As the saying goes, “Home is not a place- it is a feeling.” I was an adolescent of 13 when I was rid of that feeling and was sent across one of the most hostile borders from my beloved country Afghanistan over to Pakistan. It happened in a flash and now I see it as a flashback, helpless as ever but now somewhat at peace with how things turned out After some threats from the Taliban, my school was forced to shut down.
Consequently, my parents saw it fit to send me to the best international school in the region, in Pakistan. I arrived at that school with a few personal belongings, and survived on nothing but my wits. Initially, it all came crashing down and was too much for me to absorb. People of different nationalities gawked at me and spoke languages I could not comprehend. Their gestures, whether good or bad, were alien to me.
Their bright “shalwar kameez” was too vibrant in contrast to the ones my Afghan eyes were used to. Even the food was unbearable, being too spicy for my taste buds. I yearned for the home that I had left behind and regretted not having cherished my short childhood there as much as I should have. At certain times I would catch a stray breeze and would feel the scent of Kabul and the sweet smell of pomegranate in the somewhat dry yet cool air.
All was bearable and my homesickness was overwhelming. However, as Jacqueline Kennedy said, “being away from home gave me a chance to look at myself with a jaundiced eye.” for me staying away allowed me to strive to be the man my parents aspired for me to be. I would have sunk into the eternal gloom of homesickness and inferiority complex had I not fixed my gaze on what really mattered, my aim in life. Sheer determination and hard work helped drive me out of the gloom.
Huge expectations were riding on me from my family and I used that to clear every distraction from my mind. Firstly, I strived to excel in my academics. Afterall, it was the foremost reason for which I was sent here. Simultaneously, I diverted my energy to be more productive by learning Turkish and Urdu. I could neither speak Turkish which was essential in order to converse with the supervisors, nor could I speak Urdu which was the tongue in which most of my batchmates conversed.
Learning one language was hard, two nearly impossible. Yet if I were to survive an also to lead, I needed to familiarize myself with both languages and eventually I did. The difficulty to adjust coupled with the strictness of my hostel life further pestered matters. Waking up before dawn to offer prayers and praying all five prayers a day was difficult but it helped me bring my routine into order. The seniors played their part in making my life hard with the help of tools such as bend downs, yet they taught me many life lessons, such as endurance.
Each time the pain and depression tried to pull me down, I channeled it into a punch, a kick, a bicep curl, until I attained a tough body with a tough mind. I was committed to becoming a hostel prefect and for that, I worked accordingly. I had a perfect attendance and maintained discipline to earn the respect of not only my batchmates but also my juniors, so that I finally became worthy of being called Abi, or big brother in Turkish. Though I strived to excel in all fields, so I could be given a chance to lead, in truth, I was doing so because the sense of achievement comforted me. It made the homesickness go away and replaced it with a new kind of yearning. The yearning to prove myself better than who I was yesterday.