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The Middle-Eastern Teen Scene This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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I live in Pakistan. That's right, sound it out: Pa-ki-stan. You might have heard of it on the news ‚Äď the place where the whos-its are throwing bombs on the watcha-ma-call-'ems. And no, it's not Iraq or Afghanistan, but we're getting there.

What is it like, really, to be a teenager in a third-world country? Well, for one, we know all about life across the seven seas, thanks to the friendly neighborhood cinepax (yes, that's what we call our movie theaters), Hollywood, and Hillary Duff. But since our films haven't yet evolved very far, and Bollywood doesn't really give our side of the story, let me fill you in. Consider this the East's version of the Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.

Everyone loathes getting up in the morning. However, I am not as fussy about it as my brother, who, despite being in medical school, still refuses to set his alarm and depends on the entire household to wake him. It is considered a family success to get him out of bed and into the shower in less than 30 minutes with minimal shouting and zero water throwing. And blessed is the day when we get to our respective workplaces and schools on time because said brother got ready with a few minutes to spare.

And that's just the start of my day.

I share the school bus with a bunch of kids whose brains have progressed from peanut-size to walnut-size during their 12 years of education. On a good day, they may discuss the merits of constipation over diarrhea. On a bad day … well, I won't go into that. You'll just have to take my word for it when I say that it's a relief (no pun intended) to arrive at school.

School is a whole different ballgame here. For one, our teachers do not give detentions. Also, there is no designated lunch time. Hence there are no ‚Äúcool‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúdorky‚ÄĚ lunch tables. You just grab a bite to eat whenever you can. Third, we have no mascots or (gasp) cheerleaders. There are some groups of people who hate other groups of people, but the worst that happens is generally a cold war.

On the downside, our yearly grade isn't based on a series of exams throughout the year. To be sure, we have tests and midterms, but they don't count toward our final grade. That hinges on one big exam at the end of the year that's created by Cambridge University in England.

After school I'm faced with the age-old question: How do I spend my time not being bored today? Starting my homework, until absolutely necessary, is simply not an option. But neither, it seems, is hanging out with friends at a place that isn't home.

You see, teenagers worldwide have the same basic problems: pimples, chemistry assignments, measly allowances, and a shortage of clothes. But there are some problems that we face in Pakistan that you couldn't even imagine. Our parents don't let us go out with friends, not because they think we might drink or do drugs, but because they fear a bomb may blow up at any minute. That's hard to argue with.

And so I, along with my friends, find solace in ­television, our cell phones, and the Internet. You'd be surprised how enthusiastically we follow American Idol. I shed actual tears when Adam Lambert lost! Not to mention how miserable my whole school was when Michael Scofield died on Prison Break. And Rufus and Lily from Gossip Girl, and Brennan and Booth from Bones, had better make something of it, because everyone on this side of the globe is rooting for them. And House … well, all he has to do is go on being brilliant.

Life is busy and full. Here, everywhere. It's funny how we forget the problems of our country. Most of us in Pakistan don't want to worry about ­Talibanization, the government, and the ­economy. And that's one more thing we have in common with most of the civilized world.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 98 comments. Post your own now!

StellaBlue said...
Jun. 15, 2009 at 8:36 pm
Saima, I agree, this is fabulous, but there are many other writers from Pakistan on Teen Ink. Here are a few that were published in the magazine:
TeenInk.com/Travel/article/50409/Fifteen-Rupees/
TeenInk.com/Poetry/article/54150/Heaven39s-Gate/
TeenInk.com/Books/article/61162/The-Kite-Runner-by-Khaled-Hosseini/
 
Asmat said...
Jun. 15, 2009 at 7:34 am
Excellent article, Well done
 
Saima said...
Jun. 15, 2009 at 4:57 am
Teen Ink is a great magazine. It encourages young writers to unleash their feeling about the world. The article by Mahnoor is very impressive one. I think she is the only writer in Teen Ink, belongs to Pakistan. Keep it up Mahnoor!
 
Amjad said...
Jun. 15, 2009 at 4:41 am
Thought provoking piece. Well Organized. I must say the writer has possessed the great talent
 
asma said...
Jun. 14, 2009 at 12:23 am
very well written.
 
Mobin said...
Jun. 13, 2009 at 8:23 am
Realization of head in the sand in last para is the icing on the cake. Essential ingredents put together in good taste.
 
faria said...
Jun. 13, 2009 at 5:08 am
Good article , when is the next one coming ?
 
Tughral Y. said...
Jun. 13, 2009 at 3:46 am
Moni, I am most impressed by your writing skills. Well done and keep it up! Tughral cc
 
Javaid Ghani said...
Jun. 13, 2009 at 2:55 am
Simply superb!!!! Keep it up
 
Mahnoor said...
Jun. 13, 2009 at 12:17 am
Thanks a lot. I really appreciate the fact that you all took out the time to read my article...
 
Kamran said...
Jun. 12, 2009 at 6:25 am
Dear Mahnoor Your Artical is Brilliant. In future Insallah u done more Good. Keep it up
 
asad r. said...
Jun. 12, 2009 at 5:18 am
A bird's eye view of the predicament of a teenage girl, tailored down to eastern values
 
nabeelathar said...
Jun. 12, 2009 at 2:15 am
Very incisive indeed. The article is well written and depicts the identity crisis any teen in a third-world anglophonic country faces; Americanism vis a vis "traditionalism". Simply brilliant...
 
laila18 said...
Jun. 12, 2009 at 1:00 am
Well-informed girl, poignant, satirical but very well odne.
 
Kit no 1660 said...
Jun. 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm
Beautifully written for a teenager. Full of depth, humour and sarcasm.
 
tariq said...
Jun. 11, 2009 at 7:50 pm
simply wonderful
 
rozy said...
Jun. 11, 2009 at 4:11 am
This is a brilliant article
 
emrldshine replied...
Dec. 15, 2009 at 9:39 pm
Well written and a great story..the part about the bomb was good..Most pple here dont ever have to think about terrorism and the fear of getting killed or losing a loved one..
Bt since we lived through it all,,that makes us better human beings,,or at least it should have...
 
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