Living with rats, no problem!
Young Pakistani female students have recently joined the throng of their male counterparts who come to the UK in search of better lives. Away from home and family, they brave isolation, financial stress, joblessness, even racism, in search of their dream. Most of them are from rural backgrounds who don’t have as much freedom as the elite enjoy back home. That freedom pulls them in, and keeps them stringed, till the very thought of returning to their country becomes akin to a nightmare. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with several such young women. A long-lost friend would call up from Pakistan, and inform me that such and such’s daughter had landed in the UK, and was having trouble finding a job, so could I help?
These women leave friends and family and step into a world so different from their own that they can’t help but be overwhelmed by the contrast. What most shocks me is that they refuse, outright, to go back once they’ve finished their courses! The trend is to stay on, by hook or by crook, and to gain the ever-alluring British Passport, as one young lady patiently explained to me over the telephone.
‘But what about your family?’ a shocked me enquired. ‘They keep asking me to return, but I’m not going without a passport!’
‘Are you comfortable here?’ ‘Yes, although there are rats in the room I’m renting, but I’ve managed to kill a few.’
Pakistani girls are that reluctant to return to their homeland? Why?
‘Send me your CV and I’ll see what I can do’. I logged in, expecting to see a novice CV with no work experience. Instead, I’m staring at years of experience in reputable Pakistani banks! I passed along her CV to friends, but nothing came up. One day there was a call from a friend asking if the girl would be interested in working as a cleaner, for £6 an hour, 2 hours a day. Sensing my hesitation, the friend advised me that this was the only kind of work available in Pakistani-dominated areas like Birmingham, where girls even work for as little as £3 an hour. I rang the troubled girl to offer her the deal, and although her ‘yes’ did surprise me at the time, I guess she made the right decision, for jobs weren’t exactly overflowing the basket for her.
Can anyone blame Pakistani youth for reaching out for a better, more secure future thousands of miles from home? It’s the saddening result of the failure of our own country to provide these hapless, at times clueless, girls with the same options that they enjoy in a foreign land.
Another girl I spoke to a few weeks earlier told me about how she, as the eldest, had the responsibility of getting her five younger sisters married, and she wouldn’t be leaving from the UK unless she had a passport. I tried to persuade her that a British passport isn’t a magical solution to all life’s problems. But somehow, the allure of that Red travel book has become so strong, it’s impossible to convince anyone otherwise.
I guess what these girls find in the UK is, in a word, satisfaction. They might end up regretting it years from now, who’s to say. But for the moment, their young blood is happy enough to be in a place where no matter what kind of work they do, at the end of the day, there’s nothing holding them back from feeling secure, content, free and happy.
Published in Dateline Islamabad on the 1st March 2012:
Posted on March 8, 2012, in British-Pakistani women, ethnic communities, Pakistan, Pakistani Immigration, Pakistani women, writing, youth and tagged British-Pakistani, Dateline Islamabad, Pakistani women. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.