Fresh Off the Boat: Why shouldn’t I like curry?

Published: July 23, 2011
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Brown:the colour I was assigned once in Canada.

Never in a million years had I imagined that I would be considered a colour just like the black, yellow, white, peach and pink people around me. If we get deep down into it though, just to set the facts straight, I am not brown. I am a darker variation of ochre.

No, I did not come here on a boat nor do I ride camels as a means of transportation in Pakistan unless it’s a family outing at Sea View beach, where camel rides are forms of entertainment.  Yet, they insist on calling us Fresh off the Boat (Fob) instead of Fresh off PIA, quite exhausted after an 18 hour direct flight from Karachi, with screaming children, angry aunties and snoring uncles. I would like to see how you smell after taking that flight, so be a little considerate at the airport instead of turning your noses and losing colour in your faces when the PIA passengers come stumbling out in all their Pakistani glory.

When I moved to Canada from Pakistan to pursue furher education, I did not know what to expect of its people. I was interested in observing how a Pakistani, would be perceived in the West.  However, the kind of absurd, comical and at times insulting statements I have heard, uttered by friends, colleagues and strangers, were so outrageous, I had to share them with the Pakistani community and the world. No matter how much we assimilate, there are certain elements in our culture that are extremely alien and unsuitable to the perceptions of the civilised, developed world.

For instance, people are unaware of the fact that our language is Urdu not Hindi. Those who are not schooled in the worlds of the East at all have asked me if I can speak “Pakistani.” If I employ the use of even the simplest of English vocabulary, many eyebrows are raised.

How it is that I can speak English so fluently, if I am from Pakistan?

Upon knowledge of private schools following British education systems, Canadians are usually dumbfounded. “But why is your English so good and what on Earth is an O’ level?” they ask unable to fathom education systems set apart from their high schools.

I have to include curry in this write up because no Pakistani can ever break association with the curry factor. Cabs in Toronto are mostly driven by Pakistanis and according to a classmate “it ain’t a Pakistani cab if it ain’t smelling like curry”.

A Spanish-Canadian work colleague had been an unfortunate witness to a “mayun” ceremony and couldn’t for the life of her get over why “large, brown aunties were applying curry powder to the bride’s skin, while other women watched shrewdly and constantly made circles with money around the bride’s greasy, oiled head.”

It was hard explaining to her, the bleaching effect turmeric has on skin and why we as a people have adopted this Indian practice.

A rather comical episode took place in our dorms, when my Pakistani roommate, Sarah revealed her parents were first cousins to a group of cheer leading blondes.

“Cousins? But that’s incest.”

On discovering that Pakistani men were allowed to legally live polygamous lives, and marry their cousins, they practically had heart attacks, unable to fathom the legality of such isolated trends.  I can see why it would be rather difficult for an outsider to grasp concepts of legal incest and polygamy, no matter how much sense it makes within Pakistani society.  Now that I think about it, the whole first cousin thing is kind of creepy, but that’s just me.

Exotic accents that people fall in love with and curry flavours aside, there have been times when members of the Western society have surpassed humour and shown borderline racism towards ethnic minorities. It wasn’t so subtle either.

For instance, in the year 2010 we held a fund raising awareness campaign for the Pakistani flood disasters on the streets of Toronto. Unfortunately, an American tourist passed by us, spat on the ground and claimed, quite vehemently:

“No one must submit a donation to these terrorists!”

His arms were flailing and his lips were contorted.

On a recent trip outside of Canada, I met a French couple that initially mistook me for Greek in origin. I smiled politely and told them I was Pakistani, from Karachi, currently working in Toronto and their smiles disappeared, their previously inviting grey eyes turning ice cold. He spat out in a thick, French accent.

“I hate Pakistani. No. No No. I don’t like Pakistani, you guys have nuclear power and you know, it’s not good. No. No. No.  I hate terrorists.”

After a heated debate in defense of my homeland, we parted ways, agreeing to disagree. Up until that moment, I had felt removed from the “T” word, distancing from it by following its course only in the media. I realised now, being Pakistani was associated with it more than ever.

Due to the vicious instability that has grasped our nation, those on the outside, find it harder to view it as anything less than “backward and unworthy.”  I know this because it took considerable effort to encourage people to donate to the Pakistani flood victims but it was relatively easy to solicit funds for the recent disaster in Japan. Not to compare both disasters, but the response from the international community on both accounts speaks volumes.

I had seen my country in such a different light all my life loving its hospitable people and warm air. I didn’t realise, once on the other side of the spectrum, the only visibility of Pakistan is as seen on BBC, CNN, Fox News and various documentaries, newspapers and photo blogs.  No one really wants to know about our superb comedy, extraordinary fashion and brilliant music.

It didn’t help that “Osama was found in a million dollar mansion near the capital in an upscale, Miami style neighborhood of Abbotabad.”  This information came at me from left, right and center, my blackberry messenger ringing off the hook with questions regarding if I had ever seen the mansion?

Was this another conspiracy theory?

Did I know why his body was disposed of and did my government know about this all along?

Would the civil unrest be aggravated and would my family be safe?

Every corner I turned, every elevator I entered, and everywhere people convened I heard the words “Pakistan” and “Osama.”

Clapping trannies, paan spitting, buses with surreal imagery on them, a passport that asks for your religion and won’t let you go into Israel, a country now known to harbour citizens that “like to blow themselves up” and the killing of women in the name of honour – with all its mixed cultures, languages and customs, our true faces are masked and tainted by the horrible deeds of those individuals that are not Pakistanis in any way but rather, misled, disillusioned and corrupt forces of society.

I might be FOB with a funny accent and a preference for curry, but I am an educated Pakistani woman out to prove to the world that we are more than just fodder for a a comic act or a suicide attackers.  We are creative, liberal, passionate and soulful people with an undying fondness for our culture and roots and no matter which foreign part of the world we assimilate in; we carry a part of Pakistan with us, wherever we go.

Mariam Magsi

Mariam Magsi

A photographer, writer and curator working in Canada. She tweets @mariammagsi (twitter.com/mariammagsi) and her professional work can be viewed at www.mariammagsi.com. She is the recipient of a prestigious publication award from the "World Poetry Movement" for poetic works highlighting natural disasters in Pakistan.

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

  • Ahmed

    Unfortunately, I think you are the one needing an education.

    If people can’t distinguish Hindi from Urdu, neither can the experts. Linguists do not think they are two different languages, but dialects (technically called registers) of the same language. Besides most pakistanis do not speak Urdu as a mother tongue. After all Urdu is native to Bihar and Uttar pradesh in India. Pakistanis speak punjabi, sindhi, seraiki, brahui, Pashto, etc.

    And, bleaching skin with turmeric is an Indian custom? What does that mean? Do you mean our ancestors didn’t use turmeric 60 years ago before Pakistan even existed?

    Given the numerous misconceptions in your own understanding, please be kind to foreigners who don’t quite understand Pakistan. It might be uncomfortable for you living in the west with a Pakistani label. Or living anywhere outside of Pakistan for that matter. But please don’t blame your hosts for it, after all the only aspect of our culture they see is Islamic extremism and nuclear chicanery.Recommend

  • Hasan

    This article is really sad! I don’t know what part of Canada you live in, but you appear to be more racist against fellow Pakistanis than Canadians. I have lived all my life in Canada and for not have once felt being a victim of racism. It’s people like you, trying to integrate into the Canadian culture by pointing out the faults in our own that invite racism.

    You bash PIA without realizing that its the best flight to take when you want to minimize travel time. PIA does the best it can given the resources it has. Please support our institutions, don’t criticize them if you have no idea about the background to the economical and political turmoil facing PIA. Travel from another airline, research on the resources at their disposal, and you would definitely appreciate PIA.

    In terms of awareness for Hindi vs Urdu, you have to realize that we don’t have movies to showcase to the world. But if you were smart and intelligent, you would also say that all Bollywood movies are actually in Urdu but the official language of India is Hindi, the pure version of which is spoken by very few people. You would tell them that the official language of India was for a very long time Urdu, that the arts in India are still heavily influenced by Urdu. Why would Canadian’s know about O Levels? The schooling system here is better than O’Levels. And please be very careful, O’Levels may be the schooling system for you, but for Pakistan, the schooling system is not O’Levels.

    You should not have to explain things like applying curry powder, its our culture and that is how we do things. Do you even ask why the bride throws her flowers and everyone is eager to catch it. Its culture and the explanation that does exist hardly rationalizes the action. So please, rather than trying to be an ambassador in explaining our culture, protect it!

    On marriages with first cousins and having multiple wives, that is both culture and religion. If gay marriage can be rationalized and accepted just on the basis of personal choice, so can the above. Also, no one cares about what you find creepy! Had you known that Charles Darwin (father of evolution), Albert Einstein, Sir John A Macdonald (first Prime Minister of Canada) all married their first cousins, you would have a debatable point. Obviously you are ignorant of the fact. Also, as far as polygamy goes, the importance is supporting those women who need a male partner, and as far as the practice goes, you may have had to defend Pakistan, but its a practice prevalent in other parts of the world as well.

    Your self aggrandizement by volunteering to collect funds for Pakistan is also short of facts. Please also convince the foreign investor that the money will flow to the affected, and not swallowed up by politicians, feudal lords, and bureaucrats. Please also tell them that Pakistani students will not defer exams, get grants by using the floods and earthquakes as excuses. Please don’t collect funds when you don’t have the ability to convince other people. People donate when they believe in something, not because they see kids spending $25K a year in tuition and asking for help. Please don’t be a Zardari!

    Please don’t get into “heated” debates defending our country. Politely tell people there are problems, not everyone is bad, and that most Pakistanis are a victim of all the things foreigners say are bad about Pakistan. We have to win sympathy from the international community, lets also try not to get it by begging.

    I interact, work, and have excellent relationships with the Caucasians, African Americans, Chinese, Indians, and people from all parts of the world. Not once was I taunted on Osama. Canadians are generally more smarter than the rest of the people watching CNN. They are more skeptic. And the one thing very important about the Canadian culture is that religion and politics is taboo in the workplace.

    I encourage you to learn about your own culture before you defend it. A lot of the things that foreigners point out are drawbacks of our culture, but that is out culture, molded by traditions over centuries. Enlighten them of this fact and where you agree to the drawbacks to our culture, rather than crying about it just move forward and accept that nothing in life is perfect. Recommend

  • Ameen Ahmed

    Given the choice, I would much prefer being “off the boat”, “fresh” and “safe” than risking the life with great people to fly with!
    No matter how absurd you find the perception west has of us pakistanis, if truth be told, there is a method in their madness.
    If there exists any such thing as “freshie” I must be it. I come from karachi and studied at a british university and being on my own had to learn how to cook. Between starving to death and curries, I gladly choose the latter.
    When I first arrived in london, what did took me by surprise was the number of white people in a pakistani restaurant gorging on curries as if there is no tomorrow. That said, unlike pakistan countries like england, canada etc where weather is generally freezing cold and doors and windows of the houses are kept shut tight to preserve the heat, the aroma of the food does cling to your body and clothes and if you are not careful and turns into a very unpleasant smell before you know it. If you then cannot be bothered to have a shower after cooking and choose to be completely oblivious to the smell you are giving off to the person sitting next to you, why be surprised when it doesnt go unnoticed!Recommend

  • TightDhoti

    What a bunch of unfortunate stereotyping! Cant tell if you hate Pakistan more or Canada. Why would they know about O Levels!!?!Recommend

  • Amna

    It sounds like you’re pretty sick and tired of being the “foreigner” and the “Pakistani woman” and you just wanted to rant and let it all out. K, I get that. But the last paragraph seemed really forced, like you were trying to inject some feel-good stuff into the ending just so you can say there was a point to the rant.

    And the person saying you shouldn’t criticize PIA – um what? Just no. Criticize whatever needs criticizing, but it sounded to me that you were being too soft on PIA. They SUCK.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    @Hasan:

    With respect, you do grand job of picking apart every line the lady has written. So in Canada do they show disagreement by descending to attack someone’s personality and calling them racisit, ignorant, lacking knowledge bla bla bla or do they disagree, respectfully?

    And no PIA is not doing the best it can. Travelling with other airlines only goes to show that PIA is ripping people off, charging a premium for a sub-standard service. Misuse and embezzlement of resources and not having resources in the first place to me are not one and the same. Or before you say it, may be that I am na’ive and not emacipated. But then I am not Canada…. Recommend

  • Nadir

    Perhaps you should read this: http://tribune.com.pk/story/215853/the-murder-of-linguistic-history–ii/ to get your bearings right on Urdu vs HindiRecommend

  • Heather

    As a born and raised Canadian I think it’s a disgrace to our country that people think they can judge others based on their ethnicity. Growing up I remember the constant reminder from my parents, friends, family, teachers, etc that we should be proud to be Canadians because of our diversity, freedom of speech, our Human Rights Act, and the millions upon millions of amazing things Canada has to offer.

    I can also say, as someone who hadn’t tried curry for the first time until just last year, that I never understood why some people carried that smell with them on a daily basis when I was in school. I remember people in my middle school class bullying a boy day in and day out because they said he “smelled like b.o”. They would leave deodorant, soap and other toiletries on his desk before he came in in the mornings, and laugh when he took it off his desk.

    The fact that Canadian society is so overrun by the media, and how one person’s view of something can be manipulated and fed to millions of people through all forms of media is absurd! I don’t know how anyone can have their minds made up by something they read in the paper or watched on tv. Yet, day after day people are being manipulated by the words of others to fit a specific perception.

    There are parts of the Pakistani religion that I don’t quite understand and that’s how anyone could think that is fair or right to ANY human being. We are all humans, regardless of where we come from. And there are some things that have blown my mind when hearing more in depth about Pakistan and surrounding areas (from numerous forms of media/friends/colleagues). To have more than one spouse to me is absurd, but that’s just my opinion. I would not judge someone else who has decided a different fate for themself. To not be able to walk down the street’s at any given time for the fear of being attacked, mauled, raped, killed and to not be able to speak my mind as a women – now that to me is not fair. No woman should live her life in fear.

    I think everyone needs to be better educated on different cultures/ethnicities/traditions, the overall respect of others, not judging based on appearance, and learning to see the good in everything. 9 out of 10 articles I read in the newspaper is about something negative. Pakistan has been ripped to shreds by the media with all this terrorist nonsense and Osama. No one wants to hear anything good or help to make things better there because the media has portrayed Pakistan as a traitor who had kept Osama hidden for the last 5 years. Maybe instead of people pointing their fingers at any Pakistan who enters our country, they should start asking more questions before jumping the gun and blaming those people whom we know absolutely nothing about and who have been losing many innocent loved ones through all this warfare. And over what? More and more people are dying, and we’re no closer to the end of the tunnel. The media has made people fear the unknown instead of being curious and wanting to explore it all.

    In the end, I think we have all neglected to realize that every person is going to have a different perception on any given situation. We are all unique, and should show more gratitude for what we have. Learning as much as possible about any given situation is going to be more beneficial as we start to see a pattern with more information, and can pull out the pieces that don’t really fit in and seem to contort the truth. We, as individuals, must be the change we want to see in the world. Recommend

  • http://www.mariammagsi.com Mariam Magsi

    This is a HUMOUR filled rant about a few of my experiences in Canada. Just because some of you may not have had the same experiences, does not mean the rest of the Pakistanis living abroad have not been subjected to speculation or racism which at times is committed out of sheer ignorance. I am obviously not going into detail about each conversation or confrontation due to word limits on blogs such as these but rather giving you a look into my experiences abroad and how some people perceive our country. Try and read through the sarcasm. There isn’t any bashing going on here nor am i displaying hatred towards either Canada or Pakistan. Also, the people I have conversed with have knowledge about many other Eastern countries and can go into in depth debates about various societies, but when it comes to India or Pakistan, currues, accents and customs are ripped apart because of some of their sinister qualities. Just because pioneers of evolution married first cousins doesnt make it any less questionable. Read with a less judgmental mind and a relaxed outlook. This is a narrative about my EXPERIENCES with those that stereotype and generalize!Recommend

  • Gordan

    I am a Serbian, living in Canada and this kind of stereotyping is not only committed towards Pakistanis and Indians but Europeans, Chinese and several other ethnicities with cultural practices that are slightly alient to the average Canadian or American. The writer is not bashing any culture but rather expressing how she has dealt with certain types of generalizations and confrontation. It’s a funny article and well written and at least now I know how several ethnic minorities feel when their cultures are ripped apart by ignorant people. Good job, Magsi! Keep writing!Recommend

  • Gordan

    Also considering Canada was a British colony, it shouldnt be that hard for Canadians to be able to understand what “o” and “a” levels are. As for the schooling system, if it was that great, international students wouldnt be exempted from several University level introductory courses. In Serbia the math we were being taught in grade 6 is taught here in grade 8…Recommend

  • Captain Haddock

    With all due respect, as a Pakistani living in Canada, I have a couple of issues to take:
    1) The only person who has ever asked me how I can speak English is a Canadian of Pakistani descent. He flat out asked me, “If you’re from Pakistan, how come you know English?” His family must have been more FOB than FOPIA, otherwise when I told my friends this, they all laughed as they all assumed I knew English, otherwise “how else did I expect to study in Canada?”
    2) Why is it an issue that people don’t know about Hindi vs Urdu? I still don’t know the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese, and in fact just used the blanket statement of “speaking Chinese” sometimes. Do you know the languages people speak in Slovakia, Brazil, or Belgium? In many cases, it’s more than one.
    3) You have clearly met some bigoted people. In 8 years, probably the most hurtful thing anyone has ever said to me was, “You are different, and you aren’t like them,” and it’s been quite a few Pakistanis who have told me this. The most harmful thing a Canadian has said was, “I have to admit, I was scared of Pakistanis before I met you, just from the news,” and this is one of my oldest friends here, who has always gone out of his way to make me feel welcome here. He only told me this because he was worried about my parents in Karachi and if things really were that bad there, and he admitted the media likes to make things and people black and white.
    4) PIA isn’t that bad… considering the way I’ve seen customers behave around the staff, I don’t blame them for their attitude. And the food is usually tolerable, much more so than Air CanadaRecommend

  • Ali Akbar Ghanghro

    Magsi, I have worked in a Provincial Govt in Canada, a think tank and a university. Never experienced anything remotely close to what you have described (have been blessed with the common sense to avoid discussing religion and politics at work….did that in Pakistan too). I mix and socialize with a diverse group and am probably fortunate to have never have been labelled or categorized. Canadians, IMO are a very knowledgeable and tolerant bunch.

    The bit about us being ‘creative, passionate, liberal and social’ can be easily challenged and debated…can’t seem to figure out if this is forced, apologetic or prompted by a sense of inferiority complex. If this is some sort of hypothesis, then you can’t base it solely on some peer group’s personal experiences.

    p.s: I know of two people who bribed Emirates personnel at the airport (in Pakistan) to board a plane despite having a confirmed reservation.Recommend

  • Andrea

    I live in Canada and I have never encountered any of the negative comments you profess. If anything Canadians are remarkably more balanced in their assessment of world events and the troubles of South Asia. After OBL was found in Pakistan, I recall the understanding that many had when it was pointed out that it is difficult to contain criminals in an underdeveloped country. Moreover, many Canadians know how Pakistan has suffered most as a front line state defending the world from terrorists and the cost to Pakistani lives due to war in Afghanistan. They also know about the sacrifices Pakistan made in defeating the Soviet Union and how Pakistan was left to clean up the mess when the West abandoned Pakistan with the defeat of the Soviets. I make a point of educating Canadians of Pakistan but you can only do that if you know your facts. Recommend

  • Andrea

    PS I love PIA- it is the best airline bar none in my books! The only way to travel to Pakistan and back to North America if you ask me. I can’t stand the Gulf carriers who have nothing on PIA!Recommend

  • Fallen Angel

    Great write up Mariam. You have truly expressed how many of us ethnic minorities feel while living in Canada. Jokes aside some of the things i have let go of about Iran, my homeland i now wish i had defended..but it’s hard to defend something when the other goes “just kidding.” As for the ignorant comments people are leaving above, please ignore them. You are coming from a good place and you have written from your heart with utmost passion. Your love for your country is extremely visible and i can see the confusion as well in adapting to canadian culture and feeling like you’re answerable to people here because of what you represent! This is how we all feel. Thanks for putting it out there! Recommend

  • My Name is Khan

    Can we as Pakistanis stop pretending that we aren’t far more similar to Indians than we’d all like to believe. We are mostly the same people. Applying haldi is also OUR tradition. We didn’t “adopt” it from India. Urdu and Hindi are essentially the same language.

    The quicker we realize we aren’t Arabs and don’t need to HATE India, we can actually be much happier in our identities as Pakistanis. We can be Muslims but also have Pirs and visit shrines and dance and celebrate Baisakhi. We can fly kites and enjoy music too. We are not Arabs. Recommend

  • Syed Hussein El-Edroos

    We all have different experiences in life. Mariam Magsi was just writing about hers.

    I found it interesting.Recommend

  • sophia ahmed

    I think its a very heart felt personal experience to her Curry Crisis. Mariam Magsi I can see where you are coming from. I was asked once by a Texan woman at Dallas airport on how We Lived – Obviously I replied “In Trees” Recommend

  • Maryiam Sheikh

    more often than not in my stays abroad ( employment and otherwise) I have often been questioned about the authenticity of my claim to be a Pakistani based on the fluency of English. I can so totally relate to a lot of what the author has expressed.

    Given their personal experience, i would not disregard what they( the commenting brigade) have faced as opposed to the writer, Canada is immensely huge and characteristics/perceptions of the people may vary from region to region.

    Osama was captured while I was working in UAE (the melting pot of the world). I was questioned by English (read British), Americans, Russians, Indians, Arabs, et al about why my government/army was so negligent, and if my family would be safe now, and how many suicide attacks have i survived, and if any of my extended family or friends been victimized in any way. They are surprised(pleasantly) to find out that things arent this bleak.

    I dont blame the west or even india for whatever terrorist image they have of Pakistan. It is the media that blows things out of proportion. We are plagued by terrorism and yes hundreds of people are dying as a result of it on a daily basis, but a few thousand terrorists should not be able to mar the image of a nation of more than 180 million. In writer’s defence i would say she is doing her two bit worth in trying to negate the smallest of misconceptions.

    I do not see her article as a rant, and yes somehow i do find it humorous, not as much to make me roll on the floor with hysterical laughter but amusing to know that curry phobia is still shared by a whole lot of westerners.

    as far and hindi versus urdu is concerned. regardless of what the language was called previously own up to what it is now. By the same reason where you negate any differences, why would you people call your selves muslims also, lets call each other hindus and Indians as well. and i dont say this with any contempt for the indians/hindus. I am just saying you need to embrace and own change. And by any definition when the basic writing character of the language is changed, it is a different language, so what if you share words, English and french share words, are they the same language. American English and British English are considered two different languages on the basis of slight spelling differences. In case of hindi versus urdu, there are fundamental differences.

    why should differences always be about wars and negativity. why cant diversity be celebrated. Hindi poets refer to Urdu as a sophisticated language and use urdu words in their songs/lyrics. Words that Indian population as a whole cant grasp. There is beauty in both languages and they are distinct. Recommend

  • Norwegian Pakistani

    Wow, you have not managed to write one single good thing about Canada or your over all experience. It seems like you are dissatisfied and complain over the stereotypes and lack of education about Pakistan in your social networks. But to me you are stereotyping the Canadians, Americans, Blonde people and the Western society in general. You are making them sound as racist, ignorant, dumb and full of prejudice. I feel sad that you did not get any positive experience. It is unfortunate. There are plenty of nice people, who know a lot about Pakistani culture and know that they cannot generalize Pakistani people like you have generalized the Western people. I found this article waste of my time. This spills your frustrations and only negative experiences. This post is very skewed and distorted image of West. Recommend

  • Fallen Angel

    It is not a “distorted or skewed” perspective about the West. It is a perspective about my experiences. Clearly, there are many people who can relate to me and their opinions and their opinions matter a lot more in this case, than the ones who are commenting out of context and in a very ignorant and arrogant manner. Your experiences do not define my experiences so instead of baselessly attacking me, APPRECIATE that you are getting to witness the other side of the coin. Recommend

  • Fob

    Some of you are so biased and opiniated i am in shock. Talking about the West as if it has never displayed racism, never attacked the blacks, never outcasted the muslims, never shunned the natives. Canada would never elect a black or brown president, this is a fact. There are several cases you can look into that can show you Canada is more racist than America in it’s approach towards immigrants and ethnic minorities. I had to beg and plead with people to donate to Pakistan when the floods hit. This is no hidden fact that pakistani food, accents and culture in general, though mostly indian in nature, is made fun of EVERYWHERE. Heck, being a canadian myself i have made fun of so many people, out of humor because i am not educated in their ways. Thank you Mariam Magsi for opening my eyes to your plight. I apologize on behalf of the idiots in my country and only hope they can educate themselves about your different culture. You guys will always hold an exotic appeal to us and the sooner we can see you as no different than other humans, the sooner we can live in harmony. As for the rest of you disillusioned people who have never experienced what the author has, don’t worry, there are many that will comment behind your backs and never have the guts to say it to your face. Recommend

  • sheroo

    GREAT writing! Your experiences create a wonderful array of imagery for the rest of us folks to learn from. Quite funny too! As for those of you who like to say you are Indians, take a look at yugoslavia, each torn country has defined itself by creating it’s own culture instead of relying on the practices of the other. Give the writer a break. There is no need to attack her in fact there is no room for argument here, this is her story and i for one agree and whole heartedly enjoyed reading. Keep writing Mariam. We want to see more!Recommend

  • Pakistani is a Pakistani!

    Interesting Article Mariam!

    I have been living in the US for years and years now but trust me I have very similar ideas as you do .. except the whole racism/discrimination issue.
    Okay this ‘fob’ thing… I really really really really hate lol..yes I really hate it..how pakistani people here don’t value their own culture…anything that has to do with pakistani culture is considered ‘fobby’. What is that? Pakistani accent is fobby..pakistani values are fobby..traditions are fobby…even pakistani clothing is fobby. People here use this senseless word so often that I can not express my hatred towards it. Also, this other word that you mentioned ‘brown’…Our skin complexion is not brown so why call it that? ‘Olive’ sounds okay but ‘brown’? Weird.

    People living here for years and years are more pakistani sometimes than people who move from pakistan recently..and yet they make fun of fellow new pakistani immigrants by calling them ‘fobby’ and laughing at their accents and their ways of doing things. Afterall, no matter where we were born…We all belong to Pakistan and we all are Pakistani. The concept of ‘FOB’ is just ridiculous. My profession has to do with language and accents and its sad how people don’t value different accents and language.Recommend

  • SomeGuy

    Why don’t you just stick to Pakistan? You complain about Canadians but you fail to mention all the positive effects of them and their society.

    So yeah stick to Pakistan. Recommend

  • tranquil

    Having lived in Canada for quite some time now, I have to disagree with most of what you’ve said. Your article could have been balanced out nicely had you put in some good experiences you’ve had with Canadians and Pakistanis. Your argument that what you wrote was meant in “sarcasm” does not appease most readers because even though this is the blog section of the tribune, what people write here is read by a lot of people from a lot of different places around the world; and most of the people who read the tribune, tend to take its content rather seriously; hence the backlash towards your “sarcastic article”. Recommend

  • Azhar

    Its ironic to see how kids from rich families who have evaded millions in taxes pay thousands of dollars in tuition and then take part in raising funds for Pakistan. I am not saying all rich families sending their kids abroad for education have illegal money but a lot do. Recommend

  • Maria

    I’m not sure what class of Canadian you’ve met but I’ve never had anyone question my Englis in Canada and I find that many Canadians are conscious of not offending others so they understand the distinction between Pakistanis and Indians. As a Canadian of Pakistani origin I can tell you that service on PIA beats Air Canada and British Airways anytime. The food on PIA is much better than any other airline, including the cheezy Gulf Airlines which have no class.Recommend

  • Tk

    Many people from Canada have said they didnt face any condescending comments. However, I myself lived in Canada for 4 years and most of what happened with her happened with me too. It seems like all those saying “it didnt happen to us” are those who are more canadian than pakistani. Recommend

  • http://carmaichael najib

    @Fob: Why dont you come back to Pakistan since you are so sure taht Canada is not tolerant and no brown woman would be President. Such hypocrisy. tryly sad.
    @Ahmed:
    SPOT ON, SIRRecommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/piraliraza Pir Ali Raza

    Good one their Mariam. I specially like the part of ‘clapping trannies’ and what not. hahaRecommend

  • AMQ

    I dont know about Canada but my own family in London asked me how come I knew english so well. They were not speaking to us initially because they thought that we dont know english and well they didnt know much urdu.

    On my recent trip to the USA i found that the people over there are quite disillusioned. My own cousins could easily make statements like how Obama is such a friend of Pk but us Pakistanis are the ones who are wrong and if you do something then they would make statements like ur such a fob! All im trying to say is that its a matter of experience and we all get something somewhere in life.

    I found this a very interesting read and some things I can relate to, others I cant, which will happen to everyone. I dont know why many people commenting above are being so critical. I actually liked what was written.

    I would just suggest that read the whole thing, understand the tone and stop thinking with so much bias. I mean things are not black and white and its not one point of view or the other. There is always a middle ground and take things when you are standing there.Recommend

  • Tony Singh

    BTW what is the difference between Urdu and Hindi, except for the script? Even I do not know.Recommend

  • Mariam Magsi

    To all the people who can relate to my experience and have provided constructive feedback, thank you. Many of you have personally e-mailed me. I am humbled by your encouragement and enthusiasm towards my writing and ideas. Not to worry, you’ll be seeing a lot more of my writing and photography. To those that have baselessly attacked me, read up on the comments posted by Canadians themselves to understand the diversity in various experiences. I don’t hate Canada. I wouldn’t have started my business here if I did. I don’t hate Pakistan either, other wise I would not have concluded the article by displaying pure love for my roots. Both countries have offered me numerous opportunities for which I am ever grateful. However, there are people of all nature in both societies, some instances cannot be avoided and I felt it would be beneficial to share my experiences with the respective communities, to see whether other people could relate to me…and quite frankly, they do as can be derived from the comments. That is all that matters.Recommend

  • Farah

    Awesome write up. I went through the same thing at Concordia University but unlike you I never had the courage to discuss my experiences with anyone especially since a lot of people added “just kidding” after very biased and judgmental attacks. Please keep writing as I have been following your work and really enjoy your style. You are truly very different considering you come from a feudal family and quite courageous as well. Please dont be disheartened by the stupid and idiotic comments people are leaving here.Recommend

  • Sabih

    Excellent article, and exactly sums up my thoughts as well. I also live in Canada so I can relate to this. Recommend

  • AF

    Once you take up citizenship of another country, why hold on to the old country – why not let go of it. Otherwise you are not being fair to the new country. You can no longer call it your ‘host’ country – it now is your new home country. You have sworn an allegiance to it. You gotta let go of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Mariam Magsi

    @AF- I am not a Canadian citizen. Recommend

  • Norwegian Pakistani

    I am still going to say that it is unfortunate that you have only had negative experience. I have not declined the fact that there is no racism or prejudice in the West. There is all kind of people everywhere. I am just critical towards your writing. You are only writing about your experience, which is merely negative and bad. However, if you look at a bigger picture Canada, USA, Europe or the Western World is clearly not the way you have described. Therefore, I still declare your post as a generalization and stereotype of Western world that already exists among Pakistanis. Whatever you have written a person who has never been outside Pakistan would have managed to write as well, since it is only based on the existing stereotypes and prejudice against Westerns. Why can I say that because I am from a Western country: Norway and for the past 3 years I have been living in USA. If I only write my negative encounters I will only show a distorted image to my readers. Bottom line, don’t stereotype, don’t generalize and be low on prejudice. The way you are complaining the Westerners stereotyped Pakistanis, I am complaining because you are stereotyping people like me. Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. I encourage you to travel more and meet more people so you are able to change your very dissatisfied experience to something memorable and appreciating. You will acquire more knowledge about West and it will help you becoming an open-minded person. Recommend

  • Mariam Magsi

    When a country sells itself as a diverse and mulicultural space, it should adhere to those principals in every way. With advancement in education,and cultural mixing, there is no reason for urbanites to be ignorant about the East. The fact remains that I do not stand alone in the way I feel. I spoke with a highly educated friend yesterday and he stated, there is silent racism present in this community, where brown people will never be able to succeed beyond a certain level. The political system is also predominantly white. This kind of treatment isn’t limited to just Pakistanis but many of my European, Oriental and African friends have felt it too. I do travel. I make it a point to visit various cities within Canada and I venture outside of Canada. This piece was not about the positive aspects about Western society, we are already familiar with those. The point was to stir a dialogue about the stuff that gets left out. Recommend

  • from India

    i find urdu to be more sophisticated and sweet than hindi …however, both cant compete with the sweetness of bengali !!

    also, i think the canadians were justified in not donating their money towards the flood victims because, it is a well known fact that a major chunk of all international endowments is being funneled to terrorism … Recommend

  • http://none Bangash

    This is what our GHQ geniuses call “Strategic Depth”. Pakistan’s image, society and peace has been blown to pieces by ISI support to mullah and mujahideen.Recommend

  • Umair Waheed Sheikh, Khayban e Hafiz,Karachi

    Why dont you work in Pakistan and try to improve society here? That way you dont have to listen to white man’s jibes. Its just that Pakis are terrorists all the way why dont you look at whats happening in our cities from Karachi to Quetta and then say : why do people perceive us as bad? We are so.Recommend

  • Mariam Magsi

    Uzair, every Pakistani is not a terrorist just as not all jews are stingy neither are all caucasians racist. I’m trying to highlight people’s perceptions and stereotypical imagery through this write up. I am involved in several projects regarding the bettering of Pakistan and there are many Canadians involved with me in these endevours. I am in Pakistan every 6 months coordinating with giving individuals and organizations whether through charity, photography or journalism. Recommend

  • Maria

    @Norwegian Pakistani: I find it odd that you should speak about a skewed view of the West when you live in Norway. Unlike Canada and the US, most of Europe has no immigration system that encourages migration there. Most Pakistanis in the US and Canada are legal immigrants who came through a points system as skilled workers whereas Pakistanis in Europe are mostly asylum seekers and refugees who had to smuggle themselves there and claim persecution to be granted asylum. Perhaps your own experiences have made you feel more beholden to the West because of this difference?Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com hariharmani

    I have immense respect for your broadness of thinking,beside you have clear mind and you articulate your ideas without cluttering and useless big sounding [email protected] Name is Khan: You say ,sooner the better,but sir,it is a pipe dream,I have almost given up on ammity between Hindu/muslim unity,it died with Gandhi and partition,all we at best hope,we do not commit nuclear suicide in near future.
    Keep hope burning,mr My name is Khan.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com hariharmani

    @My Name is Khan:
    This need to hate,comes from not understanding properly Islam,but Khan saheb I have read your religion in depth,but this hatred of Infidal is inherant in some form of orthodox Islam.Why we can not undo this mischief of hate for Jews,Christian,Hindus not to speak of Shia,Ahmedaiyas,khozas,Boras,is beyond my understanding,this madness of converting the whole world to Islam,makes no sense.If Allah or God wanted that way,He would have done it without much problem,since He did not do it,He does not want it done.But keep your effort,for me I’m better off without lebeled as “Believer in no organaised faith.’Recommend

  • Gordan

    Hiba, perhaps you should learn how to interpret in ways other than the judgmental method you are using to attack the author. Any well read and educated person would get that the reaction at cousins getting married is a humorous response from the Western people Ms Magsi had the conversation with. Moreover just because you and your religion might see something as acceptable does not mean the rest of the world sees it like that. There are 6 billion people in the world and if you still have to marry within family, there is something seriously wrong with you. Not to judge, but just putting it out there. As an educated individual who has delved into Islam quite deeply I see no reason to hold onto “isolated trends” to continue to be employed, as highlighted by the writer. Recommend