Toronto-based Taimoor Farouk shares tales from the Pakistani diaspora.
The other day, I visited my parents’ long lost friends who had fled Pakistan in the mid-1980s and settled in Canada to secure a good future for their children. Their house, situated in a posh locality of the Greater Toronto area, was nothing less than a mansion, smelling of fresh paint and money.
At the dinner table, their youngest daughter, who seemed fascinated by the idea of getting married and settling in Pakistan, asked whether I was going to look for work in Canada after graduating. The question, however, was cut short by her mother’s question: ‘Or are you also one of those spoilt Pakistanis who live off their parents money and then rush back once the ‘fun’ of foreign education is over?’
‘No, not at all,’ I immediately replied, somewhat sympathising with the middle-aged woman. I could relate to my hostess’s concern because, like her, I also feel that the ways of the youth reflect the socio-economic trends of the nation they hail from.
In Canada, a majority of the Pakistani students that I have interacted with either belong to well-off families or have been raised to be aware of the importance given to ‘foreign’ educated people in their home country. Since most of them are financially dependent on their parents, they feel little or no need to support themselves by working through their university years.
However, by the time these students graduate with little or no job experience and finally realize that it’s a competitive world out there, none of the employers they approach are willing to call them for an interview. From what I have observed, this issue seems to have affected Pakistani-Canadians much more than the Indian expatriates, or even Bangladeshis for that matter. While speaking to a Bangladeshi friend about the same, he mentioned that alongside studying at one of the best business schools in Canada, he had taken up two part-time jobs to support himself. I asked whether his parents were also supporting him, to which he replied: ‘They were. But only until the end of the first year of university.’
Even though, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani recently spoke of assisting Pakistanis with the integration process in Canada’s multicultural society, it is necessary that the socio-economic trends in Pakistan are dealt with first – reviewing them might resolve some of the problems of expatriates. Family businesses should benefit from professionalism and corporate governance, a strong work ethic should be instilled in the next generation of affluent families, and society as a whole should become less accepting of youngsters who live off their parents indefinitely.
Whether one blames the colonised mindset of the people of Pakistan or simply the lack of ambition to succeed in today’s globalized world, it is evident that the days when one could do well without being too career focused are gone.