A Girl in the Capital City

Thursday, April 13, 2017

“Are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light? Or just another lost angel... City of Night?”
― Jim Morrison

Although my life in the country’s very charming capital, as an independent, single working woman is great, but I still have an itch to someday pack my bags and move back to the provincial capital (where home is!). Torn between my never ending hunger for big possibilities, spick and span roads, neat traffic, classy and refined lifestyle of the capital, and my untold thirst for home, my journey has so far been rough, fun, and exciting. Over and above, it has been an enriching experience! The experience of 'living on your own' is similar to going to school - those ten years of school teach you lessons for a lifetime and shape you into the person you grow up to be. In this, the beautiful Islamabad is my teacher! 

To some, the idea of living away from home may seem nothing stupendous. Well, here is a reality check! Living away (for whatsoever reason, at whatsoever age) could be a crucial blow to our emotional and mental equipoise. Our homes are our nests – that’s where we recover, escape, seek shelter and enjoy the liberty of being ourselves. It takes a great amount of courage to uproot all that, stuff your life into small boxes and move to the unfamiliar. You give up your ‘safe place’ and start from scratch to build up another 'nest' - this time, all on your own. You may or may not possess a gypsy spirit; you may or may not fancy to be anchored, but at times, you have to shift places. After three years of independent living, I have learned that, in all actuality, life truly starts when we burst out of our comfort bubbles, and face our demons. The lessons I’ve learned have petrified me, challenged me, and often beaten me, but it all boils down to a single factor – these lessons have pushed me to grow, and growth can be one hell of a troubled experience.

Growth, as in what and how, you ask? Well, you tend to build up strength when you've to figure out a way to fix a leaky faucet in your toilet at midnight, when you refuse to let the car mechanic intimidate you, when you alone have to decide menu for every meal of everyday, when you’ve to keep track of paying your utility bills and budgeting yourself, when you have to get things done around all on your own - amidst all these adventures and misadventures, you grow! Sometimes you’ll be driving around the city, surrounded by a multitude of people, but you’ll feel isolated, unable to connect with anyone from the pack. At times like these you have to frequently remind yourself that you made this giant, courageous leap for a reason! You’ve got this; it’s all under control! That's a lot of exposure, and the older I get, the more I realize that exposure to the life in our modern capital city (whilst living alone) breaks you, makes you and shapes you into someone you could take a lot of pride in.

Islamabad is a high-end city; I guess all capitals are notorious for that quality! For me, it is even more, as I often compare prices to those in Peshawar. So, initially, the price tags often gave me the shocks of my life. But, I have gotten used to them now. Another thing - shoppers don't bargain in this city. People generously and politely pay whatever the price tags say – that’s a BIG ‘NO’ in my hometown but I’ve somehow grown comfortably used to this one as well. When living away from home, the major portion of your earnings is likely to be spent on ‘what goes into your stomach’. When you’ve to budget your finances, you curse the ‘hell’ attached to your belly. And it’s hard to keep track of your bank account when it dwindles speedily right around the mid of each month. The city is still, despite its high cost, a perfect place to indulge in fine retail therapy and splurge on tasteful imported items.

There's one cliché often associated with the Capital that I found to be true living here – they say that the posh city is a habitat to tons of high-maintenance, super vanity-obsessed people. Living in the Capital, I can assure you that there sure is much well-coiffed talent around here. That kind of a made-up show is rarely sighted on the streets of Peshawar; for very obvious reasons involving the infamous male gaze in the provincial capital!

Loneliness could be a major concern when living away from family. You can always call your folks back home or have a Skype session but obviously it isn't the same. So, living afar could make you accept selfish people into your life to abate loneliness. Long time ago, I made a pact with myself that I would not tolerate unacceptable behavior of mean people, even if they were the only people I knew in the city. I am not breaking that pact because there is no exception to this rule! When you feel lonely, sometimes you just have to dive in fearlessly. I’ve realized that this is a great time for me to revive my special interests and hobbies. Besides, the Capital provides endless entertainment options, no matter what your interests; they can add value to your life and help expand your horizons.

One of the most powerful lessons that I have learned from this experience is that no matter what, one has to stay true to one’s self. Your inner voice is your true guide and making a connection with it helps you in your social dealings. If people around you are berserk and self-centered, your inner calmness and state of peace will help you resonate with them. Just because everyone else around you may be materialistic and status conscious, is no excuse for you to change yourself to keep abreast of them. Your maturity lies in your strength to adhere to your values.

The truth is that everyone, who develops the capacity to live on their own, finds it an intensely personal experience. Whereas living independently means to brace up the self by endeavoring to engage in solitary pursuits and learning to revel in one's own company, it also implies making tremendous efforts to build up strong connections; you can’t expect to survive for long, living in seclusion. So, these conflated ideas always end in a battle! I don’t know for how long I can bear my homesickness and my urge to return back to my roots; but surely one day when I pack to move back, I will look back at this time and smile at the lessons this amazing teacher has taught me. 

Here is to all my living-away-from-home readers! Cheers!

You Might Also Like


  1. living with your family is a fortune and privilege. But we usually feel this thing later in our life

    1. Yeah, of course. I can feel it now, but Islamabad is love. So just torn between the two choices.

    2. True. The calmness of Islamabad and wildness of margalla hills make it inevitable to fall in love with it.

  2. Lucky girl that your mond is accepting the place where you are living.. you are inspiration to those who are living far from their families.

  3. Thank you, Hira :) It's very nice of you to say that. Living alone could be tough but it does teach you a lot of things in life and makes you a self-sufficient person :) so I do hope people find inspiration in my piece.

  4. Never been to Islamabad, although I have visited Karachi. Being alone makes you tough and being in a big city makes you tough too! Keep staying true to yourself..

    1. Yes, just read your blog about how loneliness could hit you while traveling to places :) I guess we could relate to each other there.
      Karachi is amazing but Islamabad is a completely different feel. Come have that experience :)

  5. We learn so much being solo travelers. It is better than being with the wrong person, I guess. - Yeu Doi

    1. I agree.. being solo matures you, helps you grow, helps you become your own person!

  6. From your writings it seems that every new city tell you something new about yourself. So be informed that when you're talking about a new city, you're talking about yourself. LOL

    1. Yes, I know :) I am very open to the idea of expanding my self-awareness. This helps me grow, mature and use my potential to the fullest.

  7. Just read your story, a nice one, and really appreciate your love for Islamabad.I am very new to the blogs field, and in continuous obsessive ideas to create a blog. So, I had an idea to create a blog with name "theislamabaddiaries" from some days but today when i googled this name i confronted your blog, :P. Now i have to think another name.


Amna's Goodreads Bookshelf

To Kill a Mockingbird
Animal Farm
Of Mice and Men
The Alchemist
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Odyssey
A Tale of Two Cities
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Les Misérables
Eat, Pray, Love
The Poisonwood Bible
The Joy Luck Club
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Under the Tuscan Sun

Amna Tariq Shah's favorite books »