The expat

Hammad decided that he had to leave Pakistan in order to look for a better life, but things didn't go as planned.

Haris Naved Ahmed February 01, 2013
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.
WRITTEN BY:
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 necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (56)

N A Layak | 8 years ago | Reply 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. .
I am a Khan | 8 years ago | Reply 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...
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