Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 22, 2012

Rotary club brings Pakistani professionals to city

Tour group says Kokomo area has “a lot to offer.”

By Megan Graham
Tribune business writer

— Moodi Azam’s finger glides over his home country of Pakistan on a map. From his home of Lahore, to the capital city Islamabad, to the northern Himalayan mountains.

“So, so beautiful,” he says.  

Standing on the second floor of the downtown library, he’s a long way from home. But he was very happy to be here.

Azam was one of six Pakistani professionals hosted by the Rotary Club of Kokomo Nov. 16 through 21. Kokomo was one of many stops they made in their six-week tour of Indiana.

During their stay, they toured the Seiberling Mansion, Grissom Air Museum, Kokomo Grain and other locations to learn about the culture and history of Kokomo.

“Kokomo was at the end, one of the last stations that we’re going to be,” said Huma Qureshi, the team leader. “But it has got a lot to offer.”

The Pakistani visitors’ national language is Urdu, but their official language is English, so they speak both fluently. They also speak provincial and sub-provincial languages and their mother tongue, only within a family.

Though they acknowledge Kokomo residents have a Midwestern accent, they said it wasn’t difficult to understand.

“Thanks to HBO,” Qureshi said.

The Pakistanis gave a parting presentation at the Rotary Club meeting Tuesday, where they introduced themselves and thanked their host families. They also sang their national anthem and showed photos of their home country.

“I was holding back the tears as I was talking,” said Peggy Hobson, who organized the visit.

She said meeting the visitors opened her mind to the Middle East.

“The differences aren’t as great as the similarities,” she said. “What we see on the news is not the real Pakistan. That’s the sensationalism of war on terrorism that we get over here. But these guys are so much like us. They’re wonderful people doing great things.”

Qureshi said the group was sad to leave Kokomo and head to Carmel, their next stop.

“But we will be with you here in spirit,” she said.

Megan Graham can be reached by phone at 765-454-8570 or by email at megan.graham@kokomotribune.com.