All is fair when your life and future are at stake

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Photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash

A friend is a Dean at a business school that hires a lot of international students. Gender diversity is a core focus for the school. Historically, it has been challenging to recruit women, although ethnic diversity runs rampant with lots of starry-eyed hopefuls from different countries arriving to build better lives in North America.

Although the school has made some strides in recruiting women, there is still a gap when it comes to visible minority women, notably South Asian women. I recall a similar trend from when I went to business school twelve years ago. …


Starving for weeks, wishing for cancer, coveting bones — when we lead privileged lives, we must self-sabotage

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Photo by Taylor Deas-Melesh on Unsplash

Trigger Warning: this article contains descriptions of disordered eating, and unhealthy eating disorder behaviors that may not be suitable for all readers. Fearless community, please read with care.

Throughout my life, I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with food. At an early age, I learned to eat out of boredom and to avoid negative emotions.

I was the only person I knew who could eat nine full-sized Snickers bars in the space of a half-hour — with my head buried in a book and my mind transported to another world. Because I was overweight, my mother banned me from eating potato…


It’s about who controls the purse strings

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Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

My parents visit me every year for a few months. Being retired, they migrate north to avoid the scorching Pakistani summers, and pack their bags to return when the air turns frigid. When they visit Vancouver, they stay with me and my husband in our guest bedroom.

The last time they came was in February of 2020, a couple of weeks before the pandemic hit. A year later, they haven’t left. The pandemic and the abrupt, unpredictable travel restrictions have made it difficult for them to do so. …


Identity is a funny thing

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Photo by Vinit Vispute on Unsplash

For those of us that check multiple boxes for diversity, it’s natural to ask the question — which dimension of my identity is more dominant?

In my case, am I a woman first or a visible minority first? When I am in a roomful of people, do I gravitate towards the animated throng of women or the more staid conversations of brown men? And does it even matter?

This matters because these two aspects of my identity are sometimes at odds.

White women often fail to understand intersectionality; many live in their little bubble, while oblivious to their own privilege.

Many white female leaders speak loudly and proudly about being advocates for diversity while stacking their teams with women…


Rigid religious edicts have no place in a modern world

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Photo by Masjid Pogung Dalangan on Unsplash

Growing up in Pakistan, a 98% Muslim majority country, religion permeated every aspect of my life. I was taught to recite the Quran while I learned my ABC’s, and reprimanded when I missed my morning prayer. Our Muslim faith guided every life decision, from choosing when to host a dinner party (around prayer times, of course) to whether to enroll your daughter in a co-ed school (bad idea).

And yet, I struggled to reconcile my identity with the teachings of Islam. There are many things about it that bugged me.

There is no concept of free speech in Islam.

You are not allowed to question anything that you have…


No social safety net, no immigration status, and no insurance — the story of a beleaguered migrant worker

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Photo by Mark Rabe on Unsplash

During the coronavirus pandemic, while many of us are complaining about being confined to our houses while collecting full paychecks at our cushy jobs, some people are truly struggling.

Amir is one of those people. Amir works as an accountant at an airline in Saudi Arabia. When the pandemic hit, he was exposed. As a steady worker in a state-owned enterprise in an oil-flush economy, Amir thought he was safe. Not so. When people stopped traveling and countries closed borders, Amir’s financial foundation turned into kindling overnight.

The pandemic exposed the gaping holes in his life plan and his domestic…


Faith is both a blessing and a curse

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

There is a lot that we don’t know about life.

Whether or not there is a life after death is an age-old question that has confounded us for centuries.

For religious people, it’s comforting to believe that death isn’t the end. What we do in this life matters. Death isn’t an escape from nefarious deeds done in a wayward life. Our moral compass demands that cosmic justice balance the scales in the afterlife, particularly when someone hasn’t been held accountable for their actions while they were alive.

This is part of why we fear death. Death is the doorway to a terrible unknown. Staunchly religious people usually believe themselves to…


Do your research, know your worth, and put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes

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Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Negotiating your salary is very important. But this process can be a black box. It can incite anxiety if you lack confidence in your own worth. You may fear that asking for more money will negatively impact your reputation.

However, not negotiating the right salary or rate at the outset can lead to years of being paid less than you are worth. Your annual salary increment is usually calculated as a percentage of your current pay. …


Love is inherently selfish — so why do we put it on a pedestal?

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Photo by Alex Martinez on Unsplash

In North America, we live in a selfish, individualistic culture.

The ‘American dream’ is about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, forging your own path out of poverty and insignificance, building something that emblazons your name in lights, and most of all, creating wealth. The American dream is revered by immigrants — in this land of opportunity, we too can become something. It’s entirely up to us.

The American dream embodies what individual success looks like — it is centered on one person making a name for themselves. There is a focus on materialism and the acquisition of possessions. …


It’s time women stopped making themselves small to avoid overshadowing men

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Photo by Alekon pictures on Unsplash

When my brother and sister-in-law got engaged, my mother worried that his in-laws-to-be would be turned off by his height. My brother is shorter than his now-wife.

In our society, a man that is shorter than his partner is considered weak, lesser than, and not worthy.

This trope is reinforced in various aspects of life. Shorter women that are many inches shy of their husbands’ heights boast about being able to wear heels whenever they want — as high as they want.

It’s puzzling. If their husbands were shorter, would they be condemned to a lifetime of flats in order to not upset the delicate balance between the genders?

My husband is only a couple of inches taller than…

HS Burney

Immigrant sharing stories about the beauty and beastliness of culture. I write personal stories and reflections on diversity, and women and minority experiences

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