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!