Updated: Nov 6
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.
I am, I think, 53, 54 years old. I was born in Pakistan. I have five children, Masha'Allah; four daughters and one son. I was in Dubai for the last seven years doing manual labour. Before that, I was in Saudi Arabia for almost two years. I also worked here in Canada in manufacturing and retail. These days, I am not working. I am at home.
How was your childhood in Pakistan?
I spent my early childhood in Karachi. My father was quiet, very nice, kind. He worked as a security guard. My mom did not work.
I liked ice. There was no refrigerator at the time. Behind our house, there was the tramline. I would look on both sides to make sure the tram was not coming and then, cross the path to get to the other side. I would go to a house there for ice. They were rich. They had a fridge. This was the late 1960s or early 1970s. The lady there would give me ice cubes in a glass and put some in my hand for the way back. My mom used to say, "she comes home after eating half the ice." There was no television, no phone at home. We cooked with a kerosene or gas stove.
I also liked coconuts. My father told us that on the other side [of the tramline], there are coconut trees in someone's house. We would go there and throw stones at the tree to break the coconut. They would shout as sometimes, the family would be in their yard. The security guard would complain that kids come and throw stones.
Somewhere after six years of age, we moved back to our village near Rawalpindi. My maternal grandfather and grandmother were there. They were very nice to me. My grandfather would tell me about his childhood. He was one of the first people to settle in this village. My grandmother used to bring ber [Indian jujube] for me.
I started school. It was very far. I would walk over an hour. We used a slate and chalk. There was a blackboard. It had two rooms. The teacher would hit me a lot—on my hands, head—because I would forget what she taught. I could not remember the answers. I got hit every single day. I liked going to school but I could not learn much. The same happened with Qur'anic studies. I would go every day but the lady used to hit me. Once, I ran away to an uncle's house saying, "I do not want to learn, she hits me." I could not memorize the text. I would forget. I still finished the Qur'an by repeating it after her.
I left school after Grade 2 or 3. I worked more in the fields. I would cut wheat, corn, lentils. I would take the goat, sheep, or cow to the fields to graze and bring them back in the evening.
When I was 13-14 years old, my maternal uncle visited from Saudi Arabia and said that I would be married. I got married. My marriage was very bad. My husband did not want to get married but my in-laws were very nice. I went to Saudi Arabia for about a year and returned to Pakistan. Around ten years later, I moved back to Saudi Arabia, shortly after my third daughter was born. There was domestic violence. I suffered a lot.
How was transitioning to Canada?
I wanted to stay in Saudi Arabia. Settling here was difficult because my life had either been in the village or in the Middle East. It is very different here. In Pakistan, life was outdoors. The marriage was still very difficult and later, he left me. In the meantime, I learnt English and slowly, got more used to being here. Canada is a nice country. I am happy to be a Canadian citizen. My marriage was bad from the beginning; the country is not to blame. It is just different here compared to what I knew. Canada is also very far.
What would you say to other people or mothers who are facing intimate partner violence?
I would tell them to keep their kids with them and leave that person. I was told the same thing but I did not understand it at the time.
How do you take care of your mental health?
I go outside if I am worried, get some air. I remember God, stay patient and ask Him for help.
What are you looking forward to this year?
I am hoping that I can take all my kids back to Dubai with me but now, my kids are not small. They are bigger. I cannot just bathe them and take them wherever like I used to. Now, it is harder to get them together.
Name a song, film or piece of work that you enjoyed recently.
I liked Diriliş: Ertuğrul. I am watching Kuruluş: Osman now.
Translated from Urdu by Madiha.