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"VOF: Week Two: (Without Origination There Can Be No Journey)"


By the time I was 14, I could see no future for myself in Pakistan. It was not a vague sensation either; it was a strong, blazing sentiment that just would not go away. I had to get out. The only thing I had was my mind. Money was not a luxury I enjoyed. I decided the only way to “escape” was to somehow get into an American college, somehow find the money & somehow get a visa & somehow, somehow if the stars aligned it would all come to pass. So I worked & worked. I saw the path clearly it was like an equation if I managed to ace my O’Levels & then my A’Levels, if I managed to get in a number of extra-curricular activities perhaps just perhaps grandiose names such as Columbia, Vassar, and NYU would hear my story & say yes, we want you, & we’ll assist you in this journey.

The grades did come, I somehow managed to triumph & become president of the student body during my A’levels against much chauvinism I must add, I sent out applications to colleges, even asked for application fee waivers…out of ten colleges all but two rejected me. The two that accepted offered me financial aid, and so it began.

My father left us when I was 4. Growing up in Pakistan, I was the only “single-parent” family I knew, which made some people so uncomfortable they would tell their children not to befriend me because “I had no father”! When it came time to try & get a passport, in order to apply for a visa, in order to go to college, the absence of my father came back to haunt me. There is such a thing called a “B” form, which one needs in order for anyone to get a passport. On this B form your father’s name must appear along with his ID card specifics & signature, in fact he must file it in order for you to have an identity.

My mother would wait at the passport offices, the ID card offices to try & get me a passport & we were refused, “No, You have no father therefore you cannot get a passport,” was the gist of things. In Pakistan, it is said if you really need anything done you have to know someone. After months of trying all the correct channels, in the end we had to be helped my someone “high-up” just in order to get my birth-right as a human, as a citizen, as a woman. Shockingly, it was done in one day, after months of lamentation, despair & pain.

I also got the visa. I worked & saved $1000 dollars to take with me to college. I left on the plane, alone to go to a country I had never been to before with no family, & few if any, friends scattered across the country.

This was the first part of my journey, 14 years ago to here & now. It is not possible to explicate the entire journey in 500 words, for it has been a long one often so hard that I would never have imagined being here, but I decided to start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…where I learnt what I apply today, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger".



akhtarjournalism's picture

Technical Delay

I apologize. I had some technical problems & only today noticed that my post had in fact NOT posted when it should I am re-posting.

sunita.basnet's picture

Life is challenging

Dear friend,
I found your childhood and young age as misery. Life is challenging in every step but we should fight against it and keep going. It will take to our destiny. keep continue your work, one day you will have a proporos life. I admire you.

Thank you.
Sunita Basnet

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Tanya's picture


Kudos! to your determination and grit Akhtar. It makes me sad and uncomfortable (when I read of such happening in Pakistan) but I have read your other posts and notice that they focus on issues or are about Pakistan, so that gives me hope that you haven't given up on your country and it's people. Goodluck on all your endeavours!


akhtarjournalism's picture

The Conflicted Self

The relationship with one's country is a conflicted one. The love is always there, but with a country such as Pakistan,it is tinged with a bittersweet pain. A self-imposed exile is one filled with melancholy. You may want to return, but you know for numerous reasons always of one's own that you cannot, & yet you yearn. This is the constant struggle. Facts are always just that facts. Why I may have wanted to leave may have had to do with my own upbringing, my own perspective of the country, my own experiences, and for those who choose to stay it means something else.

As a teenager, I found the atmosphere for a woman oppressive. I could not "play the game" that women must play in order to move forward. I have always craved above all to be free, in every way. For me that translates to simple things, to a woman being able to walk down a street by herself anywhere if she wants to.To take a walk,just for the sake of it, and not feel harassed or anxious. Personal freedoms. I am not myself if I sacrifice them.

There is no giving up on one's country. Only frustration, anger, impatience, protectiveness, lamentation & hope, just plain old hope.

Emily Garcia's picture

Back to the Beginning

Thank you, Akhtar, for sharing your story!

I would love to know more about your life in Pakistan and what it was about your country that made you feel a fervent need to leave it at such a young age. In your follow-up post, you mention having to sacrifice personal freedoms, and I'm wondering what these freedoms were that were jeopardized during your growing-up years.


Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

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