“But what about my GCSEs!?” I staggered at the heartless figure I called a father. I wasn’t amused. I was devastated. I spent fourteen years of my life criticising a society where my ancestors originated from; a community which has not even been rooted on the face of the earth for a century. Obviously, I was not ready to reside in a country full of bookworms – I was too entitled as a Westerner to consider the idea even for a moment. Period.
My father’s decision was final. It took me a while to get over the dream life I had planned: to merely pass my GCSE examinations, leave Ballakermeen as soon as I possibly could and enrol in paid employment – as was the fashion in the day. What was the point of Sixth Form? – GCSEs are enough to survive in the contemporary world. I didn’t understand in what way I would be using Pythagoras’ Theorem throughout my employment at the nearby Sainsbury’s supermarket.
I didn’t communicate with the so-called ‘qualified’ Psychiatrist for weeks – “How on earth does he treat mentally challenged patients if he doesn’t even know what is best for his own son?” I would question myself every minute – trying to dissect the answer. I couldn’t find one. Not being able to discover the explanation for such an action jolted my brain into action. I was stubborn. I enrolled into Lahore Grammar School in 2013, and was consistently referred to as ‘firangi’ (foreigner). I didn’t care. I needed an answer. Why was this happening to me and not anyone else? Why could I have not lived in the same city, studied in the same school, met up with the same friends, daily, like all of the other students surrounding me? I was alone and different. No one understood me – or so I thought.
Miss Tahira was my favourite teacher in the institution. Her lectures on the theory of life have always been my favourite, despite her not being able to teach me the subject of her expertise; Urdu. She inspired me to divert my attention and frustration towards my academic career. I accepted the challenge as a possible solution to the rampage of questions that fluttered through my burdened brain. Throughout my O’Level years I always struggled feeling as if I belonged to the community I was officially a member of, and knowing that my not-Urdu Urdu teacher was available to guide me throughout the many steps I was encouraged to take was pivotal through my journey in high school.
As time passed I settled in the school well – by Grade 11 I had been considered for the position ‘Council Head’ and instead became the reputable English Representative position in order to further specialise and scrutinise my skills in the subject. Through Johar Town’s competitive environment, I was taught to always aim for the best regardless of the naysayers. As the late Benazir once said, “ Life is too short to spend worrying about people who opposed you.” I always supported her plight for democracy in Pakistan, as I flicked through my dusty Nigel Kelly text book of Pakistan’s history. I took an oath in her name one day, that no matter what others may say or try to convince me of, if I believe something is inherently correct, then I shall stand by my stance with pride. For Benazir it was democracy, and for me it was that my dad’s decision of shifting me to Pakistan for my ‘betterment’ was a complete and utter facade.
I remember the day I was handed my Ordinary Level result. My mother began crying. My sister congratulated me. My grandfather held a celebratory dinner. I felt prestigious. But soon the prestige wore off, and I didn’t feel any different. I am now beginning to understand. Why did the ‘qualified’ Psychiatrist move me across borders four years ago and enrol me at Lahore Grammar School? I finally realised. He didn’t want me to work at Sainsbury’s as an employee. He wanted me to be the next CEO of Sainsbury’s. He wanted me to be the founder of Sainsbury’s competing supermarket chain. He wanted the best for me.
Yesterday I was teaching Pakistan Studies at the National Special Education Complex (NSEC) in Lahore. The highlight of the routine day was when a five-year old schizophrenic girl called Humaira yanked at my kameez.
She unhurriedly asked me “Sir? Mujhe apnay baray mein kuch batayye.” (“Sir? Tell me something about yourself.”)
I pondered for a moment.
“Mera naam Ammar hai, mein apnay aap ko fakhar se aik Irish aur Pakistani shehri kehla sakta hoon, aur mere walid sahab aik qaabil consultant Psychiatrist haun,” I replied. (“My name is Ammar, I am a proud Irish-Pakistani and my father is a qualified consultant Psychiatrist,”)