I am Shaista, the eldest of six siblings who grew up in a middle-class Pakistani Muslim family. I consider my biggest fortune to be born to parents with strong values. A father who was ambitious and rose from adversity to become a well-read, well-travelled person with a vision; someone who had the art of creating a balance and was popular with all age groups. My mother, who was also his first cousin was a woman of few words and immense strength. A hospitable and generous lady coming from a humble background, she grew up in the city of the Taj Mahal and then travelled with my father to different countries.
A very quiet child, known for being ‘sensible’ and the dutiful daughter, it took me a long time to find my voice. I loved to read and write and this is how I slowly started expressing myself. I was always very conscious of using ‘appropriate’ words and choosing ‘socially acceptable’ themes. It took a great tragedy in my life to bring out the ‘rebel’ in me, to become confident to fight for my right and stand up for what I believed in. I even got burnt and scarred in the process. When they say, trauma either breaks a person or transforms them, I believe it not only broke me but the cracks were at times liberating .. they somehow set me free. What could have been the most beautiful phase of my life was actually a period of severe challenges. In my mid-twenties I found myself becoming the partner of my heroic father and a mother-like figure to my five siblings. The man who was dynamic, full of strength and wisdom started crumbling after the death of his loving wife who was brutally taken away by cancer.
My journey is full of stories that I feel are truly extraordinary. Spending my childhood in an affluent household surrounded by luxuries in U-A-E, it was a major culture shock when my father decided to shift to Karachi in the mid 1980s. I can never forget that first ride on a public bus when my father took me to my college. Settling in Pakistan should not have been so difficult but the favourite holiday destination soon became a rigorous challenge when we had to live there permanently. However, later I realised Allah was preparing us for a life that we had never imagined would be ours.
I pursued my higher education in Karachi and started my professional life there. With constant encouragement from my father, I landed in the not for profit sector that suited my personality. With a genuine interest in people, I loved being a trainer and working on education projects for the underprivileged. I guess travelling is in my genes or my fate. In 2008, I migrated to Australia following my very ambitious sister. My motivation was to provide better opportunities to my baby brother for whom I had become a guardian at this stage in my life as both my parents had passed away.
Australia is an amazing country, however it took almost one year of struggle to overcome my initial home-sickness and find a job that suited my skills. Only those who have migrated to a new place can relate to how difficult it is to start from scratch where you have no networking or resources. One literally has to prove themselves at every front. Grappling with the loss of leaving Pakistan at a very promising stage at my professional career, leaving behind my friends and a very comfortable lifestyle I found myself competing with fresh graduates. At the onset of middle-age with a successful career behind me, I had to keep a very open mind and be willing to take up entry level jobs. Luckily, I got a break in my own field and had a chance to work with migrant communities from different parts of the world. These were asylum seekers and refugees or members of CALD communities with visa issues, homelessness, language and cultural barriers.
Growing up in UAE , we had family friends of different faiths and ethnicities. Hence getting to know truly multi-cultural Australia was indeed fascinating.
I saw the beauty of Allah’s creations reflected in the potpourri of different cultures. Celebrating cultural diversity and accepting people as they are has been a key learning for me. This is what breeds the values of ‘tolerance’ and ‘respect’ that are so vital in today’s crazy world. Hence, for this blog I chose the tree emblem to represent myself. I am passionate about social justice and equality. We are strong and beautiful when together. The colourful branches, leaves and flora flourish with a strong foundation of love.
Just when I started feeling confident and more settled in Australia in my professional and personal life, it was time to move on. After spending almost five years Downunder, I chose to move to the pinnacle of modern civilisation- London! . It was fun discovering the many places that I had only so far passed through on a Monopoly board game. The rhyme “ Pussy cat Pussy cat where have you been? … “ kept playing in my mind as for a second time I found myself struggling to create my identity as a new migrant in the land of the Queen. My recent marriage added a unique dimension as well.
I will be sharing my journey in my blog posts here. I enjoy talking with people and have been counselling my friends for a long time. I thought it is now time to take this skill to a professional level. Hence I undertook training as a Master Coach and now use my skills and wisdom gained through personal observations and experiences to help others in achieving their goals.
~Pause to Reflect~