George Floyd’s murder brought to the surface both the inhumanity of racial violence and how the false ideology of race has shaped the world we live. Floyd’s death became a tipping point in my life, forcing me to reckon with the belief that raising my children in Patagonia is the best thing for them. 

Even before Floyd’s death we had always planned to return to Pakistan. I often worried about how I would fulfill my duty as a Muslim parent to teach my children Islam in a community that had no other practicing Muslims. I would worry how my children as they got older would be treated with their Muslim names and their mixed race heritage in a culture dominated by Whiteness. I worried that my children would resent me for being the reason that they are different from their peers. 

Then I would comfort myself with the open, beautiful lush desert that we are blessed to live in, the friendships that I had made and my work at the PRT. I’d comfort myself by saying God must want me here because life in Patagonia had fallen into place so easily. 

COVID-19 has brought a magnifying glass into many of our lives and for me the ugliest part of what it has revealed is the enduring systemic racism in American society. For the foreseeable future my children will be the only Pakistani and Muslim kids in this community. Pre-COVID I could convince myself that long summer trips in Pakistan would ground them enough in both cultures. But Floyd’s death and the subsequent uprising has opened up a pandora’s box of unresolved racial trauma. I spent many a sleepless night after seeing some of my peers post racist videos and comments on Facebook. I knew that the little space I had carved for myself in Patagonia had gotten even smaller. 

I grew up in Karachi in a bubble of economic and religious privilege unaware of the forces that had shaped my world. But even as a rich person in a poor ex-British colony our lives were immersed with a matter-of-fact belief that the West is better and that White is better than Brown. White is prettier, smarter and more coveted than Brown. In our society all people were coded by the fairness or darkness of their skin. And yes, Black was the worst. Even Brown people are taught to be anti-Black. As the only daughter to a light skinned Pakistani with green eyes I was constantly reminded that my tan color, my brown eyes and my big hair must be a disappointment for my mother. As a young child and teenager I didn’t understand why my mother’s whiter skin was preferred. I just accepted it as a truth. 

Until I started studying social justice and diversity in my Masters of Social Work at the University of Toronto I had never considered the weight of my privileges or the pain of my oppression. I started uncovering the story of India before colonization and obsessed about the events leading up to the partition of India into two countries. I couldn’t believe how little I had been taught about British rule. I learned as an adult about the violence that allowed the British to control millions of people. I learned of the segregated societies the British created in their colonies, the ways that they employed divide and rule to sow discord between Muslims and Hindus in India, and the amount of material wealth they looted. I learned of the thousands of Indians they forcibly migrated to other British colonies around the world and the thousands of Indians who had to fight in the British Army in both the first and second World Wars. I learned of how racism was used to justify oppression, violence, genocide and how the world we know today was shaped by racist ideology.

When I moved back to Karachi in 2009 I promised myself that I would never move back to the West. I had my family, I had lifelong friends, I made amazing new friends, and started teaching social sciences at a university and teaching yoga. In 2010 I became a committed Muslim and in 2011 I met my spiritual guide Shaykh Muhammad Harun, a German who had embraced Islam in the 1970’s. In 2013 I began the first-ever yoga retreats in the northern areas of Pakistan. 

I could have never predicted the course my life would take in 2014 after meeting an American paraglider by chance in northern Pakistan. Against my own promise I agreed to move to the U.S. in 2016 with the hope that we could create a home for our growing family.

But now, with all the world turned upside down because of the pandemic the future seems both uncertain and clear to me. I want to be in Pakistan where I feel I belong. I want to be with my most cherished and loved ones. I want my boys to have the utmost pride in their names, in their rich Pakistani and Muslim heritage, and in their mother’s dreams for being of service to her people.