Nighat (Niki) Naseer was thrilled to come to America in 1974. She grew up in Pakistan, one of six daughters who needed to be married. When Naseer and her sisters were born, her father said they were each a blessing from God, but the relatives commiserated because women were seen as a burden.
“Thank God there is America for us,” Naseer said.
She still visits her homeland to see her family but she is very grateful to be able to return to Miami and the freedoms she has here as a woman.
“Even though I have a lot of property back home, I don’t think I can go back and live there,” Naseer said. “It’s very unsafe, especially for Western people.”
She has written a book, called Golden Bangles, Hidden Tears, about her experiences growing up in a country that still oppresses women. While the book has been written and professionally edited, she’s still looking for an agent and a publisher. One of Naseer’s purposes in writing the book was to honor her father, who, she said, died because of the pressures of the culture.
In an arranged marriage, Naseer was wed to her cousin, who was studying at Miami Dade College’s North Campus. After years of working several jobs at a time, the Naseers saved enough money to purchase a Dunkin Donuts franchise. Over time, they owned many.
“We bought the first store in Perrine-Cutler Ridge in 1983,” she said.
At one point they owned the Dunkin Donuts on Kendall Drive just west of 117th Avenue, Kendall Drive and 137th Avenue, in Suniland and Country Walk. She sold the business several years after her husband, Muhammad Naseer, died suddenly.
“I wrote in the book, he died for Dunkin Donuts,” she said. “So many we bought and sold. Wherever we go, people called him Dunkin man.”
Naseer and her family worked hard at the stores and achieved the American dream, which was quite a contrast from her life in Pakistan.
“I had a horrible life until age of 20,” she said. “I describe myself as a Pakistani Cinderella. My husband showed me how to live a free life.”
She describes her life in her book and she goes before school children to talk about how women are treated in Pakistan.
“In my country, women don’t have the right to breathe,” she said.
Naseer said her sister was beaten every day by her husband because he wanted money from Nasser’s family. Her second sister was almost killed by her husband.
“I wanted to go to school when I turned 15,” she said. “I asked my mother please let me go to college for one year. God was on my side. I went for four years. Then the misery started.”
The misery came from rejections by potential suitors. She was the third in line to get married but the suitors would pick her younger sisters to court.
At one point, things were so bad, she attempted suicide but luckily her mother took her to the hospital. Her mother covered her face for fear that suitors would not want her.
Eventually, her cousin asked to marry her and she joined him in America.
Naseer goes to schools all over South Florida to give students an idea of how life is in another country.
“I tell students, ‘open your eyes,’” she said.