Tune in to this episode and recieve useful tips and insider information on what it is like to be an immigrant. I explain first hand the problems that immigrants face, then I go one step further by giving proven tips and strategies that can be used by all immigrants.
I remember the image of a bare child on a road, running for his life, followed by other images of desperate families fearfully running away from their homes to unknown destinations. I remember asking my father about those images of the Vietnam War, trying to make sense of it. His only explanation: “No one can understand wars but through the experience of the victims.”
Since that moment I wanted to have a greater understanding of what war inflicts on humanity as I was quickly confronted with a conscious question, “What if a war is imposed on my country and this happened to me and my family?”
No, I thought, we are living in one of the safest and most comfortable places on earth.
And in August of 1980, there I was, running away from one of the safest spots in the world—a top tourist destination—while watching Russian soldiers take over the streets of my birthplace. I left behind a huge family, my friends, and my beloved peaceful country. It was the most distressing and horrific feeling of my life, and I was filled with anger, disappointment and betrayal.
On August 20th of 1980 I had made it to Frankfurt’s international airport and found myself standing in front of a German police desk, seeking asylum. Yes, another victim like millions of others who had nothing to do with the conflict and had no intention of leaving for unthinkable and unfamiliar territories.
While riding a bus towards Shoenick refugee camp, I realized that it wasn’t just me (an Afghan) but faces of various nationalities. I recall mutual sad expressions and feelings of disgust and anxiety. I was however more interested in talking to a fellow refugee across the aisle, who looked of Asian descent. I struck a conversation with a “Hello” and asked, “Where are you from?” I was overcome with a feeling of curiosity, recalling the image of the Vietnamese boy running from war.
“Vietnam” he indicated. I was caught with extreme emotions and sense of further frustration—what now? It had been years since the end of the Vietnam War
Thirty-five years from that moment, I would not dare to ask anyone as to why and how people leave their homelands. There is no real logic or answer for wars! The inhumane growth of arms race and waging wars has turned into a competition for victory at the expense of human lives (“collateral damage”) without regards for human rights, social justice and respect for human dignity
It is also important to remember that none of these victimized citizens have had any capability of producing armament—but natural resources such as oil, mineral and other goods. These victims have been immorally manipulated to exchange natural resources for modern weaponry and use against their own citizens throughout the course of modern history.
War advocates and profiteers have also done a very good job through propaganda by persuading the young, the innocent and needy in the name of common good, or so-called noble causes like Democracy, Liberty and “Love for the Country.”
The majority of casualties are the innocents. In World War II, 65% of the dead were civilians; in more recent decades—the Vietnam, Afghan and Iraq wars—90% of casualties have been civilian deaths. These wars have and continue to destabilize the world, while sending millions into mental despair and exile away from their homeland.
At last, wars are waged to:
Terrorize, oppress, kill, dominate, destabilize communities/countries and bring the worst in humanity. Wars do nothing but bring misery, corrupt minds and demonize.
War is a Loss of Decency.
“Once an immigrant, always an immigrant.”
I will never forget this statement once made by a single mother of three who was forced to leave her native land.
I had no time to sell off my property, plan my finances or leisurely depart from my homeland that summer in 1980, when Afghanistan became a front-line against soviet invasion.
In some cases, you have kids whose futures you lose sleep over, or your parents to take care of, and there is no other option to protect them but to leave your homeland in the hopes of finding and building a future life somewhere else. In others—you choose to protect your child from danger by sending them away, without adult protection, in hopes of seeing them find a safe haven.
Somehow, when you are far away from home and lonely—you are considered a lucky one.
You’ve arrived in a new environment without knowing anyone or the language. You can’t really go to school because you have no money, so you have to just find a job ASAP to get the money for you and your family. You want to work--but where do you start?
The words refugee/immigrant and immigration are heard and talked about in every corner of the world today. Laced with pre-conceived meaning, they are words that continue to bring new, unforeseen challenges with the arrival of every new group to a new country.
While migrations have been a part of human history for a long time, immigrants play an increasingly major role in the complex and uncertain process of overall changes taking place in the world.
The global issue of the non-voluntary movement and immigration of people is one of the most pressing and uncertain challenges facing humanity. Eruption of conflicts and wars continue to give birth to short-, medium- and long-term political, social and economic disorders around the world. As a result, increasing numbers of migrants undertake dangerous and uncertain journeys by land and sea to reach Europe and North America to escape this chaos, while these countries struggle to deal with the influx of millions—on top of enormous financial challenges at home.
Frankly, it is impossible to cease, control or prevent the movement of masses taking place around the globe.
Receiving countries like the US and Canada have done a much better job in finding effective means to facilitate a safe and dignified re-location and integration of immigrants. Canada and Australia have been particularly effective while leveraging the enormous talent, technical skills and entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants. Providing early incentives (Language classes, business/entrepreneurship, government and local state loan subsidies) has proven extremely effective in successful integration of immigrants in the last two decades.
Several other countries have failed to effectively deal with proper integration of new arrivals. This is particularly true for European countries where new arrivals spend years within segregated areas and confinements: dormitories, former military compounds, or housing units diverged from the rest of the city or remote village. Thousands of families continue to be deprived of basic schooling, job training/opportunities, and any chances for successful integration within their new environment.
The majority of immigrant children spend the important developmental years growing within compounds of unhealthy, prison-like conditions with limited access to school and advanced education. Some of these young adults continue to fall prey and join extremist groups, for little pay or out of sheer frustration and lack of opportunities to assimilate into productive members and future citizens of their host nations.
The United States and Canada continue to attract more refugees for resettlement than all other countries combined—and have done a great job in not only welcoming refugees/immigrants, but continuing to provide great opportunities for smooth integration within a new environment.
However, opportunities for many refugees and immigrants during this critical period of transformation in the United States are dwindling. This is mainly due to a lack of strict policies/comprehensive reforms combined with enormous cuts in funding of early language, schooling, and other early job skills development programs.
There are, for example, inconsistent policies governing criminal activities amongst state and federal agencies in different regions with regards to detainees; this is combined with a huge absence of public defenders and resources for rehabilitation. It is not entirely surprising that new research indicates second generation immigrants in the U.S. are more likely to commit crimes than their foreign-born parents. The main reasons are attributed to the second generations’ lack of proper education, financial stability, proper parent supervision as well as access to afterschool activities.
In light of the evolving global context of conflict and forced migration, displacement—highlighted mainly by the Middle East crisis—will continue to present new challenges in the years ahead for the European Union and North American nations.
The terrorist event of 9/11 combined with fresh attacks of political violence in European cities has created another dimension and challenge for immigration policies; this climate of fear and uncertainty has shrouded the process of stopping and distinguishing between economic, social, family integration, and the entry of extremist religious groups.
In particular, the U.S. is in dire need of establishing and coordinating efforts between the state and federal government levels in order to support each other and address the challenges of immigration, while respecting the ethnicities as a core base of interest (regardless of their number of generations from arrival) so as to be as inclusive as possible. It is a valid point and fact that ethnicities all over the world continue to feel the pull of the “American Dream.”
So how do we achieve more consistent, high-quality decision-makings for asylum seekers? How do we—a nation built from immigrants—establish a strong base for future action? I will argue Education is the first priority, followed by the establishment of uniform strategic guidelines on asylum; what’s more an increased engagement by the international community for practical cooperation, strengthening, implementation and consolidation of these existing laws.
From the terrifying moment our plane left Afghan soil and entered the Iranian airspace on August 20th, 1980, I promised myself that if I lived through the ordeal I would recount my story in a memoir and share my personal journey, experiences and impressions of an Afghanistan that is often misunderstood and discounted. My memoir is a true account of the Afghanistan I knew and recently visited again since my departure nearly 30 years ago. It is the true story of the Afghan people that has never been truly portrayed.
The Afghanistan I grew to love as a boy; its rich culture, social dignity, and proud heritage has been forever scarred and betrayed by 40 years of foreign aggression, missed opportunities and ultimately the “loss of decency.” Countless historical perspectives chronicle Afghanistan’s journey towards the 21st Century and I am neither meant to provide a historian’s perspective nor represent a political agenda. With the encouragement of friends, family, educators and respected authors I have written my memoir, which revolves around my passion for Afghanistan, my obligation to rescue as many of my family members as I could; my pursuit of a “home away from home,” as a refugee and my need for “truth” and “transformation” as I continue to watch and hear suffering and misunderstanding in and about my native land.
I have embarked on this path of telling a story about Afghanistan that has never been told before, because I hope that something truly beautiful can emerge from the misery that has blurred the world’s image and that now threatens its future generations. My life… my Afghanistan…my story; are woven together as part of a vivid tapestry of images from my personal journey. My book chronicles my innocent and wondrous life as a boy growing up in Afghanistan and the death of innocence and birth of chaos that began with the invasion of the Soviet Union on December 24th 1979. Many of the accounts in the book are “laugh-out-loud” funny, while others are tragically heart-breaking.” My story…my flight as a refugee; and my subsequent re-birth as an immigrant in the “post 911” United States, is an excellent “read” for a broad market wishing to “peel back” the obvious images in the nightly news, and see an image of Afghanistan that has not been shared or is widely known. This work is an introspective look into the true beauty of an Afghanistan that was once the “darling” of the western world, and has fallen victim to the harsh realities of imperial aggression. The promise of the Afghanistan of my youth has given way to images of war, corruption, and violence and has ultimately resulted in the “lost decency.”
My objective in writing my memoir is to “set the record straight” from a social and anthropological perspective. Afghanistan was once a peaceful and prosperous society with a unique and vibrant culture at the crossroads of Central Asia. Today, the lasting impact and the forces of change that has shattered her progress are at the heart of understanding what Afghanistan can be again.
I am proud to have written a book that not only details true eyewitness accounts of the modern social history of Afghanistan, but also provides a story of unforgettable determination, courage and perseverance. My life today has been shaped by these events and as successful financial services professional and a leader in the Afghan-American community, I wish to share my depth of experience to ensure that the sacrifices of generations past have not been in vain. Perhaps if my work is read; these last four decades of war, uncertainty and violence will not erase the beauty of a culture that spans more than 1,500 years for generations to follow.
In order to validate my opinions and provide a timely retrospective of the events that have shaped the current social landscape, I recently returned to Afghanistan and found a genuine sense of frustration and despair that left me greatly disturbed and in fear of the future. There have been so many unrealized opportunities and misguided policies that the country may never experience the peace and prosperity it richly deserves and that we have “all” been fighting for. Rampant with fraud and deceit, the nation teeters on a precipice…at the crossroads of “what is” and “what could be.” My work is at the leading edge of Afghanistan’s current crisis, and is not only a “look back” at what “once was,” but also a “wake-up call” to what “is.” Perception is not always reality, and reality is not always obvious. My story uncovers the myths and provides a living truth about the country I love.
A friend had sent me the cartoon above, which made me think about the various impacts holidays have on all of us.
When it comes to holidays, I do think Immigrants are more spoiled than others. This, of course, is due to the fact that they have the opportunity to enjoy plenty of new holidays on top of their existing traditions. But, with endless holidays throughout the year and the increase of financial burdens, holidays (nowadays) can lead to bad things.
When holidays come around it is a good time to regroup and take conscious steps towards avoiding unnecessary pressures and anxieties.
Holidays, after all, should bring joy, harmony and a genuine feeling of Gratefulness.
- What is most important to you and your family during the holidays?
- Who are the best people to spend time with? Some are very close family and friends, but how about reaching out to those you have been away from for a very long time?
- What is an appropriate gift item?
- What impact will the item have on the life of the potential recipient?
- Will the gift empower the recipient to lead a better life?
- How about doing research on what a potential recipient truly needs?
- Are you compromising your physical and mental health to just impress others during the holidays?
- Are you willing to avoid big feasts and instead allocate food to the needy?
- Have you saved enough? Or, do you plan to borrow in order to impress others?
- Are you thinking of the financial obligations in your life (education, retirement, etc.)?
- Do you have a list of charities you can give to?
- What are your expectations during big holiday gatherings?
- Do you plan to avoid noise and instead interact more with family and loved ones?
- Are you ready to shut down and collect all electronic devices during family/social gatherings? I honestly believe it is very rude to see so many children and adults face down glued to their phones during gatherings.
- Do you have clear plans for carrying your best wishes and messages?
- Do you plan to allow children to participate in discussions, storytelling and reflect on what holidays/gatherings mean to them?
Lost Decency: The Untold Afghan Story is aptly named. In this memoir, Atta Arghandiwal links his personal history with the history of Afghanistan from 1959 to the post-9/11 era. He attempts to show how war and the upheavals in government affected his family, the country, and the people of Afghanistan. This assessment becomes most evident when the author returns to Kabul years after his immigration to the US, looking for the beautiful place and people he remembered. He finds that his former country has lost its self-respect, the respect of the world, and its “decency.” These losses are Afghanistan’s untold story.
Lost Decency gives a sweeping view of Afghanistan’s history punctuated with the writer’s insights, but the story comes alive whenever Arghandiwal focuses on his own experiences. As a boy, he accompanied his father, a military liaison, across the Oxus River into the Soviet Union. This experience and his later work in the Afghan military provide Arghandiwal with insight into the nature and reality of military-industrial power. He also describes his home and family life in the ’50s and ’60s, emphasizing the peace and harmony of his everyday routine in the melting pot of ethnic groups in his Kabul neighborhood. The contrast between public power and private peace is an abiding theme of this work.
As in all life stories, chance and coincidence play a definitive role. After his father develops a heart condition, Arghandiwal is sent to English language school to help support his family; his education subsequently results in other opportunities in Afghanistan and the US. Arghandiwal and a friend plan to leave Kabul on the very day in 1978 when a military coup plunges the capital into chaos. An officer he knew while in the military becomes a key government official after the coup, and this chance connection assures Arghandiwal’s continued employment under the new government.
Arghandiwal’s prose is especially effective when he renders particularly emotional or dramatic moments, like the entry of Russians into Kabul or the tense minutes before his plane takes him out of the city. As the writer is neither a historian nor a journalist, a careful reader will question the accuracy and source of his statistics and political analysis about present-day Afghanistan.
Regardless, this twenty-first-century immigrant tale reveals the faces behind the headlines, those with the courage to choose to leave the familiar behind in search of a better life.
Thirty years after having to leave Afghanistan, my native land, I felt inclined to write about what was once known as the darling tourist destination of Asia. After many years of establishing my career and securing a good life for my family here in the United States, I wrote Lost Decency -The Untold Afghan Story.
In writing my memoir, I also took on the path of self-publishing by taking various courses, which helped me develop a project that became a labor of love, crafted carefully and authentically. I had been apprehensive and frankly shy about talking about myself as I wanted to focus on the plight of Afghanistan. After considering creating another historical opinion piece, I decided it would be better to write from first-hand experience. This approach engaged my natural storytelling abilities and enabled me to communicate with a sense of pride and passion for the innocence of a country caught in turmoil.
The decision to write in first person was certainly one of the best decisions I have made in life. I became more and more interested in writing, asking questions of my mother and sisters to validate certain events. This helped me further appreciate the joy of writing authentically about my roots, the family I dearly loved who lived an honest and decent life in what once was our dear Afghanistan.
Then came the request I never anticipated. The first manuscript was 135,000 words in length, and my editors advised me that memoirs were typically much shorter. As a first time writer I was stumped as to what to say or do next. I tried to convince them to keep my writing details intact but was told that I must shorten it or consider publishing two books.
I realized that I did not have time and resources to consider a second book and reluctantly started to trim my writing. I felt sick to my stomach as I tried to take a way so many valuable details and at times just thought of giving up. But I had already set a goal for myself with my family and did not want to let them down.
It was all worth it because my book Lost Decency - The Untold Afghan Story once published, ultimately became a finalist for IBPA’s first year Benjamin Franklin Award.
Readers contacted me and expressed a desire to learn more details about certain stories contained in the book. I have noticed quite a few powerful memoirs that contain more than 100,000 words.
I would appreciate hearing your viewpoints on the appropriate length of a good memoir. Also, what kind of stories would compel you to invest more time reading a lengthier work?
A fascinating read but truly scary thought surrounding vulnerability of Nuclear Weapons. I honestly believe it is time for Humanity to learn about the unnecessary waste of enormous economic resources and demand of their governments to shift focus to basic needs of their citizens. The first big question to ask "Can a single country (even the smallest) afford a Nuclear bomb explosion without devastating global impact? Granted the size of today's atomic bombs are 10 times larger than the ones used in Hiroshima. If the answer is NO, then why are we allowing billions into waste only for sake of Intimidation and Scare Tactics at the cost of massive human needs? More to follow soon.
" I am delighted to share the exciting news about availability of Immigrant Success Planning as well as Lost Decency through all major outlets to include Barnes & Nobles, retail stores, airports as well as other independent books stores. both books are already available through Amazon."
Midpoint Trade Books Begins
Distribution for Influence Publishing
Effective immediately, Midpoint Trade Books is now the distributor for independent hybrid publisher, Influence Publishing. As a result, Influence Publishing will no longer be working with Red Tuque as our Canadian distributor.
Influence Publishing focuses on titles geared toward influencing positive change in the world. These titles include MORE- A New Philosophy for Exceptional Living by Alyson Jones, which received the 2014 Indie Excellence Book Award in the Well-Being category, and Lost Decency by Atta Arghandiwal, which received a Benjamin Franklin Award. Upcoming titles include Conversations With a Rattlesnake by former NHL hockey player Theo Fleury and world-renowned therapist Kim Barthel, and Baby Comes Home by Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, an expert in childhood health.
CEO Julie Sali s bury stated, “Influence Publishing is excited to be partnering with Midpoint Trade Books to give our titles the exposure they deserve in the US market. We work hard to market our authors and bring awareness to their important subjects and now we have a strong sales and distribution team through Midpoint’s experienced industry professionals. It was the missing piece of the puzzle, and now, we can truly serve our wisdom leaders to give them the platform to influence the way we all see the world.”
Eric Kampmann, CEO of Midpoint, agrees; “For Midpoint, Influence Publishing represents what independent publishing is all about. Influence is publishing strong authors, backed by innovative marketing. We look forward to working with Julie and her team in the months and years ahead.”
Lost Decency: The Untold Afghan Story
By Atta Arghandiwal
A simple but very precise book for anyone who wants to know what happened in Afghanistan and what made it as one of the most dangerous regions on the earth today. After it attained independence from Great Britain in 1919, the country was ruled by liberal but weak Monarchs. Afghan people were proud of their culture and their sense of decency. Both men and women folks worked together without much discrimination to build the new Afghanistan. The girls could be seen wearing skirts and jeans, and going to school and colleges. Burqa system was not imposed harshly on the womenfolk as a law. People looked forward to a promising future with strong and stable government.
After the rule of King Zahir Shah for forty years without any significant upheavals, the country caught itself in the quagmire of the cold war in 1950s. Both Soviet and USA and their allies were trying to gain access into the land by outdoing each other in development work of Afghanistan. Soviet Russia and Chinese communist ideology was gaining access in people’s mind. Ideology of religious fundamentalist from Middle Eastern groups also began to influence the direction the country was headed to. In 1978, the local communist leaders supported by Soviet government launched military coup and toppled the people’s government. This was followed by the Russian invasion and the Afghanistan, the peaceful land turned into a land of oppression and violent fighting. Different faction of people fought bravely on their own with the support of U.S. and its allies. “By 1984 the United States was authorizing military supplies to Mujahideen of nearly $250 million per month,” writes the author. Russian invaders dealt harshly with the people, more than five million Afghan fled the land and took refuge in the neighboring countries.
One of the Author’s brothers, Zia was among the resistance fighters, and fought with the Russian invader bravely. Atta, the author fled to Germany along with other Afghans. From Germany he sought asylum in the United States, where he built a career in banking and ultimately had his family join him later.
Afghanistan remained under Soviet occupation for nearly a decade [1980 – 1989], during which the people and the land suffered irreparable damage. It has not been easy for Soviet Russia either, it’s said that more than 4 billion dollar a year was spent to maintain the puppet Kabul government, and thirty times this amount was spent on the cost of running the war for those years. Now that Russians were gone, the people were looking forward to a peace and stable life under their own government. But during the course of resistance against Russia, various Afghan factions with direct help from the United States and the Western allies, and from the Arab world have established their own territories of control. With the fall of Dr. Najibullah’s government in 1992, these factions came up to form an interim government. “But despite UN attempt to broker peace and bring the warring groups into a coalition government, Afghanistan remained at war.”
Amidst this uncertainty and instability, when a convoy of an influential Pakistani businessman was stopped by bandits in Kandahar, Pakistani government urged the students from fundamentalist school at the border to intervene. The student group not only released the convoy, but went on to capture Kandahar city. They soon began to take the role of disciplining the land, and many at first welcomed the change to have peace and economic stability denied by the warring warlords. Pakistan and ISI funded and supported this group, which came to be known as Taliban. Talib means ‘religious students’ and their core leaders were from Pakistan and other Arab nations. By 1996, Kabul was under the full control of Taliban. “They introduced religious police, a rigid military campaign against their opponents, and the use of non-Afghan forces.” It is estimated that 45 per cent of the Taliban forces were non-Afghan. The brutality with which they controlled the region and the use of non-Afghan forces from Middle East Arab countries led by Osama Bin Laden, gradually infuriated and earned the doubts and misgiving of the local populace. The United States initially thought Taliban as source of stability in the region and ally in sharing anti-Iran stance, and misjudged Taliban’s total hostility toward foreign values.
Then came the 9/11 incident in 2001 attack on World Trade Center building and Twin Tower by the Taliban terrorists. This was followed by the U.S. retaliation, and active involvement in the region. The author felt very bad that the Afghanistan has been turned into terrorist den by the non-Afghan militants from Middle East countries. He, his family and many Afghan people have been so affectionately received and provided for by this land and the fact that his own people attacked the United States made him feel very bad and sick. He made his best to explain to the people here that the attack was not done by the Afghan people, but by the non-Afghan militants who had made Afghanistan their activity base.
In 2011, the author visits Afghanistan, and was devastated to see that once peaceful land with pride and decency has been turned into violent, and corrupt with no trace of decency. The government is formed by the vested warlords who are least bothered about the people’s welfare; they are only interested in making themselves richer and richer. Factional fighting among the warlords has been exploited by the religious fundamentalist, which has caused the presence of foreign troops and dependency on them. All the funds from the United States and its allies are sabotaged by the few elites and the vast majority is languishing in poverty. Old Afghanistan of proud people with honesty and decency is lost.
As a closing thought, the Author finds himself asking, “What if the Soviet Union had never invaded? What if Afghanistan had never been deserted after Russian withdrawal? Do you think 9/11 would have happened?”
This is difficult to say, but reading the book I can’t help thinking about Tibet and Tibetans. We must preserve and maintain our decency, moral integrity and unity so that when the time comes for the Chinese to leave Tibet, we are ready to take over the administration without internal feud or factional fighting. Till date, because of the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his vision, we have been able to maintain and promote our positive values, cultural integrity and unity among all the Tibetans. The book is a clear mirror to warn us that we all must cherish and maintain this unity and cultural values so that Tibet don’t become Afghanistan of today in future.
About Midpoint Books:
Midpoint Trade Books is a full service book distribution company.
Midpoint was founded in 1996 by a group of industry professionals, including current President Eric Kampmann and Executive Vice President Chris Bell.
Our office is located in the Flatiron District of New York City, and represents independent publishers across the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
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Our team of experienced industry professionals is hard-working, innovative, unpretentious, and dedicated to our client publishers.
Airs on Monday, June 9th 2014 at 10:30am & 9:00pm on SMC
ALL NEW – Simply the Best – The Luisa Marshall Show On the Show:
- Interview with author Atta Arghandiwal.
- Surrey Clean Sweep Project.
Get Inspired: Special interview with ATTA ARGHANDIWAL From a refugee to a bank teller to a vice president and regional manager… to an author… Atta’s passion for writing paved the way to tell his life story as a refugee in his first award winning book Lost Decency, The Untold Afghan Story. Atta spoke of his war-torn country, his family and his decision to leave. He made his dream into a reality to help his fellow immigrants in his new book Immigrant Success Planning: A Family Resource Guide.
Birthday clean sweep
Get Involved: This is not a typical glamorous birthday celebration! Members, friends and supporters of SPIDS founder Narima dela Cruz were divided into 4 teams and gathered in 4 different parks to do another Clean Sweep participation in the Surrey Clean Sweep Project.
Luisa was invited to speak at an event to promote multiculturalism in the community amongst immigrants and also to promote a book to help immigrants to be productive. As a dedicated humanitarian, ATTA ARGHANDIWAL has a dream as a refugee from Afghanistan to help his fellow immigrants. He understands what kind of information they need and how they can integrate into a new country. His inspiration coming from his own personal experiences, his challenges and personal battles.
Lost Decency is Atta’s first book of his personal story of his life as a refugee coming out of Afghanistan. At age 20 he left his country and didn’t know for sure what was going to happen to him. His life change in North America that has given him the opportunity to be productive and live a good life.
During my career, I met many other successful immigrants who have made amazing strides and progress despite many challenges. For that reason, I am a firm believer in hard work, dedication, and the realization that the sky is indeed the limit. – Atta Arghandiwal
"The hardest part of being an immigrant is adapting to one’s newly adopted home. My family struggled with decoding the basics of living in the United States. I wish my parents had access to the Immigrant Success Planning: A Family Resource Guide, by my friend, Afghan American author, Atta Arghandiwal.
This book has detailed “how to” guide for immigrants inthe U.S. and Canada ranging from basic to complex issues: how to shop, how to find a rental, how to manage finances, how to find a job, how to become a citizen and more.
My family’s life changed dramatically after the Russian invasion of 1979. There was an exodus of middle class Afghans from Afghanistan. Mine was one of the hundred of families who settled in the Bay Area. Luckily, we found a community of other Afghan immigrant families who were also struggling just like us. Our parents gathered over large platters of Mantoo, a coveted Afghan dumpling dish or the hearty meat and potato Qorma and advised each other on food stamp collection, San Jose flea market bargains, and the complexity of getting medical care in America.
For me, food is what has kept my Afghan family comforted through years of turbulence, uncertainty and loss. Back home we had a cook who made all the meals under mom’s supervision and instruction. My mom, Jeja, saw cooking as a chore, which she hoped her daughters would never have to do. But, it’s her generation that holds the secret to the art of authentic Afghan cuisine. Our families were who had access best ingredients for making gourmet Afghan cuisine.
Initially, the newly immigrated Afghan women such as my mother, scoured grocery stores and Indian markets in Northern California for ingredients. The delicious aroma of coriander, cumin, and cardamom slowly healed the wounds of their loss and soothed their fears of their new life. Now, there is an Afghan market or restaurant in every corner of Fremont and surrounding cities.
Immigrant children, such as myself, adapt quickly to their new home and are happy to embrace their new lives. Adults on the other hand struggle to re-build the foundation of the life they lost. They hold on to their culture -- assimilation is considered a betrayal of their mother country.
Looking back at my turbulent childhood of moving from Afghanistan to India, back to Afghanistan -- then to Pakistan, followed by Germany and finally the United States. There is one common thread of familiarity --my mother’s Afghan food that always kept me grounded and connected to my roots.
I think Atta has done a great service to many who arrive at this the land of milk and honey by providing them an instruction’s manual. I feel the practical advice, summary notes highlighting specific points and pull out boxes with positive and supportive life lesson from Atta’s own immigrant experience is what makes this book so useful and usable.
Atta is the award winning author of a memoir Lost Decency: The Untold Afghan Story and Immigrant Success Planning. Visit his extensive website,www.attamoves.com where he shares a wealth of information for new immigrants."
Humaira Ghilzai of Afghan Culture Unveiled Interviews Atta Arghandiwal
Humaira: How did you transition from writing a memoir to a "How to" book?
Atta: I started writing three different books simultaneously -- Memoir, Immigrant Success Planning, as well as a Leadership Guide for immigrants.
But writing the “Immigrant Success Planning” was always on my mind from early days of arrival to my years in the Financial Services industry. In the end, I was encouraged by several authors to publish the memoir first -- to build a platform.
Humaira: Most immigrants don't speak English when they need a resource book like yours. Is your book available in other languages?
Atta: Unfortunately, not at this point. I am looking into translation possibilities Farsi, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic I do feel that immigrant families usually have at least a couple members of family who speak English. My hope is that most people will benefit from this handy resource.
Humaira: Did your family have problems finding ingredients to make authentic Afghan food?
Atta: Yes, resources were indeed scarce in early years – I remember going to Indian stores in Berkeley almost every week. My family loves to cook. There experts within our family in the Bay Area who pass their knowledge and heritage to the younger generation.
Humaira: What are your favorite Afghan dishes?
Humaira: Do you cook Afghan food?
Atta: My brothers and I have been completely spoiled from day one -- our mother and seven sisters are all amazing cooks. My wife Halima, is an amazing cook who prepares delicious Afghan food. I like to do prep and the clean up.