Long road from Gilgit to Slave Lake RBC

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Saad Mir is the affable business account manager at Slave Lake’s RBC, since March of this year. That was just in time for the COVID crisis to hit, so he’s been working from home without much chance to engage with the community, outside the contacts he has by phone or email (or texting, which he tried unsuccessfully to do with The Leader!).

Just before things went sideways with COVID, this reporter met Mir at the Hotel Northern Star, where manager Ash Arora was promoting the hotel’s new line of East Indian cuisine.

“I think I’d only been here a day or two,” says Mir.

He agreed to an interview then, and it finally happened – over the phone – on July 7.

Mir was born and raised in a remote mountain valley in northern Pakistan, in a city called Gilgit. It’s the capital city of the Gilgit-Baltistan province of that country, where livable spaces are few, thanks to the high mountains dominating the landscape. Several of the world’s 8,000 metre peaks are to be found in the region, including the fabled K2.

“It’s very beautiful,” he says.

Growing up in the family of a medical doctor (his father), Mir spoke Shina as his first language and Urdu second.

English he learned a bit of in school, he says, but did not speak well at all when he arrived in Edmonton in 2015 to study business at Concordia University. It was a matter of diving in and figuring it out.

“I was scared in the beginning,” he says. “The lifestyle is very different.”

One thing that is so different is the independence.

Back home, he says, with its limited job prospects and difficulty in making a living, young people are very dependent on their parents and family elders generally. Though he remains close to his family (“I visit every year.”), he found he liked this independence thing and the possibilities it offered.
“Starting from scratch; becoming something on my own. I never experienced it before, and I loved it.”

Helping with the transition was a group of friends he developed in college. Outside of work, he enjoys playing sports with some of these people and hiking in the mountains or kayaking. Cricket and soccer are the main sports he enjoys.

As for the job, he was hired right out of school by RBC which sent him to Grande Prairie. He spent a year there, learning the ropes and then accepted a transfer to Slave Lake.

“It’s going pretty well,” he says. “I can’t complain.”

Saad Mir

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