By Aleena Khalid
“Not all those who wander are lost” a very strong quote by J.R.R. Tolkien was once said and to think of it, it has deep sentiments behind it. When we think of Ethnic Minorities in a specific country, it is easy to imagine them as people who do not have any roof above their heads, clothes on their bodies and food on their plates. The mere thought of these groups prompt us to think about their poor living conditions, their financial instabilities and their socially appalling reputations. Does that mean they are no better than financially stable families and individuals? Does that also mean that they have no right to free speech or the right to live their lives like other citizens? In today’s modern world, society has shaped our thinking process such that people with deep pockets are supposed to be respected and held in high regard. On the contrary it reckons us to place these minorities at the lowest level of the social hierarchy. What does this mean? In simple words, it means we are categorizing humans based on their fortunes whereby the unfortunate are degraded, humiliated and looked down upon. By joining The Wandering Voice program, I intended to look into the lives of these ethnic minorities and spend a day in their lives and walk in their shoes. What I found out was the complete opposite of how we think about these minorities. Although, it is a fact that they live in congested places where there is higher levels of pollution and their living spaces tend to be confined to a few square meters but the fact that they are leading their lives just like any other 'normal' citizens was a surprise and a sigh of relief for me. The Wandering Voice allowed me to meet a Kashmiri Pakistani family living in To Kwa Wan, Kowloon. My initial thoughts, while I was in the mtr with a bag of goodies for the family, were related to their living conditions and day to day social issues. Once I reached their apartment I was greeted by the lady of the family, Asfa, with an amazingly wide, familial and cheery smile. The couple of hours that I spent there were full of Asfa showering me with love and giving me tips and advices regarding my studies, day to day life, myself and my future. It nearly felt like I had known her for ages and I had just been reunited with her. Her affection for me was clear when I announced my cue to leave for my university and she efficiently packed a three course meal for me to take back. My trip to her apartment wasn’t just to visit a family or to spend my planless day there but I also tried to learn about her life here and compare it to the life back in Pakistan as I am also from Pakistan. What I observed was that her eleven year old son was playing games and finishing off his homework on time and having a behavior very much similar to eleven year old boys back in Pakistan. At the same time, Asfa was cooking, talking, advising me, serving me with tons of food, handling her phone calls in a totally similar fashion as to that of my own mother and aunties. After learning about her past I found out that she had moved here after she got married and since then she has learned Cantonese so that she can effectively communicate with the locals. She also teaches her mother tongue Urdu here in Hong Kong to social workers and volunteers who work with Pakistani communities. Furthermore, she has taken up social assistance responsibilities for women facing immigration issues. She is not only assisting and helping out Pakistani communities but Indian and other communities as well. As she said and I quote, "I am truly blessed to live here in Hong Kong with all the facilities that the HKSAR government have provided for me". Based on this family, as an example of ethnic minorities, one does not simply change their perception regarding these communities because there are other families out there as well but the significance behind my visit and encounter relays that they are exactly like the normal affluent families in Hong Kong. They have all the similar facilities and jobs being offered to them as the well off families in Hong Kong. It has widely changed my perception about ethnic minorities because after all, they lead a very normal and comfortable life here in Hong Kong considering themselves as Hong Kongers and loving this city as it is also their own.