He would control what we ate, he would control how we dressed, he would control who cooked, what we cooked, when we slept, how long we slept for and what type of friends we had.
Once upon a time there was a little girl, and all that little wanted was to be happy. She wanted to be with her parents, she wanted to be with her sisters and her brother. She wanted to go to school, and she wanted to play, and she wanted to study. She had hopes and she had dreams. As she grew older she realised that that dream was going to be a dream.
That little girl is me.
How many of us have had that dream as young girls or as young kids, to have a happy family, to grow old with our family, to always have the support of our family? Just to give you a little bit of background information. My sisters and I came to New Zealand when I was 13. We came with our dad because he wanted to give us a better life in NZ. He said that New Zealand was a land of opportunities and that we can grow here and we can educate ourselves here. It was devastating to leave our mother, our sister and brother behind. But we came here for the sake of studying. We have never lived with our dad before then. He used to come to Pakistan once every one or two years and spend a couple of weeks with us. We didn’t really know this man. When we got here, we were sad but we were excited because we were going study here and be someone. And then we started to realise that there was something wrong with this man that we called Dad because he was very controlling. He would control what we ate, he would control how we dressed, he would control who cooked, what we cooked, when we slept, how long we slept for and what type of friends we had. The only thing he didn’t control was what we studied and that was fine with us.
Things started to change when one day he said to us, “I’m going to send all four of you back to Pakistan so you can get married.” That was okay with us, we were happy that we were going to see our mum. But then he also said, that “You would go to Pakistan, get married, but never see your mum and never study again.” That was the hard part - deciding whether we wanted to stay with our dad, go back to Pakistan or leave him. But we really didn’t have a choice, because we knew we couldn’t stay with him or go back to Pakistan where we couldn’t see our mum, couldn’t study, and get married at a young age.
The hard part was the planning. The hard part was the organising of trying to leave him. The hard part was getting in touch with our guidance counsellor in the high school, and then getting in touch with Shakti. The hard part was saying yes, we don’t want to go back to him. The hard part lasted two weeks to a month. Then came the harder part, and the harder part was trying to make a life once we left him. We were really young at that time, I think I was barely 16. The harder part was realising that we had no family that would support us including our mother. The harder part lasted a year because in that year we were still studying.
I think the hardest part of our life was when we were studying and everything was okay; when we had time to think, we had thought about everything we had gone through in such a short span of time, that was the hardest ten years of our life. In that ten years, we were depressed. In that ten years, we tried to commit suicide. In that ten years, I was kicked out of the university because I was failing papers. In that ten years, I lost all my friends from high school and in the university. Because imagine if you’re speaking with your friends and they say, “My mum isn’t paying me $200 dollars to get a haircut” and I was struggling here to pay rent or even eat food. Those were the hardest ten years of our lives because we sisters stopped speaking with each other, because we didn’t know how to deal with this.
In short, we had lost everything. In those ten years, every time I took a step forward, I had to take two steps back. The thing is the pain will always be there, but from pain we draw inspiration. For example, my sister and I we made two videos. And they are both talking about suicide and depression. One of them was made in 2012, and one of them was made in 2015.
We draw inspiration. My Masters is based on increasing social connections for young ethnic women who have been through domestic violence. My sister is doing sociology, because she is passionate about depression and suicide. All four of us sisters are working full-time now and studying, and we are supporting our brother, sister and mother in Pakistan because we want to give them the life we never had. We also run a philosophy club which called the Socrates club, and that deals with issues in life. We just sit around with a lot of people and discuss stuff. I think what we realise from all of this is that my sisters and I will never have a normal life, but we know one thing for sure and that is, you know, we will have the best life that we can.