بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
This is a very long blog post again, more like an eBook. I am a non-fiction book author now, so what else can you expect? Grab a cup of coffee before you sit down.
This past month has been rather sentimental for me. Because it was October. October 2014.
You see, ten years ago, in early October 2004 (3rd to be exact), I returned permanently from my apartment in North York, Toronto, Canada to Karachi, Pakistan after my husband and I mutually decided that we wouldn’t raise our children there.
Seasoned Toronto dwellers might be interested to know that we were situated on Forest Manor Road, near Don Mills Subway Station, Fairview Mall, and next to Forest Manor Public School. We used to go for walks in Parkway Forest Park. Iqbal Halal Foods was our halal meat stop, and Masjid Darussalam at Thorncliffe Park was our Jumuah stop.
I was two months pregnant at that time. And very sick due to excessive nausea and vomiting, which was not a famous condition back then.
Unlike it is now. Thanks to Kate Middleton’s pregnancies.
In fact, I owe Kate a big thank you, suffering as she is once again nowadays, poor thing. You see, because of Kate, the condition of Hyperemesis Gravidarum is actually something that people are now aware of, talking about, discussing, and most importantly, accepting as a reality for a very small percentage of pregnant women going through their first trimester.
Back then, assuming that I was experiencing the ‘normal’ variety of nausea and vomiting associated with early pregnancy, I got the, “But this happens to every woman during the first trimester. Why’d you come back? You needed to be pampered, didn’t you? ” too often to recount. Too condescendingly, presumptuously to recount.
So, earlier this month, as the date of 3rd October 2004 came, I reminisced much about the same date ten years ago, when I hopped off a plane in Karachi, which I’d boarded from Toronto — on a one-way ticket.
Little did that naive, 26-year-old, newly pregnant me know what she was in for.
For the rest of her life.
The Question that Still Lingers
“So, why’d you come back? It must have been just because of your pregnancy, right?”
Sigh. The number of times I have been asked this question. Bleh.
Apparently, anyone who gives up the many “benefits” that can be availed by being a Canadian citizen, in order to remain ‘just’ a Pakistani passport holder, is either crazy, hasty, or just plain stupid.
First of all, I do not owe anyone an explanation or justification for our decision to return. To each their own.
So why write this post then? Well, because I know one thing for sure: that many people still wonder whether we regret coming back, even just a little bit. This post should serve to enlighten them well about that, insha’Allah.
After all, it has been ten years. A whole decade.
And although my husband is a Canadian citizen (yawn), since he has spent 3 years living in Canada (where he landed as an immigrant to do his second MBA), me and my children are not.
I did become a permanent resident when I landed in Canada, i.e. I went to Canada as a landed immigrant (permanent resident) and not on a visit visa, only because my husband wanted me to take that option after our nikah, so that I could live there with him while he was there.
At the time after my nikah, when we both started putting together my application as my husband’s soon-to-be-sponsored “spouse or conjugal partner” (*chortle*), I was rather ignorant of the whole immigration process and what it entails. I just did what the elders and husband asked me to do.
I also assumed that, since so many Pakistani’s are constantly migrating to, and apparently seem to be happily settling down in Canada, I would too.
At this point in the story, I’d like to point out how no one, not a single person I knew, who had relatives/friends settled in Canada, told me anything about what life in Canada is generally like for married Pakistani women, except for two people.
One, a sister at Al-Huda said, “It is good that you will be going there for the first time in the summer. Else you’d have suffered a weather shock.” Which was news to me. She told me that the extremely cold weather came as a “shock” for newcomers, who got depressed because of it. Another aunty told me that I’d need to get a job, else I’d suffer from depression due to staying at home. My husband had also once told me that it was extremely cold during winters. But that was about it.
No one asked me to read up about Pakistani immigrants’ life in Canada, or to talk to immigrants already living in Canada as wives or mothers, to know what it’s like, or to prepare myself for what was in store for us in the future.
All the people whom I met between my nikah and rukhsati used to just ask me this question, “So, have you learned how to cook?”
Yawn. Cooking. The ultimate life-saving skill a wife needs to survive marriage. Right?
Actually, the truth is, that immigrants don’t talk openly about all aspects of their life abroad (especially the negative ones) with Pakistanis who are still living here (more on that below in the post).
I found out what immigrant life is like only after landing there, when immigrant families who were living there since many years candidly opened up and started talking to me about what challenges I’d face there from then onwards. But they did that i.e. became honest and open about the hard work, sacrifice and other problems we’d need to endure there, only when they thought we had come to live there for good.
That is, they talk openly about the negative aspects of their immigrant lives with a fellow Pakistani, only once the latter has permanently crossed over to their side, and has (apparently) burned all bridges of ever returning to Pakistan. That is when they become candid.
Anyhow, 3 months in Toronto, and I decided that living in Canada for 3 years, birthing my first child there (yeah, we both were very eager to have a baby as soon as we got married) and then taking an oath at the end of that term, to swear allegiance to a Queen I didn’t know, in which I would be required to promise the Canadian government that I would henceforth obey every law of their country, was just not worth it.
In my book, that is.
Taking an Oath: A Very Serious Matter
I believe that Allah will question me very, very strictly about any oaths that I take, including any oath of citizenship; any allegiances that I form (especially as an adult, sane Muslim, to a non-Muslim government that is openly hostile towards non-resident Muslims, has killed hundreds of thousands of Muslims in other countries, or has openly supported their massacre, and has invaded Muslim lands by force, more than once); or any promises that I make about which laws to abide by during my life, and which society to work for the betterment of. According to Wikipedia, the oath of Canadian citizenship goes like this:
“I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
Now, I did not choose the place in which I was born, so that is something my parents (or their parents) will be questioned about. That is, I will not be questioned by Allah about what my birth nationality is.
However, I will be questioned about which nationality I proactively chose for myself as a Muslim adult, and which one I also chose for my Muslim children, by e.g. deliberately birthing them in a certain country, or by taking them there as immigrants, and consciously choosing to raise them there.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
وَأَوْفُواْ بِالْعَهْدِ إِنَّ الْعَهْدَ كَانَ مَسْؤُولاً
“And be true to every promise – for, verily, you will be called to account for every promise which you have made.” [17:34]
Allah will also question me very strictly about how I raised my kids, and where, and why. He will also question Muslim parents about why they relocated from one place to another, and how the move(s) affected the upbringing of their children.
Raising a child is a job that takes less than two decades, but which has an enormous impact on the parents’ future generations. That is, the way you raise your child (and where, because each place has it’s own unique impact on the child) will affect your lineage decades, even centuries, down the road.
So parenting is definitely not a job that one can be laid-back about, or which a Muslim can allow to be affected by short-term, career-related decisions like where to live, especially since many studies indicate how a child’s personality is fully developed as early as age 5.
So I bailed out, because I had no intention of swearing allegiance to a non-Muslim government (especially one that legally allows homosexual marriages). No matter how “Islamic” their systems were. No matter how clean their environment/water was. No matter how “free” their public education and healthcare was. And no matter how safe and secure it was for us (and our future kids) to live there as compared to the polluted, politically unstable and wrought-with-injustice city of Karachi, Pakistan.
Secondly, though we came back primarily because we decided to raise our children in Karachi, and hence spare them any confusions, challenges and conflicts related to self-esteem, identity, race, and ethnicity as they grew up, there were several other factors too.
And no, it wasn’t because I felt marginalized in Toronto because of my hijab. Actually, I always went out in Toronto wearing niqab, hijab and abaya (even my signature black one!), but never experienced anything out of the ordinary, except perhaps a little coldness in attitude from some women whom I interacted with in public, e.g. the cashier at a store, or the government office employees where I went for formalities related to my social security card, and health card.
One of the main reasons that we came back, was probably because I do not possess the immigrant mindset. And because of this, I admit that I felt extremely out-of-place among the Pakistani immigrants that I knew there, just because of my different way of thinking. So what is “the immigrant mindset”?
The Immigrant Mindset
I have written about 3 broad mindsets related to money before. But in this post, I want to address the ‘immigrant mindset’ in particular, which was one of the main reasons why my husband and I decided not to permanently settle in Canada.
And before any Pakistani-Canadian readers here decide to take this personally, I want to point out that the ‘immigrant’ mindset applies to all immigrants, regardless of ethnicity and religious belief.
For example, this mindset could even be possessed by someone hailing from a rural village in Pakistan, who emigrates to one of the Muslim countries in the GCC to seek a better livelihood.
It would also be possessed by e.g. a Spanish/Brazilian/Mexican/Italian immigrant who decides to relocate to USA for pursuing the chances of a better life for his or her future generations.
So please do not take any undue offense if you or your parents emigrated from one country to another for the sake of a better life (or, in particular, if you or your parents have emigrated to Canada from Pakistan), because none is intended.
Characteristics of an immigrant mindset that I couldn’t see myself adopting in the future, even if I tried to, are:
→ Immense love for, awe, amazement at, and admiration of, their adopted country’s culture, level of development, infrastructure, systems (healthcare, law enforcement, education, civic), values, and society. And by that I mean, golf-ball-eyed, star-struck, gaze-affixed, speechless, how-amazing-is-this-country-and-it’s-people type of awe. Uncheck this box. I felt no such thing.
→ Love of foreign currency, especially the “daaler” (dollar). Uncheck this box again. You can show me bills totaling a million dollars in your possession and I wouldn’t feel like snatching them from you, one bit. Bless you.
→ A barely disguised contempt and disdain for the culture and people that they left behind. This is actually one of the prime reasons that immigrants run off to more developed countries in the first place: to escape the rampant ignorance, filth, chaos, injustice, disease, danger to life, political instability, and corruption that they encounter in their home countries.
→ Not being able to mentally “let go” of the culture that they left behind, despite disliking the country and people from which it originated. So Pakistani immigrants might continue to identify themselves as “Pakistani” even whilst hating their past life in Pakistan inwardly, and even after choosing to live in another country for decades, and always inwardly fearing the prospect of being forcibly sent back to Pakistan by the government of their adopted country.
Never is this dichotomy more apparent than on 14th August every year, when this day is often celebrated more zealously by Pakistani’s living in other countries, than by those living in the country itself.
They become teary-eyed with emotion as they express their love for “their country” whilst attending 14th August independence day dinners, but they don’t want to come back and live in it.
Another way that this refusal to “let go” of Pakistani habits and culture, is apparent in the way immigrants keep protecting them and holding on to them within the confines of their homes, even after decades e.g. you’ll never hear of Pakistani Muslims eating chocolate waffles or blueberry pancakes for breakfast on Eid morning, it will always have to be sheer khurma.
Or in how they conveniently keep visiting their homeland whenever they need to save their
money “daalers” (or any other foreign currency that they love to earn, but not spend) i.e. whenever cheaper products or services can be more easily availed from back home.
Cheaper wedding banquets. Cheaper (and more servile/easier to control) daughters-in-law. Cheaper but much more exquisite and beautiful gold jewelry. Cheaper and beautiful traditional couture i.e. Pakistani wedding clothes, or office attire (even official pant-suits are so much cheaper and much better stitched by the good ol’ paan-chewing tailors in Pakland). Ah, the Pakistani textile industry – be it pretwear or unstitched cloth – there is none like it in the world, is there? (I’m not kidding or being sarcastic here).
Then there’s cheaper and organic leather products made from halal animals e.g. bags, belts, wallets, and luggage. Cheaper and much more delicious Pakistani mangoes (during summers).
Cheaper sons-in-law (for aging daughters) who can be readily imported from back home. Cheaper undergraduate/college education, especially for Pakistani immigrants who live in the GCC, where their children are allowed admission only into a few “Pakistani” colleges, if at all (thanks to emiratisation), or those American kids who want to become doctors but cannot afford medical school fees in the US.
Examples of cheaper services: massages/treatments at spas, haircuts at saloons, or henna done by professional mehndi wali’s; customized, personal tailoring for clothes; getting invitation cards for weddings printed in bulk.
Cheaper medicines. Cheaper textbooks (Urdu Bazar zindabad!). Cheaper but more compassionate and expert specialist doctors. Cheaper nannies and maids. Cheaper cooks and drivers.
You get the idea? “Cheaper, cheaper, cheaper” being the key word that keeps immigrants tied to, and returning often on visits to, Pakistan. On economy-class, no-stop, “no frills” PIA flights (more on the flights below).
Or understand it better this way: they want to earn more money, in the coveted golden foreign currency (such as the daaler), but they want to spend money only in Pakistani rupees.
They want to live physically in a cleaner, more developed country, but have left their hearts back home, here in Pakistan.
→ Thinking before every decision, big or small, personal, professional, or familial: “But if we have to live here, we must _______ | we cannot _________ | we will have to _________.”
That is, their desire and goal to assimilate, settle down in, and succeed in their adopted country/culture supersedes and surpasses all other decisions. ALL other decisions.
Below, are some of the characteristics of the way of life of an immigrant, according to my personalized experiences and interactions with them, which I could not see myself adopting as a lifestyle, not even just for 3 years:
The Immigrant Lifestyle
Please don’t be incensed now, if you are. I am openly admitting that the problem lies with me. I am perhaps too inflexible as a person, too stuck to my rigid morals and ethical principles for living life, to adapt myself to a foreign culture, or to let my head hang just a wee bit lower in apologetic servility as an outsider, in order to assimilate into another country to reap personal benefits doled out to me, or to my kids, by it’s government.
Anyhow, if you still want to read more about the way of life of an immigrant, please go ahead:
→ Penny pinching.
Saving every single dirham/dinar/dollar/euro during their initial struggling years after emigration. Which means: spending as little of it as possible, but striving to earn as much of it as they can.
Waiting for annual sales to purchase clothing and other items (or going back to Pakistan to purchase them. Did I mention that they are cheaper in Pakistan?).
The cycle goes something like this: the immigrant spends the first one or two decades post-emigration pinching pennies, cutting out coupons, and buying from discount/clearance store outlets only.
By the time they reach financial stability (after 2 decades, usually) they are buying from the better known stores and chains, but the likes of Porsche, Gucci, Prada and Yves Saint Laurent still evade them until perhaps their children are in their thirties.
Despite reaching a state of being quite financially well off, however (e.g. being the wife of a gainfully employed, practicing neurosurgeon), I have yet to come across a Pakistani immigrant housewife in the West who employs a part-time housekeeper/maid for housecleaning.
I’ve heard of backyards being mowed, floors being polished on all fours, walls/roofs being painted with bare hands. I’ve heard of them gifting $100 to a relative once in a while; but what I have never heard of, is a Pakistani housewife in the West spending $50-$120 to hire a maid to even partially spring-clean her home, not even once in a while.
Not even if she is very ill, or hospitalized, or in need of extra care.
Immigrants will ask relatives in another city, or family friends nearby, to come over (by driving 4-8 hours, never on an airplane) and provide them with urgently needed favors and services (such as cooking or babysitting), but will not pay for professional services in the same category, even if they have the money to pay for them.
→ Social drinking and eating of non-zabihah meat (this applies to Muslims who used to abstain from these, and considered them haram, back in their “homeland”). Enough said.
→ Being eligible for mostly lower-social-class and blue collar jobs (at first, at least). At some point, every immigrant faces discrimination at the workplace. Consequently, an immigrant almost always needs to “settle” for “lesser” jobs because of belonging to a minority in their adopted country.
Again, I’d like to give a local example of this. The jobs of domestic help, attendants/nurses, sweepers, cooks/chefs, and waiters in Pakistan are mostly taken up by local Christians and Hindus.
Very few from these ethnic/religious minorities make it up the corporate ladder in Pakistani companies, and that also happens only if they change their name to a more “Muslim sounding” one and/or do not openly practice their religious beliefs in public. E.g. the female nursing attendants employed for my (now deceased) invalid grandmother were mostly Christians. And they’d change their name to fit in e.g. Mary would go by Maryam, Berna went by Parveen, etc.
Another example, if I may be allowed to quote it?
In USA, most nannies, butlers and maids employed by wealthy people belong to the immigrant working class i.e. they are non-white immigrants from other countries, who usually speak little and heavily accented English.
→ Not openly discussing the things that they dislike about their life in their adopted country after emigrating to it, with anyone “back home”, except during very secret, hush-hush conversations with confidantes.
I have already experienced this personally while I was in Canada, albeit for only 3 months.
I have no idea why it seems as if immigrants sign a “code of silence” or something! Is it so difficult to be blatantly truthful, upfront, factual and neutral about all aspects of their immigrant life, including the negative ones?
You want an example? Here goes.
You know I love living in Karachi, right, and that I was born and bred here? Well, now you do.
Anyway, here are the things I dislike about my life here:
Grave/saint worship at mazar’s (viz. open acceptance of the biggest sin in Islam: shirk), bomb blasts, cell-phone-theft, shootings/killings, widespread muggings and robberies, rampant misogyny, dirt and filth, power outages, crazy road traffic; overflowing roadside gutters, street beggars, huge garbage dumps, mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, and the geckos that eat them; the excessive heat and humidity during May-June every year, paan-chewing and spitting in public places; how the whole business community in the city rises late in the mornings, and everyone sleeps in late on weekends hereby losing out on the early morning blessings/barakah (including me, I can’t seem to stay awake for long after sunrise); extravagant, wasteful, late-night wedding parties; political and civic strife shutting the city down every few days or weeks.
The above list was not difficult for me to lay out before you at all. I feel no qualms about stating the facts about a city that I love to live in.
Now, please can you tell me, whether you are an immigrant to the UAE, Saudia, USA, Canada, UK, Australia, or Europe, why you do not talk about the things you dislike about your life in your country when you come and visit us in Pakistan?
What is it that stops you?
→ Changing their definition of “modesty” and morality according to the social situation and short-term objective to be achieved, primarily that which has got to do with promoting social assimilation and integration (more on that below), or a boost of their career.
Situations according to which standards of morality are conveniently switched/changed, like gears in a car: when shaking hands with a person of the opposite gender during an interaction that is career-related; wearing a forced amiable facial expression when beholding graphic and gratuitous PDA (public display of affection), nudity on public beaches, homosexual marriages, Gay Pride parades, or Mardi Gras, or indulgent alcohol consumption (“Spring breaaaaak!”) — despite being inwardly disgusted by these and other aspects of the culture of their adopted country that they wouldn’t dream of personally acquiring for themselves or for their children.
→ Not attending their parents’ funeral “back home” because they just visited the country 2 months prior to it, and they cannot buy another ticket just yet, viz. spend $1000 on yet another return trip.
Don’t fire me for saying this. I have seen quite a few real-life cases of adults who
couldn’t didn’t attend their elderly parents’ funeral because of this reason.
Maybe missing this event (i.e. being by your elderly parent’s side as they depart this world) is not a big deal in your book, but it is a HUGE deal in mine. May Allah save me from ever being in such a situation. Ameen.
→ Taking an 8-18 hour flight once year, or a few times a year, for renewing their visas (i.e. effectively being asked to exit the country and re-enter it, by law), for visiting relatives, or attending weddings “back home”.
Having to take such “obligatory” flights with little children, an infant, or a toddler is definitely not an easy task, especially if your husband is not accompanying you. But flying like this is part of life for an immigrant. And yeah, sure, they get used to it. All the more power to them.
Most immigrants do not stop taking these flights even after becoming citizens of a foreign country. Or even if they have lived for 20+ years somewhere in the GCC or the West.
As long as they have relatives, property, or other roots in Pakistan, the need for them to ‘ride two boats at the same time’ will prevail.
And they will have to take these uncomfortable, economy-class flights (which also dig a small hole in their pocket each time) for an indefinite time period.
But I couldn’t see myself doing that just for the sake of becoming a Canadian citizen. Yup, I’m not much of a long-distance traveler, you see. Rigid old me. :P
→ Socially avoiding/cutting off a certain “other” category of immigrants hailing from the same homeland as them, when they socialize at events in their adopted country.
For example, an immigrant yuppy who drinks, parties and openly lives with his/her ‘gori‘ girlfriend/’gora‘ boyfriend will never attend a religious social event where desi uncles/aunties will be present sporting the latest formal shalwar kameez outfits and talking loudly in their ‘FOB‘ accents as they discuss the latest Geo News update/Pakistani morning show episode over spicy, oil-rich Chicken Biryani and ghee-laden gajar ka halwa.
Despite hailing from the same city and country, both immigrant categories will be totally scandalized by the lifestyle and choices of the other, so they’ll socially avoid each other like the plague.
You see, the first kind of immigrant has “assimilated” completely into their adopted country’s culture and people, but the latter has not.
→ Which brings me to the creme de la creme of an immigrant’s dilemma post emigration, which hangs like a dark cloud over their lives as soon as they ‘get off the boat’, so to speak: the pressure to integrate and assimilate.
Each and every immigrant who lives as part of a minority in their adopted country, feels the pressure to assimilate.
Remember, I am not taking just religion into account here as I describe this point. It has got more to do with living as a (visibly) ethnic minority member as part of a larger, foreign, cultural majority.
The pressure to assimilate applies to every immigrant, but especially so to religious minorities anywhere in the world. E.g. even to the Christians, Zoroastrians, Shia’s, Ahmedi’s, and Hindus living in Karachi.
Because of fear of persecution, marginalization or ostracization, they live in close-knit communities, near each other, and hold on tightly to their different cultural/religious practices in the privacy of their homes, because of the fact that they are a minority. E.g. they change their names and are forced to do other things (such as call their god “Allah”, and not Bhagwan/Jesus, in public) in order to blend in/assimilate into mainstream society.
Just as a FYI: if I had been born into one of the persecuted minorities in Karachi (alhamdulillah that I wasn’t), I’d probably have left this city a long time ago.
As I said above, changing their name, wardrobe and conversational accent/style in order to assimilate and ‘blend in’, is the expected norm for most immigrants. E.g. Salman eventually goes by “Sal”, Nauman eventually goes by “Nammy”, Khalid becomes “Kal”, Shahzad becomes “Shaz”, and Abdullah adopts a new name altogether.
I can only imagine what an “Osama” would call himself after emigrating to the West. “Ossie”, or “Sam”? :\
→ Always facing the risk of being passive-aggressively and derisively told by their host country’s nationals to “Go home” as they cross paths in public. Always. We are “brown”, accented, Urdu-speaking people after all; the outsiders struggling to fit in; the ‘others’ who have come to their country from elsewhere, in pursuit of a better life/home/education/career/livelihood for themselves and their children.
Now please, take a deep breath.
Now, read this: The above list is not my personal judgment about immigrants.
It is merely a list of things that I have observed in most of the immigrants whom I know.
These are all of the things that I could not envision myself doing on a permanent or a long-term basis, in my own life, by going on living in Canada.
I just didn’t think the sacrifice of my current lifestyle; and proactively changing my current goals for my children, and ‘adapting’ my personal moral values, habits, and principles to fit in to another culture/country, was worth it.
And yes, I didn’t have any desire to raise my children in Canada, as Canadians, despite knowing that public-school education is free; that one day their undergraduate, college tuition fee would be reduced to a third if they became citizens of Canada; despite knowing that I’d get “free” healthcare (there is a reason I put that “free” in quotes, by the way); despite knowing that the Canadian passport would lift visa restrictions/fees and open travel doors wide for us in many countries of the world; despite knowing that a Canadian citizen earns much more than a Pakistani passport-holder, almost everywhere in the GCC (due to discriminative salary scales, based on nationality).
I was the problem. I couldn’t change. I couldn’t see myself bending, adapting, and changing my goals, values, morals, lifestyle, and priorities for the sake of acquiring the citizenship of Canada, and for the sake of living there.
That, and did I mention that I didn’t particularly like the prospect of living in a deep freezer for 6 months a year? :)
No, I didn’t mention that, did I?
Nor did I mention that my husband, despite holding an MBA degree from the University of New Brunswick, couldn’t land a halal permanent job in Canada throughout his 3-year stay there.
Nor did I mention how the taste of the meat, vegetables, fruit, milk and all other food in North America is off-puttingly bland in comparison to that in Pakistan?
Nope. I didn’t mention any of those other points, did I?
“Hmph. What does this ignorant niqabi Pakistani woman know anyway, about how wonderful other countries are compared to her loser Karachi? What has she seen of the developed world, boxed in as she is into her own self-imposed cage?”
Last, but not least, before I sign off, I’d like to list, just for your information, the places, cities and countries of the world that I have visited, prior to landing in Canada as an immigrant in 2004.
This is not an attempt to brag, please. It is actually a very humble and small list compared to the innumerable places most of you have probably visited around the world yourself.
So why am I displaying this list here? So that all the readers of this post can have an idea about how “enlightened” by international travel I was prior to landing in Canada as a FOB. :P
And I want to pinpoint that when I visited each of the places below, I wore my signature headscarf, abaya, and niqab pulled over my face (all guidance is from Allah), and I visited all of these places in 2001, at the age of 22-23, except for the last one.
- London, UK. Oxford Street. Marble Arch. British Museum. Rode a Double-Decker red bus (and loved it!). Paddington Station. Claire’s. Trafalgar Square. Big Ben. Selfridges.
- Wilmslow, Manchester, UK. Visited the largest outlet of Marks and Spencer that is located in Manchester (I didn’t like anything much at the multistory store, so I came out empty-handed). Royal Doulton.
- Troy, Michigan, USA. Mervyn’s (now defunct). Somerset Mall. Claire’s (again). Build A Bear. Tuesday Morning. JCPenney.
- Downtown Detroit (on a deserted Sunday). Monorail ride. Fed seagulls on the side of a lake that I cannot recall the name of. All I remember is that we could see the skyline of Windsor Border in the distance.
- Downtown Chicago. Lake shore Drive. Navy Pier. Tram ride for tourists. Sears Tower (now Wills Tower) Sky deck. Illinois Institute of Technology campus (sat down to read a bit in the library, visited their cafeteria). Payless Shoes. Chicago Union Station. Took an Amtrak train from Chicago, Illinois to Dearborn, Michigan and back.
- Bloomingdale, Chicago (a suburb). Dominick’s (now defunct). Marshal Fields mall (now defunct).
- Niagra Falls, Canada. Tim Horton’s. Walmart.
- Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah, Saudi Arabia (2002).
Conclusion – The World is Big Enough for All of Us
Yes, yes, I know, if a list could be compiled detailing all of the things wrong with Pakistan, Pakistani society, and Pakistani people, especially the port city Karachi, it would by far outnumber any other list of vices, evils and injustices related to all the other places on this planet lumped together.
It is probably true, that Karachi is one of the worst cities in the world, to live in! But what can I say?
Except that I am happy for you where ever you might be living, and the life choices you might be making.
It would be great if you can also be broad-minded and respectful enough to accept my rejection of Canadian immigration and of a life in the West, as a proof of humankind’s “unity in diversity”.
If my rejection of living in Canada or anywhere else in the world as an immigrant, brings any kind of awkwardness into our friendship/relationship as adults (I am 36 right now), then that means that one of us has still got some growing up and mental maturing to do.
Everyone is different, and my choice to not live in a country as a minority member or an immigrant, or to raise my children as minority members and second-generation immigrants, is not meant to be a judgment of your choice, or your parents’ choice, to do the same.
I hope that after reading this post, you will never feel the need to ask me the question, “So, why’d you come back from Canada?”
And even if you do, I’m hoping that you won’t. I think we all can live and let live.
And if you are a Pakistani who can’t wait to leave Pakistan to escape from the very real problems that we all are facing whilst living here, believe me, I wish you and your family nothing but the very best, from the bottom of my heart.
Bon Voyage! [*Waves hand vigorously*] :)