Today I popped into my local Asian supermarket to pick up some milk and chillies , and found Zaheer packing all his worldly possessions into boxes ready to ship them back to Pakistan.
After living here for ten years, Zaheer has just had his visa application turned down and he has to leave the country.
I wanted to take a selfie with him and use his real name for this post but these are dangerous times we live in. I don’t want to bring any trouble to his door because ‘Zaheer’ is sweet and gentle and our community loves him. This is his story.
Zaheer describes his family in Pakistan as being lower middle class. Zaheer’s father had insisted that they could afford the £3000 a year student fees for Zaheer to gain his PhD in Business Studies in England. They chose a college – the Oxford School of Business – and Zaheer began his studies.
“The name sounded fancy but it turned out that the college was not registered. I lost my £3000 when the college was found to be fraudulent and not accredited. I worked and I saved some more money to go to another, accredited college and my father insisted on helping me with some additional money for the fees. For one year it was £10,000. ”
And then Zaheer’s little sister died and things got really tough for them. The family couldn’t afford to help Zaheer anymore so he got himself a job and worked his backside off here., hoping to return to college when he had saved enough money for the next two years.
But he never managed to save the £30,000 he needed to go back to college and get his qualifications. He continued working and sending money home when he could. Soon this country and this town began to feel like home.
The Pakistani community here adopted him. He had so many ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ (as the community respectfully call their elders) because he was just bloody lovely. He was a kind and gentle and beautiful presence.
There will be a big sadness in my heart every time I’m shopping at the Zaheer store from now on. I just hope that fate was calling him home to Pakistan and it was the right time to be re-united with his family. But borders. Really. Who needs them?