Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How was family life growing up for you?
Nisar Ahmad: After migrating to Pakistan due to civil war in Afghanistan, life was hard for all Afghans in general. My father started working for an NGO far from our home, and would come only once a week. My mother took care of me and my other siblings. Life became very hard when my mom passed away when I was about 9 years old. My father working far away from home and with no mother, my older siblings were taking care of me. My father couldn’t find a job nearby, and it was hard for Afghans to find jobs. So he had no option. We couldn’t move to the place he worked because the city we lived in was cheaper. It was really hard to grow up like that. Though everyone was showing love and care to me, I felt like being pitied. I felt inferior and eager for real love and care, and not just receiving care and love for not having a mother. I felt lonely and started to avoid people even from childhood. I went to school in Pakistan, and due to being reserved, I passed my time reading books. So I was a bright introvert student since my childhood. I remained topper in almost all years of my academic life.
Jacobsen: What has been the impact of war and displacement for you?
Ahmad: I was born in war. Like literally in war, in falling RPGs and bullets! So the effect of war is in my sub-conscious whether I like it or not. We lived in Pakistan as refugees far from our home and place of birth. I never felt at home at any time of my life. In Pakistan showing the identity as an Afghan meant inviting many kinds of hate, racism and discrimination. I felt like I had done a sin that was unforgivable. Being displaced meant that I lacked something very important that would make me human.
Jacobsen: How has education been a consistent story for you? Something stable in spite of all the instability?
Ahmad: As explained in the first paragraph, I felt very lonely and started avoiding people. Though I studied in government schools in Pakistan where the education standard is negligible, I was taking interest in every book that I came across. I read books, watched TV and kind of self-educate myself. As a refugee, I was a hard worker like other refugees. The difference was, they started selling shopping bags in the bazaar, and became good business people with time, and I put my efforts in academia.
Jacobsen: How did you come to meet Rzgar Hama?
Ahmad: When I lived in the shelter, near Vancouver Public Library in downtown Vancouver, I saw an advertisement on the library notice board while searching for job vacancies. It was about storytelling. So it attracted my interest and I emailed Rzgar.
Jacobsen: Why did you accept to take part in “My Home is a Suitcase”?
Ahmad: I took interest in “My Home is a Suitcase” because I wanted my story to be heard as my story is the story of millions of refugees that the world doesn’t know about. At first, telling my story, I felt like I was self-pitying, but then it became a goal of my life to raising my voice for all the refugees in the world.
Jacobsen: Thanks so much, Nisar.