Bittersweet in Slip-Ons
Looking to break free from the limits of Pakistani society, Anam Kidwal accepts a proposal from a man in Canada. She arrives in black slip-on sneakers she plans to replace with Sketchers. Years and two daughters later, she can buy them. Her old slip-on sneakers are reserved for her mother to wear when she visits. They are a connection to the family and friends she will always miss.
My slip-on sneakers are an elegant black with a touch of dark pink. I bought them in Pakistan for my trip to Canada. They were comfortable to walk in and easy to take off during the long flight.
“I’ll buy Skechers in Toronto,” I thought.
Born into a male chauvinistic society, I felt a lot of limitations because of my gender. While men could be out late at night, this was unimaginable for most girls unless escorted by a male relative or friend. I didn’t have a brother, so naturally, I felt I needed a husband to overcome those challenges.
Girls in our culture were expected to get married early. Yet there I was, 28 years old and still unmarried.
I had a good job and felt rather empowered, but my father was more confident with his daughters living abroad by themselves than letting them walk alone in their own neighbourhood. When I applied for Canadian immigration in 2014, I was looking to break free from the expectations set out by Pakistani society, its evils and the shackles of its culture.
While I was waiting for my immigration application to be processed, I received a wedding proposal from my distant cousin, Nomair, who was settled in Canada. Nomair and I had never met. After our first phone conversation in January 2015, we felt suited for each other and wanted to give a relationship a shot.
Just after six months of engagement, Nomair and I got married on the 25th of July, 2015. I flew to Canada five days later. The idea of living in Canada got more exciting. I would go out late at night, enjoy long conversations, and even travel the world with my husband.
Two days after I landed in Toronto, my husband came home from work at lunchtime. The next morning, he said, “I am taking off a week from work.”
I found that odd.
Sitting on the green loveseat in our newly decorated condo, I asked, “Nomair, have you lost your job?”
“Yes,” he said, looking down. Surprisingly, I took the news well. We had savings and no major responsibilities.
When I signed my landing papers for permanent residency two and half months later, Nomair was still unemployed, and I was pregnant. Shopping was the last thing on my mind. My Skechers would wait.
During those long summer days, Nomair dragged me out of bed for strolls. My legs would refuse to carry me. Still, I would slip on the black sneakers and walk four kilometres each way to the nearest Tim Hortons. I hated the walk. Nonetheless, those excursions lifted my spirits.
Sitting in Tim Hortons then, I couldn’t imagine that four years later, I would be settled in beautiful Nova Scotia, living in a luxury apartment with two lovely daughters to cherish.
I even bought a pair of Skechers, as I had promised myself.
Yet, a part of me today feels empty and unfulfilled.
I think of my father. He migrated from India to Pakistan four decades ago, and he was the one who urged me to immigrate. Yet all his life, he ached for his mother and regretted missing weddings and funerals. Although my immigration journey had been more favourable than his, I also missed my family and friends.
The two times my mother visited me here, she wore my black slip-on sneakers.
“I am going to give away those old shoes,” I told her one day.
“Why!” she replied. “They’re comfortable. I’ll wear them when I visit you next.”
My black sneakers wait for my mom’s feet to slip into them again.
ANAM KIDWAI came to Canada in 2015 from Pakistan as a skilled worker and later moved to Halifax with her husband. She has two beautiful daughters. Her first love is tea and good company. She is currently aspiring to learn new skills and have new hobbies.