I was a very patriotic child — the kind that stood up every time the national anthem played, the kind that had dreams and plans of making the country better, the kind that loved her identity as a Pakistani.
In so many ways, this is all true of me even today.
But something has changed.
Ever since I have hit my mid-thirties, so much of the fairy dust has started to settle down to reveal some scary truths of the place I live in.
Suddenly, the evolutionary need for survival (and a good life) has started to take hold; a lot more than any romantic notion of saving the country. That’s the thing with age, it changes your perspective, slowly but surely.
As our parents' age, their medical needs and requirements become unavoidably clear and pose as a need more serious than any we have faced so far.
For those of us who have kids, their education and security are now motives bigger and better than any other. As we ourselves begin to realize that we have the next decade to make something of our careers, opportunity and the reward that might exist at another place seems to call out a lot more strongly than the voices we have grown up with.
But this isn’t necessarily what I'd call fun, as nobody wants to uproot themselves, their lives, careers and social life after 3 and a half decades. There is so much value in staying in a place that feels truly yours, despite its flaws. There is so much to be gained out of being close to your family and friends, the ones you grew up with.
“I increasingly think of moving abroad for a better quality of life; as a woman for better safety, security and independence! And just overall, better rights as citizens."
The prospect of starting anew in another country, after having worked very hard for half your life to build a life here, is a scary one. The process itself is tedious, expensive and nerve-wrecking. The uncertainty that comes with waiting on calls, PR’s, etc, is no easy feat.
I see friends put themselves through it and I see, amongst other things, in their eyes a kind of desperation that says, “We wish we didn’t have to.”
And that’s the thing, for so many, it is no longer something that they want to do, but something they have to. For someone who doesn’t have family wealth (or lots of it), the fear of ailing parents and children’s education is enough to drive them to any place that offers them that security.
I spoke to two friends — one who has uprooted himself, leaving a thriving career and family behind (temporarily) and one who is a single woman aspiring to do the same.
Ahmed Mustafa, a father of one, is a corporate executive
"I first moved abroad in 2015 when I moved for a job to Qatar. Tax-free income, general safety, governance, international exposure etc were the reasons at the time. I moved back in 2018. What changed, however, was that this time instead of 2 we were 3.
That's why I knew I had to do right by my kid. I knew that if I had the option, I had to give him the best environment and best future possibilities.
Nobody wants to uproot themselves, their lives, careers and social life after 3 and a half decades. There is so much value in staying in a place that feels truly yours, despite its flaws. There is so much to be gained out of being close to your family and friends, the ones you grew up with.
I love Pakistan with all in worth, but I couldn't deny the opportunities that Canada or other countries presented.
I do believe that what the current government is up to are the right decisions for our future. However, it will be a long, tough, painful battle for the renewal of Pakistan's existence. It'll be like ripping the country's current roots out and driving old values.
I can't be there to see what happens I guess. I could live through it. But I don't want my child to live through it though. My own activism, affecting his life and aspirations would be unfair!”
Saman Shahryar, 38 years old, works in the development sector
“I increasingly think of moving abroad for a better quality of life; as a woman for better safety, security and independence! And just overall, better rights as citizens.
As my thirties end, I have started to seriously think of things such as financial and social security. I am learning to let go of old ideals and replace them with new ones that are rooted in pragmatism, a lot more than the romantic notions that youth allows one.”
I feel like I am beginning to see their point of view very clearly myself. Sadly so, but it is, what it is.
Having rallied for politicians, campaigned for fair elections, worked here, paid our taxes and done our due, I must admit, thirties are shifting my perspective, very swiftly and towards one direction; to find a stable place to live for yourself and your family.