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.

  • http://hyderabad sattar rind

    They must leave this country if they want to do anything good for this country. But when arming their skill they not forget that we are living in this hell and they should create a pressure this country fate masters that they may take care of us. I hope their voice would be heard. At least I hope this. If not even than I would be happy that my country fellow are living aboard and living happy life and they are out of this hell. please no one should discourage them Recommend

  • Javeria

    WOAH. EASY HO JAO.Recommend

  • Hamza

    During the recession in 2008, his children were going to school. Now in 2013 he is 60 years and his daughter is married and his son is living independently. Cool story bro. Recommend

  • Rohail Malik

    very well writtenRecommend

  • Haris Naved Ahmed

    @Sattar Rind: This blog is not to discourage anybody, its just an eye-opener. We usually hear sucees stories of the people living abroad. But there are numerous families facing financial and social problems in the west, which had they been living in Pakistan, they would be better-off. Recommend

  • zahra.mohammed

    @Hamza Last I checked, 2008 wasn’t the only time the economy slumped


  • Haris Naved Ahmed

    @Hamza: I like critics, and criticism, but before commenting you must know the facts. Please read the facts in the link stated below and you will know the about the recession eras in the USA.

  • Zeeshan ashraf

    It all comes down to choices you made in past. actions brings conclusion, albeit very slow. we all have to ask, whats most important, a luxurious life or hard life but more likely desired conclusion? I had a chance of living in west and during my stay I witnessed number of people scratching their head out, not because they failed in unending race of material gains but the way conclusion of their choices impacted their generation. most of felt themselves no more than an undesirable entity who are left in cold by no others but very those for whom they sacrificed every thing. I may sound conservative but its fact that before settling down in western countries, ask yourself a question, MATERIAL OR FAMILY and VALUES ? because u can’t have both in that part of world.Recommend

  • Turbo Lover

    How’d he age so fast? Even the story went at a mind-blowing 200+ mph. I mean slow down author, we’re not in a rush.Recommend

  • Hamza

    I don’t want to sound like an unnecessary critic but the overall vibe given off in the blog
    was that the author was talking about the recent recession. Perhaps I was confused after the authors mother, father and wife died one after the other in the speed of light.

    My apologies. Recommend

  • Hamza

    Hammad’s not the author’s. Sorry about that. Recommend

  • Madhia

    Awesome and inspiringRecommend

  • Hamza

    @Haris Naved Ahmed:
    Fair enough. Recommend

  • Zaid Hamid

    Story of many a people who caught up between des-pardes dilemma.

    P.S. One minor error… You mentioned in the end he bought a two bedroom apartment and then in the last line he was left with 1 bedroom apartment :)Recommend

  • Fan of Haris Naved Ahmed

    The best of best blog I have ever read. I think this blog should be considered for the twelfth annual weblog award. Very nice.Recommend

  • vasanth pai

    Exactly. And 60 y ears ago there were no software firms the IT revolution took place in 1990’s peaking at the turn of the millennium. This story is apocryphal and strains our credulity. @Hamza: Recommend

  • sameera

    @ author
    It seems like outline of a novel- episodes mentioned in a linear narration short story focuses on small action and then magnifies that action into representation of something greater. For instance, you could start with feelings of Hammad at the time of death of his mother. Then, past events could be narrated through flashback technique or future anticipated through foreshadowing .Connect past, present and future in a non-linear narrative. It keeps suspense alive.

    Anyways, it’s a good theme.And before you can write a great piece, you have to make an effort to sit down and pour your thoughts on a piece of paper or a computer. So, keep writing and writing and writing. I am reading biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez” Living to Tell the Tale.” He wrote his first novel at least four times till he discovered how he could tell his tale.
    All the best .
    Recession is a cyclical phenomenon all over the world.Recommend

  • NF

    I would have to agree with the gist of the story, leaving behind everything else.

    We usually hear success stories of pple living abroad OR we probably just focus on their successes while totally ignoring the sacrifices behind. It is true that one has to step up against the odds to stand tall for himself and generations to come, but….. we often forget (or don’t realize) that one has to place the second foot on the generation behind. This probably is the way life moves forward in the 21st century but, being selfish (though unintentionally) is not what we were thought.

    Yes, it is said “No Pain No Gain!!”…… but, we should evaluate, in a broader prospective, the COST one has to pay & decide if it actually worth’s!!1Recommend

  • Muhammad Haris

    No body wants to leave his home country, family, friends, events, festivities and gatherings but the youth is now forced to take this path because the economy is now in shamble. There are no jobs on merit. No training nothing. In this kind of circumstances either you come to middle east as I did and my friends did or you go for M.S like my other friends did. Me and my buddies miss our hangouts and waiting for the time when Pakistan’s economy and security conditions improves so we will return back to our homeland and enjoy like we used to do.Recommend

  • Zubair Mane

    Go and get some honesty dude, you are printing an indian family story with a pakistani names… its shameful, did you even ask for the copyright to re-print this story? just a lame blog with a copy paste stories….
    no matter what the topic is and how emotional & sensitive it is, when I read this story 3 months back on FB, I felt it but this time I am pissed off as I read the same story with pakistani names…thats not how we are; faking out others experience on our own.
    Anyway back to the topic, i found the moral of the story when I read it as simple: “History repeats itself, whatever you do with your parents, it will be done upon you one day too”. Now don’t bring the discussion of leaving the country and all bullshit crap. You get what you do, and you do what you get.Recommend

  • Muhammad Haris

    this is how it happens, I have witnessed some families.Recommend

  • Hamza

    Fair enough. Hope to see more and better blogs from you next time. Recommend

  • John B

    Although the story tries to make it sound that going overseas is not all that good with several illogical jumps in the narration, the theme is understood.

    Here is a lesson: the world no longer revolves around a village and parents have to think what is in the best interest of their children. Even a three hour flight from Dubai to PAK is too late if one desires to be at the bed side of a dying parent.

    The world has changed and one needs to make a choice. It is not the foreign countries that provide the betterment of life(fiscal, mental, livelihood, knowledge, and opportunity) to many PAK citizens are at fault and no one is restricting the aging parents to move closer to their children. However, it is unethical and immoral of the parents to expect their children to come and live with them -selfish perspectives. All children will do that, as the wife of this narration, if they can and it is the responsibility of their parents to understand this.

    The father of this narration can sell the house in PAK and go and live with his children. Why does he want to live in PAK and demanding his children to come to him, after having made his life elsewhere. Is the father not selfish.

    Parents restricting /demanding their children will prevent them from achieving their potential. Children did not ask to be in this world and parents brought them into this world so it is parental responsibility to make sure their labor did not go in vain.

    Our parents due to their social commitments cannot afford to live with us but they never stood in the way in achieving our potentials. Both my wife and I were not there when our respective fathers passed away peacefully, and we live only an hour away with private flight. We know there will come a day to bury our mothers also, but nothing we can do to predict how it will come. Such is life.

    Parents should get over the habit of reeling in their children when they get old. It will be the greatest disservice they can do to their children. When we die, we do not carry our wealth to the grave.

    Parents should only worry about burying their children. Recommend

  • Vikas

    I am surprised as to why people want to leave Land of PureRecommend

  • http://tribune,com p r sharma

    The blog intends to say that all is not well with diaspora and sometimes there is feeling of sadness at the end.
    .Happiness or sadness both are the state of mind which varies based on level of wordily comforts and consequent thoughts. We believe in some values prevalent in our society. We also start to accept or reject ( because we feel that these are in contrast with my values which i strongly believe) the values which we encounter in a different society.
    But financial strength definitely helps to derive happiness as it removes many many problems which could cause sorrow.
    Blog also ends up with a pity focusing on one bedroom flat whereas the problem lies elsewhere i.e. loneliness which can be overcome by changing the outlook / socializing more and more.
    so the lesson is, acquire and hone your skill before / after becoming the part of diaspora to achieve financial strength and be happy. Recommend

  • Nobody

    @Zubair Mane:
    My my, you’re a big ball of sunshine aren’t ya…. Do us all a favor, keep your dark cynicism and nastiness to yourself. Thanks. Recommend

  • Nobody

    Gee what an intelligent comment! You seem to ask as if you have the answer. Next, you’ll enlighten everyone with your mind boggling omniscience. Recommend

  • observer

    Hammad planned on staying in the US for about ten years,

    four years of McDonald’s, Burger King and discos…. he decided to get married.

    After a year of paperwork, Hammad managed to get Tania to the USA.

    two lovely children, a boy and a girl, were gifted to them by the Almighty.

    So, Hammad wanted to stay in US for TEN years. FIVE years were over by the time the wife joined him. And the Almighty’s gifts must have taken another 3 years at the minimum to arrive. That makes EIGHT years. So by the time the gifts were ready for school the TEN years were up.

    Had Mr Hammad not become greedy and overstayed, he would have been home, dry and happy, much before the recession hit.

    Moral of the Story- Stick to the Schedule. TEN years means 10 only.Recommend

  • Haris Naved Ahmed

    @All: Thank you everybody for actively participating in sharing your feeling w.r.t this blog. I like your criticism, suggestions and appreciation.
    @Zaid Hamid: Yes it was supposed to be 2 bedroom apartment at the end with one bedroom extra than Hammad’s father, but I guess the editorial team jumbled it up.
    @Fan of Haris: Thankyou, but I think I need to work on my story-telling skills.
    @Vasanth Pai: Kindly discount some minor exaggerations, you know for making the story interesting we need to add some spice into it.
    @Sameera: You advice well taken, next time you will feel that the matureness level have increased :)
    @NF: Exactly, it depends on our priorities! But I hope people will make some alterations to their thoughts when they read my blog.
    @Muhammad Haris: Bro, I respect your thoughts but why our parents shall suffer in their last days. Its all about making better choices.
    @Zubair Mane: Ok, if you think the subject has been copied from facebook…fine. Have you watched the movie Devdas….its was made twice :) anyways, coming back to the subject its not about leaving country…its about making choices between material satisfaction and internal happiness.
    @John B: As you bow shall you sow. You will die one day, even would I because we are not eternal. If you think parents are selfish, then you are mistaken mate. Coming to the point of that parents are the culprits of bringing their children to this world, children never asked them to do so…..if you are a muslim…I would recommend you to study Quran and then you will know about our duties towards our parents. I honor your feelings and I understand every person has unique circumstances, and you did the best thing you could think of at that point of time.
    @Vikas: Bro its no more land of pure.
    @ PR Sharma: Thanks for endorsing and explaining my thoughts :)Recommend

  • Haris Naved Ahmed

    @Observer: It is one of the morals of the story….!! Recommend

  • Parvez

    I’ve read this exact story somewhere else but forget where……….anyway liked it then and like it now as well.
    Forces one to think about the concept of happiness, success, loyalty, human values and the undeniable urge to better ones station in life and shoulder the consequences attached.Recommend

  • CopyPaste Zindabad

    Have read the same story in some other blog.. dont exactly remeber the link but there the guy was Indian and all.. talking about the stories basic idea.. yes one needs to define their priorities.. but circumstances are a b**.. Recommend

  • Op

    spot is important but money is not everything..sometime in search of materialistic things we forget the most important things like family,relatives, country, we take these things for granted but at the end we left with nothing… Recommend

  • Haris Naved Ahmed

    @Parvez & Copy Paste Zindabad: That was Devdas with Dilip Kumar and this is Devdas with Shahrukh Khan and now someone will make Dev D :)Recommend

  • Azazel

    Should have applied to Saudi Arabia – no taxes! Oh well…Recommend

  • Usman

    Most of the people who comment here are really immature. I don’t know what’s happen with the people. Someone pointing out year, age and etc, why don’t you guys focusing on the article? It’s not a novel or movie story , it does happen in real and even happening, ask to the people who are living abroad, or go abroad and you will see, ALLAH Pakistan ko strong ker day ta k koi b apnay man baap say Ayse Juda na ho…Recommend

  • Sana

    I read the post’s indian as well as this pakistani version, and I liked the concept of both. It is well written Haris, and I look forward to more blogs written by you soon. Recommend

  • John B

    @Haris Naved Ahmed:
    Parents asking their children to stay where they are selfish. When time comes, parents should be ready to move where their kith and kin are, if they need to be. Otherwise none of the children can be explorers, travelers,scientists, novelists or bankers and merchants -who travel around the world in search of knowledge and /or wealth.

    Similarly, children asking parents to move with them are also ignoring their parents wishes-social commitments, friends, and peers.

    One may live in Karachi but may not be there in Islamabad at the dying time. As for as children’s responsibility to parents: all cultures do that and one does not need any book to educate. It is instinctive and primal. Recommend

  • Al_chemisto

    40 year before he was an IT professional? Must v been a true vision ary!Recommend

  • Muhammad

    so whats the moral of the fast forwarded story?

    Shall we go abroad or not. There are thousands of sucess stories and thousands of failure stories, which side you take?Recommend

  • Haris Naved Ahmed

    @Johan B: Sir again you are jumping to the conclusions. The moral of the story is to explore internal satisfaction rather than running behind fake, materialistic stuffs. It does not say whether you should live with your parents or not! I recommend you to sit back and give your current priorities are thought.
    @Al-chemisto: You never know, you might become a visionary too 
    @Sana: Sure, I will write more, if time allows 
    @Usman: I want everybody to give their priorities a rethought and align it with your quest for true happiness.
    @Muhammad: Bro, every person has unique circumstances and you need to take decision considering your circumstances. However, there is no harm in going abroad for prosperous future. But if you go abroad then please don’t regret your decision.Recommend

  • abhi

    I agree with you to some extent, but I think uprooting someone at the later stage is too difficult. Children should try to spend more time with their parents, sometimes it may mean cutting down the holiday trips and spending some extra amount for travel. Recommend

  • Milind

    @Author – . There have been a few possible errors(??) – age factor, timing of the recession in the narration (assuming you want to map this with reality)

    Nevertheless the overall construction is good, and the emotions that come out of it (especially when the protaganist cannot attend his father’s funeral etc.) pierce your heart….

    As pointed out by most bloggers here this theme has been repeated.. but then so are most pieces of art… One cannot dismiss one landscape painting by saying that the trees, houses, mountains shown here have been present in another one before. Its the arrangement and the emotion that comes out, that ultimately matters.Recommend

  • Haris Naved Ahmed

    @Milind: Your valuable sessions taken well, and I appreciate your supportve gestures. Recommend

  • G. Din

    “It is better to have tried and lost than never to have tried at all”!
    “No one ever returns home!”Recommend

  • John B

    @abhi: “uprooting someone at later stage….”

    Agree with you on this. But in the world we live in, children and parents should know what are their priorities in life.

    Parents-what is good for their children.

    Children who just became parents: what is good for their children and their(husband and wife) life.

    All children look after their parents but I take issues when parents ask the children to be come to live with them because they do not want to move.

    In my society it is shameful for adult children to live with their parents and the parents who keep their children at home are not considered as good parents. However, no one in this society abrogates the responsibilities toward their parents and those who abrogate them are considered as selfish.

    I understand that not all children are willing to step outside their comfort zones of a village and not all parents are wiling to let go of their umbilical cord. But none of them are doing the other any favor.

    The last thing we want is to be dependent on our children and asking our children to take care us because we would be happy that way. Is it not selfish on our part to expect that?

    I would like my children to step outside to seek the unknown-land, knowledge, wealth, people. That is the greatest gift they can give us and we will be happy knowing that we did a good job. Recommend

  • Stranger

    Story of every man / woman and family nowadays. The young want to fly to fulfill their dreams. Whats wrong in that .Recommend

  • Aaqib

    A person is 60 years old in 2013. What institute was offering IT degree while he was young? Let me try to focus on the message. Ratio of the expats living happily is much higher then the ratio of people living happily in Pakistan. I am not saying they dont struggle but in the end mostly expats are settled both emotionally and financially. Recommend

  • Haris Naved Ahmed

    @Stranger: There is nothing wrong with that !! Recommend

  • Ali S

    Timeline inconsistencies aside, I assume that the author was trying to portray a (hypothetical?) story of an expat’s failed dream. As someone who has lived in three different countries (including Canada, UAE and Pakistan), I believe that if someone is from a financially doable background and has a valuable degree, the kind of failure that the author is describing is down to his own bad choices (and no, that doesn’t include moving abroad) and not to circumstances. The US/West offers a lot of opportunity and hefty compensation if you have the talents they require, but you have to operate by their terms. No one’s forcing you to stay there if things go downhill – keep your mind open, don’t be afraid to try new options (even if it means returning back home). The message of this piece was muddled at best.Recommend

  • Raiya

    Nonsense the same thing does not happen to everyoneRecommend

  • Haris Naved Ahmed

    Ali S: I won’t disagree with, but there is not always sunshine, there are some rainy days too!! I didn’t intend to discourage anybody from going abroad or seeking a beeter future, but my point was to weigh your priorities and then take decisions accordigly. I appreciate your valuable comments> Thanks!Recommend

  • Kaafir

    @Haris Naved Ahmed:
    Join the club of conspiracy theories.hahahahaha
    Everything is a joke in pakistan.Recommend

  • AJA

    Lesson to learn: Savings in KSA and rest of Middle East are much better than US or Canada.Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    This article made my eyes water. very well written. I am an overseas resident as well. However I give Billion Thanks to Allah that my Parents and siblings are with me and recently we all got Citizenship. We are all well settled, but I, my parents and siblings miss the social life, the relatives back home. Recently my eldest Aunt (Khala) passed away and we could not even attend her burial. She was the same Khala, I used to visit and stay with during my holidays. loved playing video games with my cousins and the omelete Paratha which Barri Khalajan cooked and served. Its a boring life here. I used to be an extrovert in Pakistan, but now and am becoming more of an introvert, due to the lack of company. Also, people in Pakistan now think of our family as an alien. The rishtay walay are not keen on sending their daughter(s) to the home of an overseas resident family….We are earning wealth, but losing company and companions…Recommend

  • N A Layak

    Hammad Khan tossed and turned and then decided not to go and pursue his dream in the US. Hammad looked for a job within his city and found something suitable. At the right time his parents found the right match for him – the beautiful Tania. Hammad lived with his parents and Tania in the same house. They had long and repeated power cuts and the water supply was erratic. His mother and Tania had minor arguments and he somehow learnt to live with it. He was never properly trained and his company never offered him ways to improve his output. His company was not doing well during recession and he struggled to meet the expenses of his family (now with 2 kids) and aging parents. His wife decided to spend some time with her aging parents which did not go well with Hammad and his parents as they felt they had the first right to her services. Hammad struggled hard to find suitable schools that were affordable and safe for his children. With deteriorating security, he was constantly worried for the safety of his loved ones. One day his mother fell sick and he could not find an ambulance to take her to the hospital in time. He somehow managed to carry her in a friend’s car but the streets were blocked due to VIP traffic. His mother passed away in the car. A few days later, his Father was visiting the market where there was a huge explosion and they could not even find his remains. Tania in the meanwhile had to remain covered up every time she stepped out as the men on the streets made a simple visit to the market, sheer hell. She was always worried about the safety of her daughter out in the streets. Their son had become quiet and morose as they could not let him go out and play in the evening.

    He occasionally receives post cards from his friends who decided to pursue their dreams. They missed their home country but do not plan to come back as they do not know what to come back for.

    Sometimes he wonders if it was all worth it. He often thinks about his father, who lived in the same house and wonders if this is the fate of his children as well.
    “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 parents, Tania and children’s love and his peace of mind

    All he is left with is an old house. .Recommend