Once upon a life: Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid in The Observer:

ScreenHunter_11 May. 01 10.28 In December 1980, at the age of nine, I moved back to Pakistan for the first time.

We touched down at Lahore, in those less security-conscious days when it was still a place where families strolled to the tarmac to greet deplaning passengers. Ronald Reagan had just beaten Jimmy Carter in the election for president of the United States, the Soviet Union was about to mark the first anniversary of its invasion of Afghanistan, racoon-eyed General Zia-ul-Haq was ensconced in Islamabad as Pakistan's dictator, and I'd lost my Urdu.

It's a funny thing to lose your first language. I was an early talker, chirping along in full sentences and paragraphs well before I turned two, and I have a scar to prove it. In the summer of 1973, ZA Bhutto was campaigning to become prime minister of Pakistan, and I picked up the habit of climbing on to the dining table and holding forth in the manner of the speeches I'd heard him make on PTV: “When I become prime minister…”

One day someone tried to get hold of me and lower me to the ground. I made a run for it, dashed into thin air, fell, split open my head and wound up with blood in my eye and stitches across my brow. (ZA Bhutto's fate would, sadly, be similar.)

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