This year, our family Eid-ul-Adha celebration was particularly special. My brother had recently gotten married and with the arrival of our newest family member, we were planning to continue the festivities beyond the traditional three days of activities. Much to my chagrin, I repeatedly heard “Oh, Nadeh! You won’t be here with us in any of our gatherings,” because I would be in the United States as part of the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan fellowship program. I was ecstatic in early July upon learning of my acceptance to this selective program and now it was mid October. TIME FLIES! It had arrived: on the third day of Eid, I made my way to Islamabad to meet the other fourteen Emerging Leaders of Pakistan and attend the pre-departure orientation with officials from the US Embassy.
My friends accompanied me to Islamabad and on our way, we stopped at Centaurus Mall, where we noticed people from all corners of Pakistan and discussed the diversity of our country. And although I’d been to Islamabad countless times before, this time was different.
I’d also visited the Marriott Hotel at least five times previously for trainings and interviews but this was the first time I was staying there overnight. As I checked into room 527, I had a conversation with a man dressed in a blue sweater. At that point I was pretty sure that it could be none other than one of my peers and I was right – it was Mr. Asad Kahlon from Lahore. Shortly thereafter, I ventured to the hotel lobby and found two people with whom I would spend the next 23 days – they were Ms. Huda and Mr. Najwat. Najwat and I had spoken before this but it was our first live meeting.
It was 5pm when we all congregated in the main lobby of the hotel to proceed for orientation and there I had the first glimpse of all the fellows. I found another perfect example here of what I had been discussing with my friends earlier at the mall, i.e. ALL PAKISTAN. There were people from Pakistani Administered Kashmir, Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
We had a great two hour session with the Embassy officials during which we were briefed about our stay in the different cities of the US. After this, some of the fellows made plans to have dinner together while the others went off to rest for the upcoming 20 hours of travel. None the less, new friendships began blossoming. Meeting the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan Fellows and being among them is nevertheless an honor and moment of pride because they had been selected from hundreds of applicants and were representing Pakistan on behalf of their ethnic groups, religious affiliations, and all of the country’s geographic landscape. They were the best. From Friday 18th October 2013 at 5pm, our unlimited package of fun and learning kicked-off.