When Irfan Haque emigrated from Pakistan in 2000, he knew he wouldn’t be going back. For someone from Haque’s culture, there’s no question — you live where your children are.
“In old age, I have to be here,” Haque says.
His younger daughter works at MU, and his other two children are on the East Coast.
“Where I come from, your parents take care of you, and (then) it’s your time to take care of them,” says his son, Talha Haque.
Until then, Haque is making a home for himself in Columbia. As a cashier at Brady Commons food court, he sees a lot of the same students and faculty every day. He knows many of them by name and almost all of them by face.
Toward the middle of the semester, Haque was in the hospital for three days with shoulder pain. When he returned, people kept asking where he had been and whether he was all right.
The connection goes both ways. Haque keeps up with the lives of many of his “regulars.”
He started traveling to the United States in 1989 when some of his family moved here from Pakistan. He hadn’t planned on making a permanent move, however.
His plans began to change in 1992 when his children started to move to the United States. His older daughter, who now lives in West Virginia, moved first. His son and younger daughter eventually moved as well, in order to attend MU.
“They also wanted me to be here to support them financially,” he says, shaking his head and smiling.
He speaks proudly about his children. His son graduated from MU in May with “lots of cum laudes,” Haque says, waving his hands to illustrate the enormity of the achievement.
For Haque, his children’s accomplishments have become more important than his own.
In Pakistan, Haque worked at a bank for almost 29 years. Yet when he came to the United States, it was difficult to find a job, he says.
After two months of searching, Haque found two jobs with MU. He now splits his time between an office job and the cashier position.
A customer in the food court diverts her path to make sure she ends up at Haque’s booth, and they briefly catch up on how each is doing.
He says those relationships help him feel comfortable in America.
“It’s two different worlds,” he says.
Most of his family is in the United States, but some of Haque’s family is still in Pakistan. Even though he won’t move back, he visits every July for the entire month. He misses his family and his homeland occasionally, but he says he’s adjusted well.
“I like it, nice place. I feel at home.”
Do you know someone who would make a good Portrait? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.