Stories about life abroad

Today is Eid, and I want to be home, not abroad

For every other day of the year, deciding what to wear early morning would be a task in itself, but not today. A kurta is hanging in the corner of my wardrobe. The entire year, I pretended it wasn’t there, but not today. Today is Eid in New York. It begins by embracing a traditional outfit to feel somewhat closer to home. A shower early morning and as usual a rush to the mosque is the norm. While trying to beat traffic to catch Eid prayer, a call back home to my parents is my favourite part. Each year, my mom asks my ...

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Want to move abroad? Think again!

The life of a middle class Pakistani immigrant overseas is gravely misunderstood by both the people in the immigrant’s homeland and the people in the country to which the immigrant has emigrated. There are a couple of (read: many) things that are immediately dismissed once it is mentioned that a person is a Pakistani living abroad. For one, it is often forgotten that moving abroad means starting over– from scratch. From waiting at the airport for eight hours because of a miscalculation in hotel costs, to renting a basement for immediate accommodation, to living in the basement for approximately six years until you can afford ...

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Pakistan has all it takes to be a great nation!

It has been four years since I moved to Austria to pursue a PhD degree. At the time of leaving Pakistan, I was overjoyed, filled with excitement and enthusiasm. The picture of Europe, though largely exaggerated, depicted by my friends who were already studying there, was so appealing that I could hardly wait to get there. The excitement was so overwhelming that I did not even bother to see the tears in my mother’s eyes when she came to see me off at Jinnah Airport. I rushed to the check-in counter, fearing that I may miss the flight and ...

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The phone call I wish I had never received

I don’t know whether this is the right time to write this blog or not, but I do hope that when people read it, it will help them make the right choice when faced with a situation similar to mine. Exactly 16 months ago, I was standing in line with other confused Pakistanis – the lot who ask themselves the same question day and night: should we move abroad to greener pastures? I am not trying to vindicate my actions by writing this; the truth is that it was a difficult decision for me. On the one hand, you think of your ...

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The problem with the expat vote

The Election Commission of Pakistan recently announced that in principal, it had agreed to franchise overseas Pakistanis by allowing them to participate in the electoral process. However, going through the minutes of the meeting conducted by Secretary ECP Mr Ishtiak Ahmad Khan, it’s quite clear that things are not as done and dusted as news reports have made out to seem. Quite rightly, the ECP is still considering the most efficient and transparent way in which to conduct elections for overseas Pakistanis. Setting up voting booths in high commissions, embassies and consulates across the globe is quite an expensive option as many Pakistanis may not live ...

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The great brain waste

In May last year an Australian embassy press release stated that more than 5,000 Pakistani students have chosen Australia as their destination to study. How many of these people actually go abroad to study? The answer is nil. Living in Australia, I can say that 99% of these so-called students are actually professionals and underachievers of society who go abroad to seek a better life. Let’s face it: who would want to live in a country where there is daily load shedding, nepotism, corruption, government ineptitude and terrorism, right? Although this Pakistani talent is moving out in search of greener pastures, the truth is that ...

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My blue passport doesn’t make me American

There was an incredible comment I read on one of my previous posts about how it’s impossible to live on in the oblivion of being both Pakistani and American. I don’t remember who wrote that to me, but if you’re reading this, thank you. You are a small part of the motivation that inspired this topic you are reading today. I was born in Karachi and lived the first nine years of my life moving back and forth between Karachi and Lahore before moving to the US. Though I can’t recall what the people, culture and society were like ...

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My blood runs thick and green

The problem starts as soon as I open my mouth. My ‘r’s roll out like a googlie, my ‘t’s sit heavy on the boundary and my ‘a’s are massive leg bys. I have to say two sentences and everyone’s on to me. Where is that lovely accent from? Oh, Pakistan! We wouldn’t have guessed. Where did you learn to speak English? Did you wear a burqa back in Pakistan? How many wives does your husband have? When you are trying to learn a new language, the first thing you want to know are the swear words– how to say sh–t in French, ...

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The freedom to be

A friend from Lahore recently asked me: “What would you miss most about New York if you were to move back to Pakistan right now?” I thought about it for a few minutes. Unlike many Pakistanis living in the US I knew, I wasn’t particularly attached to this country, or to New York. To me,  it was just another city – a hard city, a cacophonous city, where bright lights and gleaming skyscrapers belied the darkness, the sadness, the grime and the poverty in the corners; where glamour, spectacle, a veneer of ethnic diversity thinly concealed the underlying greed and racism. I ...

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Postcard from Dubai

You know, I really wouldn’t say another nasty thing about Dubai if I didn’t know a secret. Yes, it’s true. Dubai and other Gulf states which sear their bottoms on the desert sands have a dirty secret that doesn’t get publicised. And I am going to tell you what it is. To be fair, however, let me just say that there are really no points for you as a critic for singling out Dubai for criticism. Namely, because a. it is an easy target; and b. it doesn’t make a difference. And I agree. In fact, I think it is unfair to diss ...

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