The Ships of an FOB
By Ayesha Nadiadwala
It was a couple weeks after I entered the US that I heard the term ‘FOB’ from my American cousins. The term ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ is interestingly coined because most immigrants fly into America. Of course venturing out in a whole new world of different culture, language, food, and - most of all - people is one life-turning experience. And a born and raised Pakistani demands some of the most difficult changes to personality to adapt to the Western world.
The transformation of an FOB is a very interesting journey. Whether he's a 50-year-old man or a seven- year-old girl, each faces the challenges of paddling from the shallow waters of a collective society of the East to the open ocean of individualism. American society is designed to unleash your individual potential as they say “it is the land of opportunities.” The “American dream” takes over your sleep at night following the day a visa stamp appears in the dark green passport. In all this excitement of green $$$ signs, meeting Mickey mouse at Disneyland, and speaking English with pretty white faces, one forgets to calculate the emotional price that comes with the ticket to America.
Unlike America, a bud in the soil of Pakistan has many gardeners looking after its nourishment and growth into a beautiful flower. The family dinners extend over to grandparents and the families of uncles and aunts. Boys get together in the streets to hoot out on the passing group of young girls. The girls add to the spice in fruit chaats as they talk about the TV dramas at the food stalls. Kids giggle in their secret hiding places with their crime partners after being admonished by the moms for their silly shenanigans. At night everyone comes together for a memorable discussion of Dadi’s childhood stories over some meetha. Ramadan becomes even more flavorful with its own fancy iftars and late night suhoors. The bigger the iftar table, the closely bonded are the relationships, and the more spiritual is the experience.
On the other hand, America offers a different kind of spirituality. The independent environment, free of pure bondage and close relationships, brings you closer to the one and only sustainer: Allah. Fortunately or unfortunately, you can have a lot of friends here but no best friends. What once used to be a joint family dinner every night is broken down to a weekend meal once a week. In your pursuit of happiness, you slowly realize that if there is anyone who will care for you or your family, it can only be Allah. At this point, an FOB comes out of his/her boat, burns the ships and breathes heavy at the Western shores.
To all the FOBs, and I am proud to be one, as you find out your true potential away from your home country: once in a while, turn around and appreciate the ocean, thank the challenging waves, and don’t forget to love the relationships that have made you come this far.