THIS is what my mother said 32 years ago when I was leaving Pakistan: “Why? What is wrong with you? Why do you want to go to another country? What is wrong with Pakistan? Eating dry bread at home is better than running after the lure of riches in foreign lands.”
But I gave deaf ears to my mum’s advice as I was a callow youth. My mum was good at three things: reciting Quranic verses, delivering babies and domestic work. She did not have the faintest idea of what was happening outside society.
Society in Pakistan in the 1970s had no political and economic stability. Bribery and using connections were common, and nothing moved unless you scratched somebody’s bum, criminals walked free and pick-pocketing on public buses was common. No sanitation, no hygiene and you breathed in smoke and dust and lived in a polluted environment. Red-tape and bureaucratic control almost blocked your dreams.
Well, disregarding the advice of my mother, I moved to Australia to fulfil my dreams. First, the cultural shock had me. Then I faced three divorces in my family. Go figure! I was not brought up to take hurt as a lollypop, so I took divorces as a shock and went through long depression. The divorce rate in Australia is over 45 per cent and for couples aged 55 to 59, it is 47 per cent.
Similar statistics are available for the US and the UK. The saddest thing is that about half the divorces involve children. Just over a million children (in Australia for example) have a natural parent (usually the father like me) living elsewhere. Of these children, 24 per cent of them saw that parent less than once a year or never. Marriage these days no longer comes with the expectation of ‘till death do us apart’.
True, my pocket is always full of dollars these days, but quality is absent. I wish I had listened to my mother back then and might not have gone through the dilemmas of the West. Many of my friends tell me that nothing has changed in Pakistan and I would be better off living in the land of milk and honey. Australia certainly provides clean raiment and a cleaner conscience to live.
HAFEEZ SHAIKH Perth