Khalid Rashid Sager
Canterbury's People: Khalid Rashid Sager lives in Wiley Park with his children and has established an alternative medicine practice in Bankstown. The proximity of the Lakemba Mosque and of a growing community of Pakistanis in the area makes him feel at home in Canterbury.
Childhood in Lahore, Pakistan
Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1953, Khalid was the oldest of 6 children. He lived with his mother Mumtaz, his father Abdul Rashid and his siblings in a small house in central Lahore, and even though his father worked as a typewriter mechanic, the family struggled to survive.
Khalid loved school and learning in general and was totally engrossed in his schoolwork at the English Medium School. He attended this school up to Year Six, excelling in the study of the English language.
When Khalid was about to go to high school, his father decided to send him to the Government Pilot School in the mistaken understanding that it would prepare him for a career as a pilot. It was in fact a pilot project school that focused on the study of Urdu rather than English. The general disruption to his education affected his success at school at this stage. At the end of Year 10 Khalid left school to help support his family.
Work and study
Khalid found work with a commercial art firm, which painted the hoardings for Hollywood films. Khalid had always shown a talent for painting and drawing and was keen to learn this new trade. But it became obvious, after a couple of months cleaning old hoardings, that his apprenticeship would be a long one and would have very little to do with art.
When Khalid left this job in 1970 his father, drained by the struggle to support his family, berated Khalid for his rash action. He decided that Khalid would have a better chance of finding employment in Karachi (the largest city in Pakistan), where he was sent to live with his uncle. He found work as a receptionist at a government office.
Away from the restrictions and expectations of his family, Khalid gained more confidence in his own ability and took on study at evening college, where he prepared for the equivalent of his HSC exams. He was extremely busy at this time, for as well as full time work and study he had to help his uncle and the family with household chores.
"I was rewarded when in 1974 I graduated as one of the top seven students at the evening college. My uncle was very happy with me and gave me the opportunity to sit an exam for a job at the bank where he worked. I passed the exam and started work as a clerk. Working in a bank in Pakistan has always been quite prestigious."
This was a happy time in Khalid's life. He felt for the first time in many years that he was making his mark on the world. He had a job that was well paid so that he was no longer a drain on his family's precarious financial resources.
Khalid was keen to pursue his passion for learning languages. Since childhood he had found learning languages easy. At home he spoke four different languages, Saraiki with his mother, Urdu with his father, English with his grandfather and Punjabi with his siblings and neighbours. Now in Karachi he extended his repertoire, taking courses in Arabic, Turkish and Persian.
Khalid did not limit himself to the study of languages.
"On a typical day I would get up at 6am to start work at 9am. At 1.30pm I would leave the bank and go to study Turkish. After that I would go to my photography lesson, back to work and then at 10pm I would return home and often coach one of my uncles who was studying for his HSC exams. I was also a member of four libraries and would find time to keep up with my reading. I always had to be doing something."
Migration to Qatar
In the year 1972, in order to better support his family, Khalid's father took a job in Qatar, a small Arab Emirate adjacent to Saudi Arabia. Four years later Khalid joined his father, and he found a very well paid job with a bank. A portion of the wages Khalid and his father earned was sent back to support the family in Pakistan – much of the money went towards his two sisters' marriage dowries.
Once he and his father felt settled, Khalid pestered his father to arrange his marriage. His father did so and Khalid was married in April 1978 in Pakistan. He then returned to Qatar and applied for a visa for his wife Kabassan to join him there. She was allowed to settle in Qatar in January 1979. Over the next sixteen years the couple had seven children.
Life in Qatar was very different from life in Pakistan. Khalid and his family were financially better off than their peers in Pakistan and the constraints of the climate meant that their lifestyle was quite different. Because of the intense heat, businesses closed early. Everyone lived in air-conditioned interiors until the evening breeze began to pick up, when Khalid and his family and neighbours would walk on the beach to catch the cool air.
Khalid remained committed to education and the acquisition of knowledge during his stay in Qatar. He continued to study Arabic and also achieved a Bachelor and Masters degree in English literature from the University of Lahore. He then pursued a Masters degree and then a PhD in Alternative Medicine from the University of Sri Lanka.
Migration to Australia
The question of home, of finding the place where one belongs, is a perplexing one for expatriate workers such as Khalid.
"Working in another country has a big disadvantage… when you finish your work in the foreign country and return home, you feel as if you do not belong any more … ."
This concern became pressing for Khalid and his family in the early 1990s. Salaries were being decreased and the overall situation in Qatar was changing. Should the family stay in Qatar, or should his wife and children return to Pakistan? Should they all return to Pakistan? Khalid could not bear the thought of being separated from his family and so, in search of a better life, he applied to migrate to Australia in 1991. In 1994 he visited Sydney and was convinced he had made the right decision. In 1995, with migration visas and approval for Khalid to work as an acupuncturist, the family arrived in Sydney.
Given his skill with languages, especially Arabic, Khalid was hopeful of finding a position as an interpreter, but this required extra qualifications. Eventually he decided to move to Wiley Park and set up a business in Bankstown to use the skills gained through years of study.
Khalid's children attended local schools and because they had been educated in English in Qatar, they found the transition to school in Australia easy. His eldest sons have now gone on to work and tertiary study. His two eldest daughters married soon after finishing school. Khalid had hoped they could continue with their studies but at that time his wife became seriously ill and desperately needed to see her daughters settled. Sadly Khalid's wife died in 2001.
The two youngest Sager boys are still at school and attend Wiley Park Public School and Punchbowl Boys High School. Khalid is involved in both school's Parents and Citizens Associations and has contributed to organising International Days and other school activities.
Living in two cultures
There have been some difficulties establishing his family in Australia, with a few adjustments to make to the new culture. In general Khalid has found Australians to be aware and respectful of his beliefs and practises as a Muslim. It is in more subtle areas that conflict arises.
The children in particular find themselves between two cultures. They expect to live as young Australians but must also respect and behave appropriately in their Pakistani culture. Some issues can be negotiated, such as dress codes. When his daughters were teenagers, Khalid respected their need to wear contemporary fashions but he also made sure that they dressed modestly. His parents did not understand his liberal attitude on this issue:
"When I first sent photos of the family back to my parents in Pakistan, my mother did not respond for a long time, she was shocked that I allowed my girls to wear western dresses."
There are other issues confronting his children where Khalid feels he cannot compromise. The question of entering boyfriend-girlfriend relationships in the way of young Australian people is something that Khalid cannot approve for his children.
Making a new life
Since the death of his wife, Khalid has had to guide his family through the process of settling into a new culture on his own. It is a difficult task that at times leaves him very homesick for Pakistan and his parents. At his darkest times Khalid wonders if it has been a mistake to establish his family so far from his homeland. At other times, when he notes all he has achieved in the last eight years, Khalid is happy with his life in Sydney.
At the age of 50 years Khalid has established a new business and career in his adopted country and has made many valuable contributions to his community. He takes great pleasure from his voluntary work as a producer and announcer with the Pakistani Community Radio. He also produces an Urdu/English newspaper, which provides information and resources for his community.
It is through these activities that Khalid feels he is carving a place in his new home. His passion for learning has extended to computing and communications technology. Khalid has made his home here in Canterbury and is happily facing the challenges and joys that the next years will bring.