Waseem Ullah's outlook on life was cemented before he was born.
He immigrated to the U.S. 50 years after his parents joined millions of families in the largest migration in history following the partition of the Indian Empire into India and Pakistan in 1947.
His parents fled India for Pakistan, tragedy dogging them the entire way.
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"My dad lost his son and his mom on his way," Ullah said. The two were killed in mob fighting during riots that began after the partition. Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs were killing each other on both sides of the new India-Pakistan border, and they all suffered great loss of life.
The Ullah family chose their new home while in despair and by happenstance. When their train stopped in the small city of Mandi Baha-Udin, "they saw the minaret of a mosque, and they said, 'This is where we want to make a home in Pakistan.' "
And like that, they were starting over.
New life, new country
"In their first few nights off the train, they lived in the mosque," Ullah said. "They were homeless. My dad was homeless! And after two or three days, a family gave them room in their home, and that was where they stayed, with this family, for a month or so. Then they started getting on their feet."
His parents raised his five boys and three girls. Ullah immigrated to America in 1997, three years after completing medical school in Lahore, Pakistan. After seven years of training at American universities, he came to Detroit in 2004.
He worked four years at the John Dingell VA Hospital, then four years at Henry Ford Hospital. He now works at Allegiance Hospital in Jackson.
The youngest of the boys, Ullah lives in a typical suburban home, a two-story, four-bedroom, brick house in Ann Arbor, three houses down from his brother, a gastroenterologist. His other brother, an engineer, lives in California.
When his parents died, they left an inheritance to their children that Ullah felt he should not spend on himself because his parents had already provided him an education. He said his faith dictated that he spend it to help others.
"We believe we live this life for a limited period of time, and we just go away," he said. "We have been here, and we didn't get a chance to visit my parents, and they visited only once. So we didn't get a chance to spend that much time to help them, to be with them."
So he chose his father by helping him, even in death, to build a home for a new Muslim family.