I have been luckier than most, in that the nature of my late father’s profession necessitated my re-location to some amazing and beautiful parts of the world. My father was a career diplomat and we moved quite frequently. Although this is an autobiographical account, it tries to convey a sense of what was transpiring in those places at the time periods in question. I will quite briefly recount some of my so-called upheavals and periodic re-locations.
Geneva, Switzerland, Circa 1967-68
I was a year old at the time of this relocation and do not remember it in the slightest. However, a subsequent visit in 2010 at the age of forty-four told me much about the city. Geneva is a bustling metropolis not far from the mountains. It has a variety of neighborhoods, from the less well-to-do to the more affluent. It is connected to the rest of the country and the rest of Europe by rail, by road and by air. Lake Geneva is a magnificent body of water with restaurants and shops all around it. Its primary inflows are the River Rhone and the River Dranse. It was the site in 1827 for the first measurement of the speed of sound in water. The Jet d’Eau fountain in Lake Geneva is one of the largest fountains in the world. It rises to 140 meters in height.
London, England, Circa 1968-71
After Geneva I came to London. My late parents (May God rest their souls) told me that I visited Paris at this time. Here is where I first gained true awareness of my surroundings. I joined St.James’s Nursery School in Golders Green in 1969 and found myself with a very diverse group of young children. This was the tenure of Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and towards the end of my time in England, Conservative leader Edward Heath took over this role. The Beatles were charging up the younger generation, the summers were wet and the winters were stacked with snow.
Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Circa 1971-74
I returned to Pakistan and joined St.Helen’s Convent School in Satellite Town. A fiery young Bhutto had just become the country’s leader. We were entering a war with neighbor India and V-shaped trenches were being dug in back yards for taking cover in the event of bombing raids. School drills were also held regularly for the same purpose. The major cities in Pakistan were expanding and being re-built and the weather was usually sunny. Carloads of relatives would routinely drop by to spend days and nights. It was a good time, well, for me anyway.
Manila, Philippines, Circa 1975-76
This was an exciting change for the young me. Visiting Bangkok en route to Manila, I joined an American elementary school in the bustling suburb of Makati Rizal. American cars were everywhere. Marcos was the President and the glamorous ex-model Imelda Marcos was First Lady. I went to see the historic boxing fight between World heavyweight champion Mohammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) and George Foreman – this fight is known as the ‘Thrilla in Manila’. I actually met the boxer at the Saudi Embassy, my tiny hand (I was only nine) fitting snugly into his huge hand. He prayed that Friday at the local mosque.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Circa 1976-79
My father next represented Pakistan in the land known for one of human history’s worst famines and one of Islam’s biggest migrations fourteen hundred years ago when it was Abyssinia. Fortunately for us, this horrible draught had not taken place when we arrived there.
I went to two American missionary schools and became an avid reader. I used to borrow an average of seven to eight books a week from the school libraries in both schools, the Good Shepherd School and Bingham Academy, both run by the global missionary organization SIM (Sudan Interior Mission) based in Fort Mill, South Carolina, USA and most active in Africa.
Contrary to popular belief, Addis Ababa was a modern metropolis 1,500 metres above sea level and enjoyed wonderful weather twelve months a year. Rebels had recently destroyed the local television station and so we experienced picnics, sports, outings and reading as our pastimes. Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam shot Teferi Bante and became a President for the next seventeen years.
A memorable visit to the beautiful city of Nairobi, Kenya with my parents also took place in 1978.
We were just across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia and had access to the surrounding nations of Somalia and Kenya. It is a little known fact that quite a few of the African nations have a sizeable Indian and South Asian population who are permanent settlers from several generations.
Belgrade (Capital of Serbia), Former Yugoslavia, Circa 1979-80
My next city of residence in my early teens was Belgrade, or Beograd as it was locally called. It is a fairly large sized city with all modern amenities and many wartime memories from both World Wars. I enrolled at the American school which at the time was until the Eighth Grade.
I had the opportunity to see many historic places which are now in different newly formed nations, including the beautiful city of Sarajevo, which was later badly maimed by conflict. Sarajevo has Turkish speaking people, many beautiful mosques and delectable Turkish cuisine at the roadsides.
Islamabad, Pakistan, Circa 1980-82
We moved to Islamabad briefly in 1980. It was just starting to flourish. I learned the Urdu alphabet for the first time at age fourteen (and successfully appeared in the full fledged high school level Board exam in Urdu five years later). I had quite a task ahead of me in adjusting to the local schools as I was fairly Americanized. A memorable application I wrote to my school Principal in Urdu got me into a lot of trouble due to my lack of fluency in the language.
Beijing, China, Circa 1982-85
This was one of the most memorable periods of my youth. China had just opened itself to the outside world and foreigners were stared at by everyone. There were places to visit too numerous to mention and describe, such as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong (then still a British colony) and Tianjin. The food everywhere was unique and each meal traditionally consisted of many courses comprising a host of dishes in small quantities, so you never quite got full and yet tasted a rainbow of flavors. During this time, I also visited Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima in Japan during a week’s visit in 1984.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Circa 1985-90
Leaving my parents in China, I embarked at the end of 1985 upon my higher education in the State of Florida. The sun shone brightly all year round and people were friendly. I studied first at Broward Community College in Davie and then went on to Florida Atlantic University in the town of Boca Raton in West Palm Beach, home to many celebrities such as tennis legend Chris Evert-Lloyd. I did my four-year Bachelors degree in Marketing and began working as a Technical and Marketing Associate with an ‘eighties computer sales and service firm known as Solloway Systems based in Coconut Creek.
After graduating in Florida and working there for a few months, an attractive job offer necessitated my moving initially to New York (where I drove forty miles each way every morning) and then to Bloomingdale, fifteen minutes away from my job in Fairfield, New Jersey. Unfortunately, legal permission to work expired about a year later.
Scarsdale, New York and Bloomingdale, New Jersey, Circa 1990-91
After graduating in Florida and working there for a few months, a job offer necessitated my moving initially to New York (where I drove forty miles each way every morning) and then to Bloomingdale, fifteen minutes away from my job in Fairfield, New Jersey. Unfortunately, legal permission to work expired about a year later.
Islamabad, Pakistan, Circa 1992-2005
I returned to Islamabad in mid-1992 and worked in various private, semi-government and federal capacities. The country had undergone many political and other internal changes requiring me to undergo an immense re-adjustment.
Two of my elder brothers are in Pakistan, and we a got together frequently. On the personal front, I got married at thirty in 1996, and we had our twins (a boy and a girl) in 2009 when I was forty-three. Unfortunately, both my parents had passed away by this time. They (may their souls be blessed) prayed frequently for us to have kids.
During this period, I visited Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on a trade mission in 1993 and privately went to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj Pilgrimage in 2001.
Bradford, West Yorkshire, Circa 2005-Present
I proceeded to the United Kingdom in September 2005 to do my Masters in Business Administration from the Bradford University School of Management situated in Heaton. I have had a few career changes and as of 2012, I am still settled in this beautiful part of the country. I have visited Geneva in 2010 to try and re-capture the surrounding magic of my stay there as a year-old infant forty five years ago.
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