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I am an immigrant!

  • April 24, 2015
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I have come to characterise London as a cosmopolitan city always on run. Its disciplined demonstration is the underground station in the morning. People of delightful diversity are running to catch train and get to work.
My mornings are mad missions to get ready, stuff breakfast and get to the office yet at the underground station; I lose the urgency to get to rush. I stand still on the escalator, witnessing the spectacle of humanity on run and analysing the advertisements on display finding anything of interest.

A few days back, came across advertisements proclaiming I am immigrant! A keen follower of British election debates, where immigration remains a passionately pleaded subject, I became intrigued.

I am immigrant campaign aims at integration of immigrants I think but it made me think of immigrants. The pictures on display that I saw were of taxi drivers, police men, nurses and teachers. I know of many immigrants who are business executive, social workers, sportsmen, lawyers and business tycoons. I also have heard of many immigrants who only came to this country to get the maximum benefits and who over the years have used the benefits unfairly.
To immigrate to a new country is not an easy decision. I have taken this decision many times. Even if your home country is as challenged as Pakistan, that is where your roots are. Your belongings are, your connection are, your identity is! That is where your loved ones are. Your joys and sorrows are!

You leave your country but you long for it. I have left my country four times in the hope of expanding my horizons and every time returning with horizons expanded. I know even this time, I would return with far broadened horizons with a far greater ambition to do good for my people.

So when I hear politicians debating immigration, I can appreciate all the perspectives. I will never forget the taxi driver who once drove me to the Heathrow airport.

He was a disturbed man at crossroads with his identity. He had grown up in an England where maybe immigrants were not in abundance. He now lived in an England where he saw immigrants everywhere. They were marrying English, they were buying English properties, and they were taking up jobs.

He shared his agony with a girl who definitely was not English. Somehow I was able to console him, for I tried to visualise as to how my grandparents or parents would react if Pakistan was to be taken over by non-Pakistanis.

London over the years has changed. I had Fish and Chips at a Halal Arabic cafe that day. Marks and Spencer sells Madras Curry Sauces. Sainsbury sells Halal food.

To see your country being taken over by others cultures, culinary and concerns must be terrifying.

But you know what I love London for is something I miss massively in Lahore is the opportunity to talk to people of all cultures. I spend my Saturdays in a Greek cafe just because so many different people come there and sometimes I talk to them about their countries, aspirations and ambitions.
We all miss our roots and dream of the day when we return to our roots to enrich our roots with the learnings of diversity and opportunity that London is.
So I am an immigrant who pays taxes, uses benefits and understand not all immigrants are same as me but then nowhere is there equality. But for the opportunity to know of the inequality called diversity I am thankful to London!




Metro and Kensington

  • April 12, 2015
  • Blogs

I have had an apartment in London for more than six months!

My relation with my apartment is similar to a passenger’s relationship with the waiting room of a rail station. As I wait for my next trip, I use the apartment to do laundry, eat some take away food, check the post and sleep in my bed. Nothing is in order and I cannot care!

This month as I have been at the apartment for two weeks at a stretch, my apartment feels like a home! It is clean and organised with a refrigerator full of things to eat and drink. I also have had time to explore my neighborhood at last too!

By the way I live in an area in London that has proved to be a bit of an embarrassment for me.

In my defence, I have to say I had a few objectives while searching for an apartment. I wanted to live near the office. I did not want to buy a car. I wanted electricity/gas bills to be included in the rent. Most importantly, I wanted a very small and a very secure apartment. I trusted my negotiation skills to get a good value for money.

Thankfully I got what I desired.

A small apartment in Kensington! If you are ever around, drop in for a cup of coffee or tea.

By now I have got used to being greeted with a mix of astonishment and curiosity at the location of my apartment, as thought is only the rich and affluent can live in Kensington!

But it was not always like this, I have discovered many hundred years back, Kensington was a mix of people from diverse economic and social backgrounds.

Prime Ministers, ministers, actors, writers, artists, men and women of wealth lived in Kensington along with gardeners, cleaners, maids, cooks, artisans and labourers. They lived in a separate area and their apartments were a far cry from the mansions of their masters.

Today however in Kensington, generally, with a few exceptions like me, only the very rich live.

The underground apparently changed it all.

As the underground came into existence, travel became easier. Kensington became a place only for the rich and apartments of less rich people were converted into extremely expensive blocks of apartments, shopping and parking areas.

Will Metro do the same to Lahore! Will Metro a divide Lahore between rich and not rich?

Does Lahore need to be divided by a Metro or is Lahore already divided! Underground made travel equal for all, Metro has further endorsed the division between those who have and those who do not have as it is only used by what our politicians would call the poor people of Pakistan!




Prayers for You!

  • April 6, 2015
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I live in Peshawar. I shudder to watch television ever since 16 December 2014. I had the television on as I did household chores. At around noon time, there was breaking news.

I live in a country where on daily basis we get breaking news of bombs and bullets.  I stopped my household work to listen to the breaking news.

I need not turn the volume up to know what was happening. On screen was the school of my son, my only son. The school had been attacked by Islamists. Children were being killed. Army was fighting them. There was too much detail and all I cared to know was whether my son was alive.

I ran out of my house. I ran, prayed; fell down on the ground thinking of any eventuality that I did not want to think of. I got up and ran hard. I got to the school. They would not let me go in.

Ambulances were running in and out of the school. They told me to go to the hospital. I had no strength to run to the hospital. So they put me in a van going to the hospital. In the hospital, I searched for my son among the living. I searched for hours. He could not leave me alone in this world. He had to be alive!

I was wrong. He had left me alone in this world.  When I found his dead body, it was bullet ridden. They had shot him in the head, the head that I had kissed in the morning before he went to the school.

Ever since that day I do not watch the television but few days back, I had nothing to do and I switched on the television. It had scenes of shooting, of parents running here and there, of innocent blood splashed on the walls, of dreams ruined by devils. There were ambulances racing and people weeping.

It reminded me of 16 December 2014 and Peshawar!  The scenes looked the same. The mourning mothers looked like me. Yet it was Kenya and not Pakistan.

As I saw parents burying their children in Kenya, reminded I was of the day when hundreds of parents in Peshawar had buried their children, their hopes and themselves too. Their lives would not be the same and they would always look for reasons. Many young people in Kenya were killed because they were not Muslims.

My child was a Muslim. He prayed five times a day, fasted 30 days a month and was a pious boy. He would have grown up to be a model follower of Islam yet he was killed in the name of Islam just like the children in Kenya were.

If religion was the reason for the deaths of your children, what was the fault of my son? I brought up my son to believe that Allah loves peace and HIs Messenger Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) spread Islam peacefully, as death would have come near to him, would he have believed me or the killers chanting the name of Allah.

I think he would have believed his mother and just like him, you have to believe a mother. The religion of the killers of your children could be death, devastation, disaster and all this has no place in Islam. My prayers are with your son and my son and all of you and all of us.