Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Special Treatment for Me, the Ghori!

Usually I arrive at the bank at 9:00am on the dot so I can avoid waiting in line. Well, today I got a late start and when I got there at 9:30am there were already some men waiting in the queue. It wasn't that many, just three men in each line, so I took my place and waited. While I was waiting, one of the ladies from the bank came out and greeted me. She asked what I was at the bank for, and I told her I was just paying my utility bill. She promptly told me that she'd take care of it, and that I could have a seat. She then went in the office and gave my bill and cash to the man, asking him to do my work before the three men I had been standing behind.

In Pakistan, as a foreign woman you will find many perks such as this type of service at the bank. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it's nice to not have to stand in line and to get my work done more quickly. On the other hand, I find it embarrassing that my work should be considered more important than what others are doing simply because of who I am. I don't mind standing in line, and I think that if the men are civilly standing in line and waiting their turns they also deserve my respect. In many places in Pakistan, there's no concept of a line and everyone is just pushing and shoving to get to the front. When people do stand in line, I appreciate their restraint.

Pakistan is certainly a male-dominated society, but then sometimes you'll see Pakistani men showing a lot of respect and concern for the women around them. Many times I've been ushered to the front of the line or to the best seat because I'm a lady. I've heard the bank manager ask the men to step aside for the ladies (myself and local ladies) so that we didn't have to wait in the line with men for too long. Part of me wants to stay in the line, but then am I disrespecting their efforts to show me respect? It's a tough call!

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