Saqib Waqar, born in 1994 in Pakistan, came to East London at the age of 12 with his grandparents to live with them, his aunt and uncle.
Saqib was born in a friendly but poor part of Lahore near Shalimar Gardens. He lived with his grandparents, parents and siblings in a modest house that was prone to flooding. His father worked for the government and over time was able to improve the house. Many of his relatives lived in the same street.
Saqib used to play in the local neighbourhood with the sheep and goats. Cricket was his favourite sport. The mosque was just two minutes away and his cousin, a qualified imam, taught him the Quran every morning. His happiest memories are of his mum calling after him to come home to eat. He loved his mum’s cooking.
Saqib came to London with his grandparents. He lived with them, his aunt and his uncle in Whitechapel. He missed his mum at first but soon thought of his aunt and uncle as his new parents. He thought London was a different world – so much more organised than Lahore. He went to Bethnal Green Technology College. It was difficult at first as he got bullied for being the only Pakistani in a mainly Bengali school. He got into fights and, if he had not sorted himself out, would have had to leave. He loved sport and art and went to the local adventure playground where he enjoyed football, biking and canoeing. He went onto John Cass Sixth Form where he did well in business and finance. He loved college even more than school and had a close knit group of friends from different backgrounds – Sikh, Nigerian and Bengali who introduced him to different festivals such as Diwali.
Aged 21 he married a young woman of Bangladeshi origin from Bradford whom he met through a friend. He works as a hairdresser in Mile End, a skill he learnt on the job as something to do to keep him out of trouble after school.
He has no wish to return to Pakistan.
“I wouldn’t know what to do back home. Here I know what I want to do, where I need to go and how to do it, so I’m better off here than there. “