This is part II. You can read the first part here.
Two Years Ago
My brother was going for studies to France and had asked me to remit tuition fees to the university. Instead of using the bank to transfer the money, I sent the money through an authorized currency exchange company because bank charges were exorbitant as well as it took longer for the funds to reach if sent through a bank. The next day I got a call from the exchange company that my transfer has been rejected by the beneficiary bank. The reason : my name was on watch list. Since exchange companies don’t have strict KYC (know your customer) policy, their guarantee is no good. It didn’t help the fact that a Somali terrorist leader of the same name was making news during the same time. I asked the company “Do I look like a Somali to you?. It is not that I am transferring the funds to my brother’s personal account rather the money is going to the university tuition directly.” But it was no use.
I should have taken the hint and either changed my name or left the country there and then.
One Year Ago
The financial crisis has finally reached us. Companies and financial institutions are going bankrupt all around. Everyday I get calls and emails from friends in Pakistan, Middle East and Europe asking me to help them out. I tell them that I am in a similar boat with the exception that this one will take a long time to sink.
Now the the boat has sunk half way. All around I see people/friends who have already sunk or are in boats where you can’t make out how fast they are sinking. I am searching for a solid boat but it’s not clear at the moment and if there is one, it’s already fully loaded. Rather they are throwing people over board saying citing over-occupancy.
My friends call from all over the world and say that I am pissing at them. How come with a degree from one of the leading business schools, I am finding it hard to stay afloat? I remind them that when Titanic sank, it didn’t matter where you studied or which class you belonged to or where you are from. Those who could find a boat or a board remained afloat and the rest sunk.
Three months ago
Came back from attending my sister’s wedding in Karachi. Left the wife behind in Pakistan to rest and stay a bit longer with her family. My sister and her husband went to meet my uncle (my father’s only brother and around 68 years old). As they were entering his house, two guys came on a bike and asked for my uncle’s wallet pointing a pistol at him. Being of earlier generation and a brave man, he refused to be cowed down and grabbed the thug’s hand. The thug fired a shot which went through his chest and into my brother-in-law.
I got the news over the phone soon after and caught the first flight home. The immigration officer said something but didn’t pay attention to what he said. I need to be there for my father whose only brother has left this world. My father has four sons scattered all over the world. Being the eldest, I should be there by his side at this hour.
I reach there just in time for the funeral. The relief I saw on my father’s face, my mother’s face, my cousins’ face (sons of my uncle) on seeing me leaving everything to be by their side in their hour of grief told me that I should not have missed it for anything in this world.
Fortunately the bullet passed through the arm of my brother in law and did not hit him in any critical area but rendering his arm useless for two months. His father who was a heart patient upon hearing the news started shaking. Thankfully, the family was there to hold him.
It just frightens me to even think about what would have happened if the bullet had taken a different trajectory. He had recently gotten a job and just gotten married. What if the company lays him off as he could not attend office for two months just couple of months after joining?
After three days decided to come back with the pregnant wife. They stopped me at the immigration counter here saying that I didn’t have necessary clearance when I left ( I had been coming and going quite frequently but this has never happened before). My wife can enter but I would have to be deported. Fortunately it was a working day and I called my boss. He hurriedly pulled some strings but they say that clearance would come the next day. My wife can go home but I have to spend the night at the airport hotel. I called it a five-star jail. The next day I was allowed to enter the country after getting the clearance. My boss asked me didn’t they tell me anything when I was leaving the country. I said the officer uttered something but I was too preoccupied to think about it.
Two months Ago
Due to the earlier security breach, I have a hard time getting paperwork for calling in my mother in law for the delivery. At the last moment, I had to take my wife Pakistan and leave her there for delivery. This time they ask me to bring a police clearance certificate from Pakistan. God forbid if anyone has to visit a Pakistani police station. I would feel safer going into a criminal den than into a police station. The unkempt police men, their dirty language, the depreciated building and furniture of the station, the way they talk to you with every word like a silent threat asking for bribe.
My mother called in her distant relatives who were good enough to visit and sit in the police station from morning till evening for two days and arranged the certificate for me just because they loved and respected their aunt (my mother).
One Month Ago
After dedicated search, I had found a very good job. I was about to resign that the news came that there has been a significant twist in the financial position of that company. Fortunately I was saved from an imminent disaster but it meant that I have to continue on a sinking ship.
Three weeks ago
My son is born and everybody is happy back home. I want to go back and hold him in my arms as everyone tells me that he looks like me but I can’t at the moment due to some reasons.
One week ago
I was coming home after visiting a friend. Suddenly, a guy on motorcycle comes from the side street and hits my car on the front tyre and falls down. Its midnight. I stop the car and rush out to see him. His trembling on the road and his legs can’t move. Though it was his fault but it’s no time to pass the blame. An Ambulance arrives and right after a a police patrol comes. They took him to the hospital and me to the police station. God forbid if any one has to visit a police station at night. The scum of the world is there. Murderers, robbers, drunkards, mad men. Sitting under the same roof with these people can make one crazy. After filing in the report and having my friend check on the guy in the hospital and bringing hospital clearance report, I come home at 4 in the morning. Feeling that I am going through a bad patch in lifee, I have parked my car after having it repaired and started going around in a taxi.
Two days ago
My employer gets a call in the afternoon that my name has come on the national security list and I have to leave the country before midnight. Otherwise I might have to be taken in for questioning and clearance.
When I am about to leave for home from office, the HR guy out of nowhere asks me “has the situation in your family changed?”. I did not get his question at first. Then I realized that he was asking whether my family members might have joined Al Qaeda or Taleban. The audacity of the motherf£$%er.
My colleague who is also a Pakistani goes into a depression on hearing this news. After a while he asks me whether it is because of the traffic accident. I tell him that if that had been the case, it should be a police issue or department of justice issue. Not the fu£$%ng homeland security jumping in. Through some low ranking employee in the security establishment we found out that the problem occurred because of the name and the Pakistani passport. However, it won’t go away easily. A divine intervention is required.