The expat

Published: February 1, 2013

Sometimes he wonders if it was all worth it. PHOTO: REUTERS

Hammad Khan, a young aspiring Information Technology (IT) professional from Karachi, moved abroad leaving behind his family and friends in the search for a better future.

The young man acquired a bachelor’s degree in IT and joined a US-based software company; his arrival in the USA was like a dream that had come true.

Hammad planned on staying in the US for about ten years, so he could make enough money to settle down comfortably in Pakistan.

As the son of a civil servant – who could only manage to earn himself a one-bedroom apartment after his retirement – Hammad aimed to gain much more in his life.

However, soon, his enthusiasm began to decline and he started feeling homesick. He would call home and speak to his parents every week using cheap international phone cards.

Time flew by and four years had already passed – four years of McDonald’s, Burger King and discos. These years were spent being happy every time the Pakistani Rupee’s value went down.

By the time Hammad had made enough money, he decided to get married. He told his parents that he only had four weeks to visit Pakistan, choose a girl and get married all together.

After his arrival in Pakistan, Hammad spent a week going through all the photographs of “suitable” girls his family had gathered for him. Since the time was short, he was forced to quickly select on a candidate.

Surprisingly, Hammad’s to-be in-laws agreed to his request to get married in 15 days and started wedding preparations.

15 days later, Hammad was married to beautiful Tania. He felt like the luckiest man on earth. After the marriage, it was time to return to the USA, leaving some money for his wife and parents.

After a year of paperwork, Hammad managed to get Tania to the USA. He arranged for new accommodation and bought new car as well. The couple thought their life couldn’t have been better and soon two lovely children, a boy and a girl, were gifted to them by the Almighty.

Meanwhile, the shadow of recession crept in and many companies in the US started to lay off employees; Hammad was not spared. He was jobless now, with a family of five people to support – three in US, and two back in Pakistan.

After a lot of job hunting, he managed to find a job in a departmental store, but it was not enough to meet the rising expenses. Tania, too, began working at the same store.

The clocked ticked on as Hammad’s children started going to school, and his parents grew older. Whenever he spoke to his parents, they would ask him to visit so that they could see their grandchildren. Every year Hammad would plan to visit but his financial conditions did not allow him to.

Pakistan became a distant dream.

One day Hammad received news of his father falling severely ill. His employer could not permit any leave and the next news he received was of the demise of his father. There was no one at his funeral to complete the rituals and neighbours had done whatever they could. Hammad was very depressed.

After couple more years, his mother passed away too.

Six months after her death, much to his children’s dislike and his wife’s joy, the family returned to Pakistan to settle down.

He started to look for a house, but his savings were falling short and property prices were sky-high. He decided to move back to the US but his wife refused to come back with him. Her parents had grown very old and she wanted to stay with them for a few more months. Hammad returned to the US with his children after promising Tania that he would be back soon.

Six months later, Tania came back to the US, but had to return to Pakistan because her father had fallen very sick.

Their daughter decided to marry an American and their son was quite happy living in the US too.

Hammad decided that he had had enough. He wound everything up and returned to Pakistan, leaving his kids behind. He had just enough money to buy a decent two bedroom apartment in a posh locality.

Now Hammad is 60-years-old and the only time he leaves his apartment is when he has to go pray at the nearby mosque. His faithful wife passed away a few years ago. He occasionally receives post cards from his children and he’s glad that they remember that he exists.

Sometimes he wonders if it was all worth it. He wonders if the neighbours will be performing the necessary rituals at his funeral, too. He often thinks about his father, who lived in Pakistan all his life and ended up with a one-bedroom apartment to his name.

“Am I any better of?”, he reflects thinking of the high ambitions of his youth.

If anything, he believes that he is worse off. He has lost his wife, his parents and the company of his children.

All he is left with is a one-bedroom-apartment.

Haris Naved Ahmed

Haris Naved Ahmed

An engineer, with a post-graduate degree in Energy Management. He works for an oil & gas company and enjoys travelling and sports.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.