A Love Affair with London - 5 years in the UK

Let's take you down memory lane when I was in grade 7 and when wanting to go to England became my obsession. A 12-year south-Asian girl dreaming big. I belonged to a middle-class family who was just living in a hand-to-mouth situation. Luxuries were very very rare but life was comfortable.

Fast forward to a decade, moving to London has always struck a chord with me. The thrill of living in a new city trying to grasp the culture and the history that destroyed my homeland. I felt like a hypocrite yet I felt at home instantly.


I moved to London right after I got married. My husband came back to London before me to pack up his bachelor pad and find another home for us and our growing family. Arriving in London, the memory of it is still etched in my memory. The wait, the strangers helping around (a far cry from today) and scanning the crowd for that one familiar face.

I was 13 weeks pregnant. The drive home from the airport was blurry but I still remember that one junction from that day. Nothing special but that moment, I felt alone even though my husband was right beside me. I was shattered from the journey and yet I wanted to keep my eyes open to take it all in.

It took me quite a while to settle down. To embrace motherhood, a fairly new relationship with my husband,  all the while trying to understand the bloody accent. I remember trying to fake a British accent in the beginning and as soon as it grew on me, I immediately preferred my Pakistani accent.

London has won me over. Completely. The walk down the tiny cobbled streets, the minding-my-own-business, I-have-to-be-somewhere pace walk, finding joy in the smallest of things, it truly and completely feels like home.

But like every love affair, there are things that don't settle for you. I haven't had the true sense of belonging here even though it still feels like home. You know, you are here yet you arent? I haven't worked here at all. In an office job. And being a SAHM I don't think I ever will but that kind of reality doesn't really settle with me. Don't get me wrong. I love being at home and be with my child and do what I love but that thrill of working a desk job will never be there.

The first two years of settling in London were absolutely lonely for me. With very very few friends and no physical family support, I fell into a rut of being left out of everything. But I am so so glad for sticking it out and making my own happy place in this city. It did take me a while to understand if its union jack or jack union, to always finding Primark to my rescue for bargain finds and Poundland to keep extorting my money from my account when I only went in for hangers and emerge out of the shop with a huge ass bag of things that I really didn't need. To know that McDonald's will never be halal and that chips and crisps are two different things. To swearing at the GPS for re-routing every time I am walking in the right direction. To journey in a bus that was going in a completely opposite direction. To have the train doors close on my face before I could even step on it. To know that British people are actually obsessed with the weather and even a little bit of sunshine mid-winter will bring them out in the park for a picnic.

I know I have grown as a person here in this city. Emotionally mentally and literally physically. And I wouldn't have been able to do that if I was still in Pakistan. And I say that with surety because I moved to Pakistan for a year in 2015 and it was the worst year of my life. Over there you can't really focus on yourself and grow as a human being. You can't seem to focus on yourself because a hundred other people are demanding your attention. I have been brave here. Been independent and been a leader. I know what my decisions will have an impact upon. I truly deeply do love my homeland but there is a different feeling here when you can challenge norms and still be accepted for who you are.

I still haven't explored London properly. Being a mother ties you down. And I don't mind that at all. There are hundreds of spots that I want to visit but I am taking my sweet time to slowly explore and fall more in love with this city. I love being the person walking in the middle of a full-blown crossing trying not to be anywhere but there.

Crowning out of busy underground station to an even busier Oxford Street to the sound of struggling musicians playing their music, to monks dancing to Bollywood music and to activitists shouting instanities at people, to people trying to handle a million shopping bags while directing themselves into another store, to the sense of relief when you walk into a quiet street right off a random procession to a picnic at Primrose Hill to the culture overload in Camden market, the floral guff in Covent Garden and the absolutely stunning arcs in Holland Park to the Insta-worthy streets of Mayfair and Kensington to the smell of curry when you enter Ilford, to the love for coffee and the sudden popping of umbrellas out of nowhere when it starts raining, there is no place I'd rather be.

But amongst all that, you will see me smile when I hear people talking in Urdu and the sight of Dum Biryani house to finding Pakola in a supermarket. But you will definitely hear me rant about not finding slims in London.