Globetrotter Iffat Basrai has finally settled in Karachi after being away for 18 years and living in a total of 8 countries. She has moved many homes over this period and had 3 children in the process. Currently, she is working at the Karachi Grammar School as the Continued Professional Development convenor, which, in simpler terms, means a teachers’ trainer.
Although living abroad can be an adventure and can teach you various different skills, it comes with its challenges. The key is to look at the positives and to continue to learn from each experience life has to offer, just as Iffat has. “I’ve relocated a lot. It has taught me how to be resilient and self reliant. When you are globetrotting, you adjust very easily as you go and that has been my forte. It has added to my interpersonal skills as I am able to understand people a little better and can empathize more. It’s unsettling, physically draining and stressful. Children keep moving schools. You have to get the kitchen started; you have to get kids settled. However, children who move around blend easily and become citizens of the world. I try to look at life positively and wouldn’t change anything,” says Iffat.
Iffat believes that where it is good to have your own bank balance as a woman, it is not the road to freedom. The key to emotional stability is to foster good relationships. That gives a woman more security and whether or not she chooses to work is a matter of choice. “Women who work to support their families may have a different opinion but my husband has never made me feel that I need to work in order to enjoy myself. I have been fortunate that way. We have always had a joint bank account and a very balanced relationship,” proclaims Iffat. She adds that “People always say a woman should learn to put herself first but why isn’t the same said about a man? This must not be a gender specific suggestion; it should apply to men too. We all need ‘me’ time and I get mine after putting the kids to bed.” There have been times when Iffat has been absolutely shattered and barefooted, sorting out boxes and feeling tired while moving but she doesn’t view constant changes in her life as road blocks. Everything is precisely about give and take. “I have always received more than I have given,” she says.
The very positive and optimistic Iffat has had her fair share of weak moments too in terms of her career. “I used to work for Unilever and then subsequently moved to banking. Then I made a career change to teaching and I did that when I was working abroad. There were moments when I was made to feel that I need to change my style of teaching. In Pakistan, we are too used to didactic style of teaching. Yes, that was my moment of weakness because there came a point I didn’t know how to proceed forward, what sort of changes to make. But by talking to the right people and with some reflection, I was able to overcome it. I learnt how to be open, to get rid of my ego and deal with criticism positively. And that has allowed me to improve.”
As far as her Miracle Moment is concerned, Iffat believes it to be the time when she overcame her stage fright. “I was a very shy reader. I would never raise my hand whenever a teacher asked us to read. But, as a teacher, you have to be very well versed with public speaking. The first time I went on stage as a master of ceremony and was able to speak in front of so many people, that was my Miracle Moment,” recalls Iffat with pride.
Iffat Basrai’s journey is surely an inspiration for all those women who relocate from their native cities for the sake of their husband’s careers. She shows how, by not choosing to be a mere ‘trailing spouse’, a woman must strive to stay positive, rediscover herself as life turns its pages and not to lose her own identity for her husband and children. A woman can successfully fulfill all her duties as a mother and a wife without sacrificing but her roles should never hinder the greater need to be recognized and if she is determined enough, she can allow herself to blossom and bloom along the way.