Elizabeth M. Gilbert is an American author, essayist, short story writer, biographer, novelist, and memoirist best known for 2006 memoir “Eat, Pray, Love”. It is a sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery, as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote, and impression. Ironically, but understandably, she did not travel to Pakistan and instead preferred Italy, India, and the Indonesian Island of Bali and came up with this brilliant piece of writing. However, had she been crazy enough to travel to our ‘land of the pure’ and able to return in one piece back home, she certainly would have come up with a much more powerful book titled “Loot, Pray, Love”.
Starting with ‘loot’ (what else is there to start anyways?), we as a nation (read country) have mastered this art to perfection. The best part of this loot and plunder is the adaptation of this attribute in religious terms with its spread based on equality, touching the lives of millions up to the grassroots levels. From top to bottom, we are drenched with an inherent desire to grab whatever is in our sight in the shortest possible time at an alarming speed, which puts to shame the calculation of speed of light by Danish Astronomer Ole Roemer in 1676.
According to the last survey conducted for the year 2012 by the Berlin based Transparency International (TI), we rank at number 139 out of 176 countries surveyed in terms of prevailing corruption. Our target seems to be to achieve 176th position, at present occupied by Somalia. Wonder why even that position cannot be bought by our countrymen?
Then we have institutions designed to curb corruption that, ironically, end up adding their own share to the loot. But sometimes the ‘conscience’ (if there exists any) takes over the ‘sensibility’, thus acceptance by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) head that the daily corruption in Pakistan is to the tune of Rs 7 billion. This comes to Rs 291.66 million per hour, Rs 4.86 million per minute, and 0.081million (Rs 81,000) per second. So, for all practical reasons, we ensure the flow of money, even when we are sleeping. This is the true example of entrepreneurship.
Once done with the loot, we need to ‘purify’ this money, for which a visit to the holy land and opting for five-star Haj or Umrah package is necessary. So, the ‘pray’ part springs into action. On return, lavish parties thrown to welcome the ‘blessed souls’ are another religious vulgarity, which reaches its zenith with many gifts showered on these ‘purified’ looters. Regular Khatams here and there, followed by Dora-e-Quran parties simply add to this purification process. Can we deceive God? They tend to believe so.
With the ‘loot’ and ‘pray’ part, the initial linkage is almost complete. However, all this does not bring ‘peace’, for which the next phase of ‘love’ needs to be embraced for pleasure. There has to be some ‘balance’ in life. Isn’t that so?
Now ‘love’ is a tricky business. Many tend to the illusion of buying it. With loot and prayer as the foundations, finding love, or an illusion of it, is not difficult. What needs to be done is the doling out of money to exploit the poverty and lust for glamour around. The hunter and the prey both are willing to do their act. No wonder, the prices of ‘liquid’ and the ‘lady of the night’ hit the roof when Parliament is in session or the season of parties is on.
Ms Gilbert took off on a round-the-world journey to “find herself”; inner peace. As she writes: “In the end, I’ve come to believe in something I call ‘The Physics of the Quest’. A force in nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity. If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.” Had Ms Gilbert just come to Pakistan instead of travelling the world, perhaps, her experience of real ‘Physics of the Quest’ would have dawned on her with a ravishing ferocious force.
“Ruin is a gift, ruin is the road to transformation,” as she writes, can only be understood through a brush of shoulders with our people. To be successful in this world and the life hereafter, the best evolved combination, which can ensure ones comfort in both the worlds is to follow the simple guiding principle of loot, pray, and love as the party goes on.
The writer is a PhD in Information Technology, alumni of King’s College London and a social activist. He is life member of the Pakistan Engineering Council and senior international editor for IT Insight Magazine. He has authored two books titled Understanding Telecommunications and Living In The Grave and several research papers.