7 kinds of Pakistani immigrants you’ll most likely come across in Canada

It’s been a little over a year since my immigrant status in Canada and I have met some interesting fellow Pakistanis. Immigrants who tend to fall in a certain ‘type’. Even I fit in there somewhere. This is based solely on my observation and interaction. At the risk of over-generalization, here goes:

1. Perpetual Complainers Inc. (PWI’s): I complained in Pakistan. I complain here. Stop me if you can!

In Pakistan they complained about the skin-sizzling heat. In Canada they complain about the mind-numbing cold. Back home the hoard of house helpers was too much to handle. Now, they whine about doing all the work themselves. Back home it was the terrorists. Around here it’s the serial killers and sociopaths. Trust them to come up with the worst possible scenario in the worst possible situation.

2. The un-settlers:Oh we are leaving as soon as we get our passports!
They never fully unpack, be it their material assets or minds They never buy a house. If it were up to them they’d live in a motel until their passport mission finished. They don’t travel. They don’t spend unnecessary money. Immigrant gypsies – they just won’t settle. All this trouble for what?  For starters, they understand the power of their blue passports. Their children may come back to Canada for a higher education. Or they may even use the passports for better employment opportunities back home. Like a troop on a mission, they make little to none human connection.

3. East of West Canada is the best, but Pakistan….: There’s no place like Canada. Back home we never…..

Oh they are true lovers of Canada. Everything from the weather, to the people, to the infrastructure and welfare, their hearts sing for their new home. But they never stop comparing everything with Pakistan. Standing at a bank, they can be caught thinking: ‘Oh if this were Pakistan, I’d have high blood pressure by now, considering the lack of queues and a proper system’. Or when a police car passes by: ‘Look at those responsible, honest policemen. Back home police is the most despised profession.’ They’d be discussing Canadian Politics at someone’s dinner party and suddenly talks about corrupt Pakistani politicians would pop up. Canada is their utopia, so they wouldn’t be caught dead saying anything bad about the country. Like an over-competitive parent, maybe it is their inborn love for Pakistan that compels this insane criticism. Or maybe they just love finding faults. For them, it’s never greener on the other side.

4.The opportunistic clan: I will never mingle with these ‘goras’ but I will eat up their welfare:

These are people who might look at their surroundings with contempt. From their clothes to their actions, they make sure everyone knows how serious they are about their identity and more specifically, religion. They won’t let their children mingle with the locals. Nor will they enroll them in any activities that could lead to too much exposure of the new culture. They will hardly ever be seen in Parks, or theaters, or cultural events. Oh but they will find all possible methods to show eligibility for benefit options – unemployment, health, children, education, old age etc.

5. The forgetful: Pakistani? No no, I am Canadian! See I love Tim Horton’s and I have an accent and all

They buried their Pakistani passports the minute they landed. Or if they were born and bred here, they didn’t have much to forget in the first place. From their clothes to their beliefs, everything is Canadian. Their children have as much knowledge of their country, as Arabs may have about poverty. But that doesn’t change the reality. Once a Pakistani, always a Pakistani. Oh but they forget so easily.

6.The Homesick: Converting the price of a $5 toothbrush and saying: Oh 500 Rupees for a tooth-brush?!

These immigrants are stuck in a time warp. They can’t make peace with the fact that they are no longer in Pakistan. Grocery with them can be excruciating. Mental math conversions, fantasies of Pakistani tailors and Lawn designer exhibitions, hand-made roti (flat bread) are only some of their homesick remedies that make them feel better.

7.  The assimilators: I will make the most of it. No matter what.

These people understand that they chose to immigrate. For a better future, for better education or whatever their reasons may be. No one forced them to come. So they try to make the most of it. A stark opposite of the ‘un-settlers’, these immigrants tend to assimilate in their environment without much trouble. They hold on to some important values they grew up with but are always open to new customs and ideas. They make new friends, travel and encourage relatives and friends back home to immigrate too! Yet their love for Pakistan doesn’t die. If anything it gets stronger. “Distance makes the hard grow fonder?”

 

 

 

 

The Reluctant Immigrant

When it comes to matters of loyalty, immigrants are favored as much as layers of brown scum floating on a hot cup of tea . Patriots stand united in their fight against sinister immigrants. Rest assured, no in-depth research has gone into this statement. I say this mostly out of a sense of self-imposed guilt.

As a child, I was the outdoorsy sort who developed an ulcer if anyone mentioned playing with dolls. This led to a love for playing sports and reading books and of course travelling – within and out of Pakistan. Living in America for a couple of years in the 90’s was a magical time. Disney land, Hollywood, The Rockies, Ice cream sandwiches, free breakfast at school, double dutch  meant only one thing for a 10 year old – BLISS. It was amusing when most Americans had no idea of what and where Pakistan was  (or Paskastand, as many repeated  when I gave them a short geography lesson). Yet when I returned to my home country, I never thought of moving back.

Many years down the lane, my university commenced. Prospects of education abroad soaked the air, leaving me teary-eyed with exasperation. Its not that I did not want to study abroad; the mere thought was exhilarating! However the entire process was long and dreary and ultimately in the end I decided to take the easy road by making peace and studying in Pakistan.

I graduated and eagerly jumped the corporate wagon. It did not come as a complete surprise when I saw my colleagues weighing their chances of post-grad studies, either for brighter job prospects or for an easy ticket out of the country. This was an interesting thought that I too became inclined towards. I applied to a few post-grad programs in a couple of continents. I got accepted, however by this time I had another excuse; excessive complacency.

My stressful years arrived. I had turned twenty-four and talks of marriage were haunting me like a sociopath hunting down his next kill. Now the ‘IN’ thing these days was to marry an ex-pat with a steady career, a good English accent, a six pack (exaggeration intended) and, limited family members (preferably zero). Thankfully my parents and I agreed on the fact that moving away from family was too bleak a thought to even consider. Hence the proposals tilted towards Pakistani settled families and I was rescued.

Now all the while, Pakistan was in dire straits. Ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated (December 2007). Her husband Zardari materialized from ashes and took charge like a greedy wolf waiting for a chance to attack . Pervez Musharaf fled the scene. While at one point modern theaters, malls and restaurants were being developed, many of us Pakistanis had certain other things to look forward too. For instance, whenever there was electricity, we would rejoice, enough to embarrass baboons. On the other side, absence of it for long stretches led to a fit of cursing and cribbing. Numerous other reasons ransacked our minds. Running away from home was not a bad idea anymore.

Pakistanis have always been good at migrating, enough to make birds envious.  Post  subcontinent divide in 1947, many Pakistani migrated to the UK. Then other countries like America, Australia and Canada came into picture. Specifically during the years 2008 and up, anyone who was anyone, was planning to immigrate. Reasons were plenty while their loyalty was as porous as cheese, with many who had genuine reasons too. I must admit; it was also a case of the menacing `latest trend`. Ludicrous ideas about having babies abroad for instant immigration ensued. I was the first to laugh it all off. But not for long, as I too succumbed to the pressure. My loyalty had suffered a gigantic blow. My immigration papers had been filed.
Three years since, I sit here comfortably in my new home in Canada, pinning down thoughts of Pakistan; with  heavenly weather, peaceful surroundings and intoxicating freedom. I feel grateful to be here in Canada when I see the endless stretch of opportunities that await us. Back home I hear unrelenting news of political and economic problems and I shamefully seek refuge in knowing that my family will be safe from these apparent struggles. Yet in a deep corner of my heart, guilt for abandoning my country vexes me like an ill-shapen shoe .

I find wavering solace in knowing that I have a colossal task ahead of me; molding the crucial relationship between my children and Pakistan – a country they were never given the chance to grow up in. Presumably, all the precious memories their parents and grandparents hold on to firmly, will be as difficult for them to comprehend as perhaps rap music by Mozart.

I should not expect the impossible from my children yet my heart will be glad if they grow up to love their country; if their eyes swell up in tears every time they see their country folk in distress and take steps to help them – little or big; if they cling on to this connection like a worker bee set on a mission. Siblings like Samina Baig and Mirza Ali (http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/17382/samina-baig-and-mirza-ali-pakistan-climbs-mount-everest/ ) give me comfort.

I find tranquility in knowing that every morsel of my children’s achievements will be accredited to their native land. But for all of that to happen, I will have to do something useful for Pakistan myself, as opposed to just nostalgic talk. This will be my way of giving back to a country that has given me so much more than I can ever repay.

In the meantime, I childishly hope to return to my land when I am old; to a time of carefree abandon, to a life that will once again embrace me with open arms and a warm hug.