Two Worlds

March 1997.


A 32-year old Pakistani man leaves his village, wife, and young son in Gujrat, Punjab

He went to New York even though the distance made his heart throb


But there was no other answer

Pakistan was riddled with problems from economic instability to filthy water to dishonest politicians; the problems spreading like a deadly cancer


All he wanted was for his kids to go to school in a safe spot

Where he wouldn’t have to worry about them getting robbed or shot


His first job, he worked long but didn’t earn much

He stuck to it, just for us

He was selfless, just for us


That man is my father


September 2015.


A 14-year old Pakistani girl leaves her small private Islamic school, fellow classmates, and beloved teachers

She left to go to (what she considered) a monstrous public school, a hideous creature


She was scared of what had yet to occur

This girl full of fear, I was her


My eighth grade had four girls; we were a tight-knit group, very close

There would be a lot of changes, I had supposed

But what greeted me was more than I could prepare myself for


I used to know everybody

Now, I barely recognized anybody


There were more people than I was comfortable with

The eyes looking my way when I walked down the crowded hallways, to me, felt like personal hits


I’ve always been a reserved person, so giving presentations to my 4-person-class was nerve-wracking

Now, all of my classes had thirty-five students and participation accounted for a larger-than-I-was-comfortable-with portion of my grade, and so my grades started slacking


I was at a loss


October 2015.


Nothing was going right for the 14-year-old thrown into a whirlwind of expectations

She missed the familiarity of her old school, her foundation


I worried I’d never see those beautiful red A’s

They were just bittersweet memories of the easier days


I wasn’t sure what the teachers expected out of projects and papers

I didn’t know which unfamiliar face I could turn to for my failures


Spanish 1 was one of the worst times

I’d never learned Spanish; I’d only known the translations from the label of my Crayola crayons that I’d see oftentimes


The class was also fully immersive, a refreshing slap to the face

I had taken an L, an upper case


January 2016.


First semester had come and gone

The now 15-year-old realized she wasn’t putting in as much effort as in middle school; her efforts, all withdrawn


She remembered her father’s sacrifice

She could not let his efforts go to waste; she, too, would have to pay her own price

Keep a positive attitude towards her challenge, was what was advised


When I slipped, I went back to my father’s story

For success, I became hungry, predatory


He successfully traveled across oceans; surely I could do the same across zip codes


I took responsibility for my learning

My spirit was returning

I raised my hand to answer questions and satisfy the burning

For no one could stop my yearning


I didn’t stop there

I started volunteering at different organizations; I was no longer in despair


I taught kids how to read Arabic at a learning center

I went back to my old school to help, where the office clerk was my mentor


I took more challenging classes

In Spanish, I could conjugate irregular verbs in the imperfect subjunctive tenses




A 17-year-old girl learned from her father the importance of pursuing dreams

She would do so in spite of obstacles and by all means

I am proud to say this fearful girl learned to become a woman, powerful and bold
From her fearless father; what a pair to behold

This poem is about: 
My family
My community


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