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Kith & Kin

Kith & Kin

Issue 2 Nov / Dec 2003

Maqsoon Bhatti 

I arrived in the UK in 1966 following the end of the India-Pakistan war of 1965. I remember flying straight into Glasgow airport with my father-in-law, as my husband was already in Scotland at that time. Our migration from Pakistan was for purely economic reasons and our plan was to stay in Scotland for a maximum of 3 years and then return to Pakistan with enough money to settle down and perhaps build a nice bungalow. It didn’t quiet work out that way as I’m still here 36 years later!

Nadeem was born in 1967, and I had twin girls and another daughter following that. He was always very intelligent, even as a child. I think it helped that his father and I were both teachers and we continuously encouraged him in his studies. Nadeem and I always managed to maintain a good relationship and he went to a school fairly close to home so I would walk him there every day and get involved in his schoolwork.

The early days were financially difficult and we had to rent out rooms in our house to make ends meet. We also lived with my parents-inlaw who spoke the Patwari dialect of Punjabi, which I understood very little. This was an added struggle for me as it made communication with them not at all straightforward, and if you consider that this was every day life for me, it was no easy task! I also wanted my children to be Urdu speakers so I encouraged them in this, although I think they were confused by the different languages within our home. It helped that my husband and I took them to Pakistan for a year when they were very young, as this gave us the opportunity to teach them Urdu properly.

We decided to stay in Scotland for a while longer for the sake of our children’s education, but we still intended to return. But by the time our children completed their education they were attached to this country and didn’t want to leave. So now returning to Pakistan isn’t really an option.

I had always hoped Nadeem would become a doctor. I have nephews in Pakistan who are all doctors and I wanted him to follow that tradition. My greatest fear while Nadeem was at university was that he would meet an unsuitable girl and fall in love. I always hoped that he would have an arranged marriage as I did. I was relieved that he didn’t meet anyone!

I was so very proud of him on his graduation day as any parent would be, but I do find that I have some regrets now. Nadeem has a very demanding career and he is therefore always very pre-occupied. My daughters have left home, so it is just Nadeem and I in this big house, and when he is not around it can get quite lonely.

Nothing would please me more than if Nadeem would get married soon, but he can’t seem to find the right one. I always imagined that he would follow our tradition and marry one of his relatives in Pakistan, but that isn’t for him. I do worry as he isn’t getting any younger. I hope he marries soon and settles down in Glasgow so that I can see him more often and have the company of his wife.


Nadeem Taj Bhatti 

The fondest memory I have of my childhood is the constancy provided by my mother in our home. It’s not something you think about as a child, but on reflection everything in our house operated like clockwork. To a child’s eyes it’s automatic. But of course in reality it was my mum’s daily hard work which provided that comfortable environment.

I grew up in an extended family in every sense of the word. I had three sisters, but lived in a house with 17 people! But I only have fond memories of that time. We had a simple life and weren’t too concerned with material status which made happiness easier to achieve.

I was always encouraged to do well academically. My mum also taught me Urdu and the Qur’an. I found that as I grew older, the pressure to do well in my studies increased. Being the only son and also the eldest were probably contributing factors. I attended a grammar school where I was the only Muslim student, and that was a tough time as I encountered racial prejudice. One time I had taken some of my mum’s cakes and pakora’s for the school tuck shop. All the cakes were sold but the Pakora’s remained. My teacher returned them to me in front of my entire class and told me to take my ‘curry puffs’ back. It was a very humiliating experience. That is an example of a peculiar form of condemnation that my generation had to deal with. I think our culture enjoys far greater social acceptance now.

When I started university my goals were, firstly, to complete my degree and pass my exams. Secondly, I wanted to break out of the studious geek mode and become cool. To achieve the former, I studied hard. To achieve the latter, I went out and bought a leather jacket just like Michael Jackson’s on the cover of the ‘Thriller’ album. I also had the tin-foil suits with the big shoulder pads and the flippers with no socks. Looking back, I think I WAS cool!

It was not until I reached 28 that I had the time and the money to finally start seeing the world. We didn’t go on holiday when I was growing up, we simply went to Pakistan! It was always acceptable to spend £500 on a plane ticket to Pakistan, but my parents never considered spending £150 to go to Spain.

I really wanted to change that for my mum, so I took her on holiday to Turkey and to Egypt. It was the most memorable time we have spent together. She loved every minute of the holiday, visiting the tomb of Imam Hussain, the Pyramids and all the other historic sites. My mum didn’t actually want to go at first but after we got there, she was thrilled.

We had a difficult time when my dad passed away, as he had a terminal illness and slowly deteriorated over a number of years. But amid that sadness, I did witness the most amazing commitment from my mum towards him. Perhaps that sort of dedication towards your spouse belongs only to that generation, as it seems alien to us. We are so much more transitory in our view of the world and our ability to care for others is not as selfless. That experience made me realise how important the extended family and its support network is, and it must be safeguarded with a passion. I regret not having had the chance to do more for my dad and I want to make sure that I don’t have that same regret with my mum.

My next aspiration is to marry. Marriage is a part of Islam and necessary for a balanced lifestyle. I regret not considering it a lot earlier, but with my studies and then my father’s illness, there has never been the time. I hope that I do meet the right girl, and quickly. That will really please my mum!

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