Since moving to Columbus in 2011, one family has discovered that the city’s welcoming community and diversity resonates closely with their native Pakistan.
Originally from Karachi, Ghufran Ahmad and his wife, Mahvish Ghufran, immigrated to the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, Michigan, following their arranged marriage in 1998.
In their culture, Ghufran said, when an arranged marriage takes place the woman may take the husband’s first or last name. Ghufran took Ahmad’s first name as her last name.
Five years ago, while working as an engineer for Ford Motor Co. in Detroit, Ahmad saw an opportunity to further his career with Cummins Inc. and took it.
“I was familiar with Columbus, having worked with Cummins while at Ford,” Ahmad said. “But I’d never been here before.”
Shortly after he was hired as a mechanical engineer to work for the engine giant, Ahmad moved to Columbus in September 2010.
While house hunting, 42-year-old Ahmad says it was the beauty of the downtown area and Columbus’ architecture that really caught his attention.
“You find small towns in other states, but this is a small town with a modern look,” he said. “That, and Columbus has everything you need.”
For six months, Ghufran continued to work full-time as a pharmacist with William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, and Ahmad would return to visit every other weekend.
It wasn’t long before 35-year-old Ghufran found part-time work as a pharmacist with the Greenwood and Mooresville campuses of Franciscan St. Francis Health. She and the couple’s two children, Kamran and Mahdi, moved to Columbus in March 2011.
“Thankfully, Columbus’ central location doesn’t make for too bad of a commute,” she said.
Convenient accessibility to surrounding metropolitan areas, such as Indianapolis and Louisville, Kentucky, is another perk of living in Columbus, the couple says. The family has several destinations they’re looking forward to visiting. Most recently, they checked Churchill Downs racetrack and the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, off of the list.
“I want to see the Indy 500,” Ghufran said. “One of my colleagues says it is something you have to see if you live in Indiana. So it’s on our list, too.”
Columbus’ quiet neighborhoods and convenience were welcomed contrasts after living in the Detroit suburbs.
“One thing that I think resonates with Columbus and Pakistan is that our neighborhood here is excellent and the people are caring,” Ghufran said. “Columbus’s diversity makes it very welcoming to everyone.”
Connecting with other Pakistani families was an essential part of transitioning to small-town life, Ghufran said.
“I wanted to make sure there was a mosque in Columbus because it reunites the Pakistanis and Muslims,” she said. “That’s the only way for us to meet other Pakistanis is through a place where we would all come together.”
Cummins’ support and the friendships of co-workers have definitely helped make Columbus feel like home, Ahmad says. But if there’s one thing the family misses about Pakistan, it’s family.
Ghufran says Skyping with her mother for 10 to 15 minutes each morning is an integral part of her daily routine.
“It’s something I’ve always done since moving to the United States,” she said. “I feel like my day can’t go on without talking to my mom.”
Ghufran recently got some good news professionally. In mid-September, she was hired on to the Columbus Regional Hospital pharmacy team as a pharmacist.
“It will give me an opportunity to serve the local community,” she said.
It didn’t take long for the couple’s 4-year-old son, Mahdi, to adjust to the move. Although he enjoys the kidscommons children’s museum, Mahdi says Freedom Field Park is his favorite place to visit. He recently started preschool at First Presbyterian Church and isn’t wasting time making new friends.
“The whole preschool is filled up,” he said. “We get playtime, and when playtime is over we go home.”
The couple’s oldest son, 15-year-old Kamran, wasn’t too fazed by the move either.
“I think he adjusted well,” Ghufran said. “I was surprised because he had lots of friends in Detroit.”
Kamran admits he had a rough start making friends at school, but once he settled in at Parkside Elementary everything fell into place. Now, Kamran immerses himself in his schoolwork and the community.
Sure, he enjoys playing cornerback for the Columbus North High School football team, visiting downtown with his parents and hanging out with friends, but he gets the most pleasure from the North-East rivalry, he says. It’s something that didn’t exist in Detroit. During the summer everyone is friends, he said, but when football season starts the rules of social engagement change.
“We play(ed) East in week two,” Kamran said. “And that’s when it starts getting serious. You stay away from the other team and make sure you don’t get into any trouble.”
And whoever wins the big game gets bragging rights for the rest of the year. This year, it was North’s turn.
Rivalries aside, Kamran said the best advice he can offer to other young people new to the community is to get involved.
“There are so many things you can do at school, like sports and band,” he said. “They’re great ways to make new friends, and there are so many events going on, like the Ethnic Expo. It’s one of the best ways to get settled in.”
One way the Ahmads have become involved in the Columbus community is through their work with the Pakistani Association, part of the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization (CAMEO), which is preparing to host the 2015 Ethnic Expo.
“It has us all moving and more involved together,” Ghufran said. “Designing the float for the parade is our main focus now and how to make the Pakistani dances and colors all part of the parade.”
The Ahmads agree Columbus has a lot to offer newcomers, especially those looking to get out of the negativity sometimes associated with living in a big city. Columbus is a safe city that will definitely change one’s perception of small-town life.
“We’ve found the community here, from Pakistanis and Muslims to amazing neighbors, to be a blessing I wouldn’t change for anything,” Ghufran said.
THE COUPLE: Ghufran Ahmad and his wife, Mahvish Ghufran, were married in their homeland of Pakistan in 1998.
PROFESSIONALLY: He’s an engineer at Cummins Inc. in Columbus; she is a pharmacist at Columbus Regional Hospital.
CHILDREN: Kamran, 15, student at Columbus North High School; Mahdi, 4, attends the preschool at First Presbyterian Church.
INVOLVEMENT: Active members of Pakistani Association, part of the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization (CAMEO), which is preparing to host the 2015 Ethnic Expo.