By Fareeha Qayoom
ou might find this strange but apparently, I look like a terrorist. Well, not really. I could pass for a college student on my good days (or a tourist or even Dora the explorer, one of kids’ favorite cartoon character as one of my friends tells me!) but not when I visit a bank or a department store! At least that’s the impression various security guards give me when they ask me to open up my backpack.
In case you are wondering, I am one of those compulsive, obsessive types of women who like to carry the virtual kitchen sink with them, hence, my large backpack. Not that I have anything against purses but let’s face it –a dainty lady’s purse is not for me – first of all, I am not the dainty purse type, plus, it’s more comfortable carrying all that load on my back instead of on one of my shoulders plus no bag despite its designer label manages to survive beyond three months with me, even if all my stuff fits into it – believe me I’ve tried. The backpack seems to be the ideal solution for me – it doesn’t go shabby on me in a hurry nor does it break down quickly.
So after many trials and tribulations and many shoulder bags, handbags and backpacks later, (I have to break in a new bag every six months to a year– unfortunately) I have finally discovered one label that can put up with me. I was planning to start a backpack collection but now I am having second thoughts…should I? When every dang security guard discriminates against my bag – I don’t see any other woman being asked to open up her handbag! Ever! It’s only me that has to go through this weird manual search. Apparently, it’s not enough to pass through the scanner – you have to open your backpack for visual inspection too!
Recently, one department store security guard (in DHA) asked me to leave my bag outside the store. This was the last straw! Not that, it was the security guard’s fault but I refused to go inside after his shoddy treatment. No way was I taking this guy’s stupid distrust; besides, I didn’t want him to touch my personal stuff, he was sure to do so when I was out of sight if I had left my bag with him. My sister had to go alone to shop for groceries.
By the way, my current backpack is a standard issue, a black sport backpack with a designer logo. I know the commando terrorists that attacked the Sri Lankan team were wearing black fatigues and black backpacks – but give me a break! It was two years ago. Aren’t we carrying this paranoia too far?
But that got me thinking…poor security guards – they don’t know what a standard terrorist looks like, for that matter, even I don’t – it could be anyone.
It’s kind of sad. The scanners and security guards have become a standard sight at most important buildings including banks, even restaurants like McDonald’s – the other day, I even saw a sniper hiding on the roof with his gun trained on the entrance of my regular bank – this is not the Pakistan of my childhood…