| This is the 542nd story of Our Life Logs® |
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender."
- Tupac Shakur
While holding the picture of my beloved family in my hand, I was drenched into the memories I never wanted to extricate. It took me back to memories of our guffaws and joys. Before everything fell apart.
My story began in 1994, in the small town of Sahiwal, Pakistan. I was born, as they say, with a golden spoon in my mouth. As the eldest child of a wealthy family, there was always enough food to eat and love to go around. We lived a life full of fantasies that many people couldn't afford. Father worked vigorously to keep up our lifestyle. But not on Sundays. Sunday was family time, when Father had a break in his busy schedule. Every weekend, we went on family picnics. I especially loved our summer picnics because afterward, we got the chance to explore the natural beauty of the northern areas of Pakistan. I loved sitting with my father in front of the windows of our summer home and watching the snow fall. I loved that giddy feeling I got from seeing the snow cover everything like a sheath that covers all that lies underneath.
Since my father worked so hard to provide a luxurious life for us, my siblings, mother, and I never had to do any work. We had several servants who took care of household chores and cooking. Fancy restaurant gatherings and parties were just a part of my daily routine. I loved partying and hanging out with my friends. There were no restrictions of any kind (except time, maybe), and they privileged us to enjoy our lives in whatever way we wanted to enjoy as long as we were safe.
This was my upbringing, and I treasured every moment of it. Fast-forwarding to my late teenage years, I knew I wanted to be able to create a good life for my future family just like my dad. So, in 2011, I began preparing for IELTS (International English Language Test) to help get me into a good college. Everything was going as planned, until one day, out of blue, my sister fell sick with type one diabetes. Our family was devastated and tried everything we could to help her. A few months later, I found out I passed my test! But the joy was short lived because my sister's condition worsened. Despite having the power and money to spend on her treatment, we were too late. We couldn't save her. My sweet and only sister left this world. She was only 14. Her death seized my father's nerves and left me unable to go abroad. So, I got admission to one of the best universities in my city and stayed back to help pull us back together.
Our family was never the same, and I thought it couldn’t get worse than losing my sister so young. But the universe soon showed me how wrong I was. In June 2015, our family lost our backbone, our leader, our support. Our father. He woke one night with an ache in his chest, and we rushed him to the hospital. But, like my sister, it was too late. I was not ready to face death again, but the truth was hollering at me, and I couldn’t block it out. Hopelessness had me under its spell.
My father’s loss destroyed me. I felt so alone and the pressure of caring for my family fall onto my shoulders. I couldn't concentrate on anything. I just went through the motions, not talking with anyone for days. I couldn’t bring myself to go to University for a month after this death. The only motivator to return to class was so I would have something to distract my mind.
As we were grieving and trying to recuperate, we received awful news. It turned out that our wealth was not what we thought at all. You see, just before my father died, the business wasn’t doing great. Because of his sudden death, we never got to understand how things had gotten so bad. He was losing tremendous business and had taken out loans to help get things on track, and he was in too deep. But he never got the chance to repay the loans. His business partners detached themselves from the business by taking all their shares because, deep down, they knew that if they continued their partnership with my father’s business, they must pay the loans. But banks don’t care about circumstances or loss. All they want is someone to pay back the loan. As his family, the responsibility fell on us.
My father never discussed his business dealings at home, so we were completely blindsided. Even more so, we were shocked that there were no savings our father had left behind. Paying back the loans was solely on us. Since we always had servants to do everything, we had no experience with working real jobs. Still, the lenders demanded their money to get paid. We had no option but to pay for the loans he took. I knew that we could never pay his loan at least for five to six years, but the lenders weren’t going to wait that long. So, the only option left for us was to sell our home, although it was the only memento of our father we had. As we gathered up belongings we could fit in our hands, we sulked out the door, knowing that life was never going to be the same after this.
My father was a firm believer that helping someone financially and morally will pay back to you in the future. And thankfully, my father’s generosity while living helped us when one of his friends offered for us to live in his home as long as we wanted to live. I had no other option but to take the offer with a heavy heart and a promise to myself that I will not let us live like this for long.
Our luxurious life was transformed into a life full of calamities. We had friends and family who helped us with money for about a year, but I knew it couldn’t be a permanent solution. I knew I had to step up and take responsibility to get our family back to the life we once knew.
I had two options. Quit studies and start working full time to provide for my family or keep studying and work part-time. I knew juggling both would be virtually impossible, but I knew we’d never fully escape poverty if I gave up on my education. This situation took me back to the time when I met a child in the park and feared about living a life of miseries. Now, my fear has transformed into a haunting reality. I knew I had to do everything I could to help my family, to survive.
I started working as a tutor but that was not enough for our livelihood. So, my days began to fill up fast with work and school to keep us fed. I used to get up early to help my mother with household chores before leaving for my university. Then, on the way back from university, at 4 PM, I went straight to my job as an assistant in one of the nearby clinics. Then, I’d come home and sleep a bit before getting up to do it all over again.
Months passed, but there was no improvement in our living standards, so I went searching for a better job. I had no luck until one of my friends suggested that I drop my resume in high schools for a teaching position. To my surprise, I was called for an interview and offered a job on the spot! It all felt like fate. Knowing I had school, they allowed me to teach an evening shift. I’d get home at 9pm and be exhausted. My health got worse, but I didn’t lose hope. The struggle to continue my education and provide three meals a day for my family lasted for three years. Those days made me realize how much influence money has on one’s life, the value of currency.
It took a huge grind, but our financial status finally began to improve. After graduation, I got appointed as an assistant professor at the same university in which I used to study. After the weary struggles of three more years, I can now say that I am capable of bearing the expenses of my family on my own. I am working as a database administrator and making a handsome amount of money to provide a lavish lifestyle for my family. Last year, I purchased the same house in which we used to live when my father and sister were alive.
They say life is just like a roller-coaster with unpredictable ups and downs in it but it’s your choice to scream or enjoy the ride. I’m enjoying my days. At this point, I believe that I’m here because of a tough decision I took six years ago. If I had given up my struggle for education, I would have been still battling with poverty. Life is not always kind, but you have the power to fight through those hard times to make it to the better times.
This is the story of Hasan Dastgeer
Hasan is among many people who fought his battle on his own, without anyone’s aid. He became a breadwinner of the house at a very young age following the loss of his father. He had two choices; either he could quit the study and blame his fate, or he could continue studying along fighting his battle against poverty. Because of the intricate decision he took six years ago, he has won his battle. Currently, he is working as a database administrator and enjoying a peaceful life with his family.
This story first touched our hearts on April 4, 2020.
| Writer: Afifa Sarwar | Editor: Kristen Petronio |