I am one of those people you have heard a lot about in recent years. Those who came to Europe in the middle of the ‘migrant crisis’. Or so I have been told. I am not sure why they call it a crisis. Crisis is what I have seen where I grew up, in Pakistani Punjab. With political and social insecurities, the economy offering ever new adventures in survival, prices of vegetables, wheat and rice rising up to the skies. When I was younger I never thought of emigrating. I loved my mother, my siblings, my village, the fields surrounding it. I felt comfortable there. I was always interested in the world. I dreamed of travelling and exploring it. Sometimes my family also got on my nerves and I wanted to breathe fresh air.
As a child I always liked to listen to stories about Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great once travelled from Europe to Punjab. I thought of making the same journey one day, only in the other direction. But I never thought that I would want to leave forever. That thought only came later, when I got older and more mature, more aware of the responsibilities that I carried in life and of the impossibility of fulfilling them with the resources that I had at hand.
I am my mother’s oldest son. We are five siblings, two sons and three daughters. Our father deserted us when I was very young. He keeps loose contact with me and my siblings but otherwise lives somewhere else with a second wife and other children. My father owns land and he always supplied us with what he could. But it was never enough and my mother made ends meet by opening a little grocery shop in which me and my brother started working as soon as we were old enough.
I am not the most educated person, in the formal sense. To be honest, my marks from my school days look horrible. It was my own fault because I was mostly just interested in playing cricket at that time and didn’t put any value in education. But from my teenage years on I also didn’t have much other time to look for tuition or complement my education in other ways because I needed to help my mother in the shop so that we could all live well. I was therefore never able to pursue higher education. But my mother made sure that I got the best education of the heart. She taught me to respect other people and to always listen to them with attention. She taught me to never lie and always speak the truth. And she taught me to care for the people in my life even before I care for myself. I am not a perfect human being. But I have made these values my own and always try to live up to them.