Post Script: I,Migrant – Sami Shah

“You can tell everything about a person by the books they read.”(p. 94)

Book cover I Imigrant Sami Shah

I, Migrant

Sami Shah

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781743319345


Despite nearly being killed by a kangaroo and almost lynched and run out of town after his comedy was taken far too seriously, Sami Shah is very happy to be living in Australia. He has fronted his own satirical show on TV in Karachi, worked as a journalist and been a highly regarded newspaper columnist – all dangerous occupations to be involved in – when the combination of seeing the aftermaths of a devastating bomb attack and being the target of death threats convinced him to leave Pakistan. Under the terms of their Australian migration visa, Sami and his wife and young daughter were obliged to settle in a rural area, and so they moved to Northam in WA.

Now Sami is battling a crippling addiction to meat pies, but at least is no longer constantly mistaken for an escaped asylum seeker from the nearby detention centre. He has also been the star of Australian Story, the subject of an article in The New York Times, and has performed countless comedy shows to ever-growing and appreciative audiences.

I, Migrant tells the hilarious and moving story of what it’s like to leave the home you love to start a new life in another country so your child can be safe and grow up with a limitless future. Australia is lucky to have Sami Shah. Read I, Migrant, and laugh till you cry.

My View:

Sami Shah writes with an evocative truth that will take you through a range of emotions. Living in Pakistan and experiencing such turmoil, violence, fear and discrimination is one that most Westerners will never understand or appreciate. I (and my family) spent eighteen months living in Sri Lanka in 1993/1994 and though I did not experience terrorism first hand, I did experience its effect on the people around me and the community I was living in. It became the norm to expect to be searched when entering buildings, shopping centres, parking lots etc. Sensible behaviour was to avoid crowds, pageants, processions and anything to do with elections. The president was assassinated the day I arrived in the country; curfews and tear gas were new experiences I would rather not have had. The TV and local papers filled with images of severed heads and gore, images that were to become “everyday”, commonplace, as the toll of terrorism and suicide bombers grew. I understand a little of what you have seen Sami but not what you experienced. But life went on, in Sri Lanka, in Pakistan. This violence or threat of violence became normalised – and that is indeed a tragedy. Sami shares his experiences – and I think we are all better off for reading them and considering how we might have coped or not in his situation. It does us good to walk a while in some one else’s shoes if only through the power of his words.

Despite the violence that surrounded Sami, this is not a depressing book, and in fact it is the opposite. It is full of hope and full of dark humour and personal reflections – some I found a little too personal, but that’s just me. J

Sami Shah is an astute observer of human behaviour perhaps that is the key to being a successful Stand-up Comedian (and a successful writer). I will share some of his wisdom and humour with you, observations that struck a chord with me:

On writing/finding material for his TV shows in Pakistan: “There were some phenomena I discovered that could be guaranteed to write their own punch lines. The most reliable was that, no matter who the politician was and where in the world they were speaking, if they espoused an opinion on something, you could find – with enough research – earlier footage of them saying the exact opposite with just as much conviction. I also realised, more than ever before, that every news story is merely a repeat of events that had occurred previously, with minor changes in the cast of characters at best.” (pp.132-133)


“Death, no matter who brings it, will come unannounced and so there is no point in waiting around for it.” (p.39)


“Journalists fancy themselves as being at the frontline of human experience –divers into the deepest seas of reality, plunging to extreme pressures that would crush a submarine and turn a chartered accountant or marketer into jelly. The only other life forms capable of surviving to those depths are doctors and soldiers. “(p.50)

“You can tell everything about a person by the books they read.”(p. 94)


Sami comments about learning the skills of comedy, “… I studied the power of a simple observation and how the more specific to your own life you get, the more likely you are to speak to a larger shared experience. The great wisdom of stand-up comedy is that if it happened to you, no matter what it is, then it probably happened to other people too.” (pp.109-110)