My Father – From Pakistan to Canada – #Canada150

[Official submission for a Canada150 story in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.]

Over half a century ago, in 1965, my Father came to Canada as a student from Pakistan. He was 28. He was accepted to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario where he went on to complete a Masters in Mathematics. “The Secret of Life is to Read,” my Father told me one day. My Father had to literally read to give me and my family opportunity.

He was called “Ghut wala chacha.” Ghut literally means corner in Punjabi. My Father’s family tells me how Dad used to sprinkle turmeric around himself as he would sit and study on the floor in the famous corner of their home. This way, ants would not come around and bite him and he could submerge himself in his books and studies without fear!

He was dedicated. After he failed grade 8, he changed his mindset and never looked back. He came in 2nd in Punjab University in his M.Sc. Math degree in his graduating year.

Leaving Pakistan was no small feat. One day, he got wind of “Queen’s University” from a colleague that did not want to share any information about this Canadian learning institution. Despite this, he learned of the name. He wrote a letter requesting admission.

To: Queen’s University, Canada.

This is all he wrote for the address. It still amazes me to this day. And as they say, the rest is history. Miraculously, Queen’s responded with a Letter of Acceptance and a plane ticket a few months later! Utterly surprised, Dad prepared to come to Canada.

In 1965, leaving Pakistan for a foreign country was like entering into an abyss. What would happen after, nobody knew. There were no detailed resources about foreign countries for settling, no internet, no instant communication methods, and even telephones were scarce. Besides, most fellow countrymen that did leave headed for the UK, not Canada.

Relatives were concerned because they wondered if they would ever see their loved ones again. My Dadi, my grandmother (my Father’s mother), was so afraid for him, that she did not want him to leave. Dad insisted and he tells me the day he left, Dadi tied verses of the Qur’an to his arm for protection.

Making it in Canada back in those days was truly an act of courage and resilience. Being an immigrant, a minority, a Muslim, being different, and living without any family, with no financial security, and in a land that knew little about foreigners, is something hard to imagine. How did he make it? I wonder sometimes, if I was in his shoes, could I have done the same?

My Father in one word: Consistent. He has always had routine, always had structure. Knowing him, I can describe him as a good man, a hardworking man, an honest man, and a man that “doesn’t want to bother anyone”.

Indeed Dad worked hard. He wanted to succeed. And by the Will of God, he did. Recently, I developed an artistic concept called The Champion for Life™. A Champion for Life™ is someone who honours themselves “for life” and recognizes there is always a Process, in order to make Progress. It is a life endeavour. My Father is A Champion for Life™.

In 2016, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to tell his story when I produced The Champion for Life™ film. It was filmed on location, where it all started, in Dad’s home city of Faisalabad, Pakistan.

I owe my Father too much to even realize at this precise moment as I reflect. I am thankful to God for granting me such a man in my life. I pray that God protects my Father always. And I pray that I can become some of the man that my Father will always be.


@studentasim is a social artist. He was born in Toronto Canada. He is the author of 5 children’s stories and The Champion for Life™ Human Progress concept.

Copyright © @studentasim 2017