway in “the good old days”.
In present day Norway the elderly are told that the best they can hope for is to stay at home as long as possible. Many baby boomers, born just after World War Two, will need a helping hand in the years to come. Will we get it? I wonder.
I am meeting my former colleague and friend today and I am sure we will talk about these matters as we both are about the same age. We will also remember the class we taught for three years. It was the last Pakistani girl class in Oslo at that time. My colleague and I taught all subjects and the girls passed their exam, even those who came from Pakistan four years earlier and did not speak a word of Norwegian.
Some of these girls are my Facebook friends today. They have jobs and they are mothers. I enjoy looking at their pictures, their videos and their comments. One of the girls contacted me on Facebook and wrote: “I am so happy to have found you still alive!”
The trip to Pakistan resulted in a novel, but also lasting friendships and gave me a glimpse into a culture different from my own.

by Rigmor Solem

Photo: wikipedia

 

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