When I first heard that Brandon Stanton was venturing into Pakistan, my reaction must have been similar to many who know the nation first-hand: excitement that someone (anyone) was attempting to portray Pakistan in its unadulterated beauty and culture paired with a healthy dose of fear that one look at the tall Caucasian who spoke no Urdu would trigger violence in the streets of a nation that has seen it unforgivably too often. With one hand poised to press the share button on any Pakistan post and the other engaged in fervent worship to keep the photographer safe and healthy while he, and another eight million saw a world we all call home, we all held our breath in collective silence and waited. Needless to say, relief came in the form of a man and a goat. And as he continued to traverse the countryside and move into the city, even native Pakistanis and children of immigrants got to see it differently. We saw, and continue to see, the old uncles we would pass on the street. We see the shopkeepers that our mothers haggle endlessly with (no exaggeration) talk about their forgotten romances and dreams for their children. We see girls fighting the cultural norms and discussing their struggles, and keep in mind that they could very well be our cousins. But, most of all, we see ourselves there. We become immersed in the background we may have only visited once or twice in our lives and felt like we were finally a part of something; a part of a nation and people we may have before only seen in passing. And, if even just for a fleeting moment, Humans of New York has given us the feeling that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. That our clothes, our food and our language isn’t foreign. He has brought Pakistani culture to the forefront of our biggest social media frontiers, and in doing so has made our friends that we have collected through summer camps and school nights accustomed to the unperturbed beauty that is our second home.
While to many Humans of New York in Pakistan may be a passing fad, the effects of his journey there are more everlasting than just the pictures themselves. It is now the recognition that most non-Pakistanis are gaining with each passing picture: that irrespective of distance or time, we all experience similar pitfalls and tragedies. In a world that continues to be politically divisive and media that continues with its attempts to portray us as inherently different, Humans of New York’s message unites us and breaks down barriers through our shared experiences. Even seven thousand miles away, unrequited love scars. Even a seventeen hour flight away, old uncles will always be anti-social. And even nine hours ahead of us, children are the building blocks upon which our nation will be founded.
Thank you, Brandon.