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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kanwal Rahman, July 15, 1999. Interview K-0817. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Distance from family is hard for an immigrant

Rahman describes one of the most significant difficulties of her immigrant experience: the distance from her family. She has not adjusted to her separation from her family, particularly her father.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kanwal Rahman, July 15, 1999. Interview K-0817. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I'd like to ask you a little bit now about your family and your community back home, and if you could talk a little, share a little bit about that and, er. . . how you keep in touch with them, how you feel about the fact that you've been here all this time, and they're back there and, sort of, how have you, how have you struggled with that and, sort of, reached a—.
KANWAL RAHMAN:
Reached a—.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
A level of acceptance in your mind that this is okay, this is how you want it to be.
KANWAL RAHMAN:
Well, let's say that, Oh, I come from a family of five sisters and no brothers. In an Asian culture where, usually brothers are, are an important part of the family and not having a male member in the family, the only role model we ever saw was dad. And my dad was a very different kind of a person. He wasn't a nine-to-five worker. He wasn't an engineer, he wasn't a doctor, he was—. He was a very prominent movie star, actor, director, producer, and writer. But a person who was also physically handicapped. Being such a person's daughter, being part of all that, and also, being, trying to grow up as a, you know, as my mother would say, grow up like everybody else, go to school, excel in studies, and focus only on studies, and nothing creative! Ahm. . . I think we tried to manage to do all that and, motivation was, everyone's going out to do higher studies. Well, so I came for higher studies for that. But, ahm. . ... as you were saying that, ahm. . . staying away eight years—which of course was my personal decision. They, they wanted me to come back. How I have managed to accept that, being away from them eight years, not being able to go home—. The only way I can communicate with them is a, through the telephone, which I do about once a month and, er. . . that takes some of the edge off the craving to hear their voices and, er. . . to tell you the truth, I don't think I have ever really accepted the fact that I have, I have spent eight years away from my family, because in our culture family means a lot and, er. . . because my father had, had two strokes since then. I just felt that I have spent valuable time away from him and not been of service for him. And these are the issues that sometimes are deep back in my mind that, er. . ... after all, all life is finite, and if, er. . .. If I don't spend some of it with my close ones when they need me, what is there—? What will I have to look back on that okay, I have done my duty, and all. That's the only issue that I have regrets over, apart from my, er.. apart from that, I'm quite adjusted to my way life that I'm living now, and, er. . .. I don't think I will ever be adjusted to the fact that I have—eight years or ten years or how many years I've spent away from them.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Yeah. I thin—. I think, that's a—, I mean, that's something I really appreciate that, that it's very rarely that one comes to terms with that sentiment. It's just something you accept as part of living here.
KANWAL RAHMAN:
That's true—.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Or living anywhere else, I guess, in another country away from your home. That it's—, ahm.. there's never that point where you say, I accept this and this is, fine with me!
KANWAL RAHMAN:
Fine with me. That never is there—.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
It's never fine. You just keep doing things that, that'll—.
KANWAL RAHMAN:
That you feel that you have to do, do what you have to do right now, but in the back of your mind there's—, something in your mind tells you that, spending time with your family, working there, and, er. . .. If anything happens to my dad—God forbid!—then I'll not have any regrets. Okay, I've spent, I did—. I was of service, and now that part is gone.