The parents of Menhaz Zaman loved to brag about their son. They’d proudly tell everyone that Zaman, then 23, always put his family first and was about to graduate with an engineering degree so he had a bright future ahead. Other parents in their social circles quietly wished their sons were as straight-laced and reliable. Dad Moniruz, 59, and mum, Momotaz, 50, couldn’t wait to attend his graduation and see him collect the scroll he’d worked so hard for.
Zaman lived with his parents, his sister Malesa, 21, and grandmother Firoza Begum, 70, in Markham, Ontario. His parents had originally emigrated from Bangladesh to Canada in search of opportunities. Moniruz established himself at a local taxi business and when Momotaz got involved in property rental, her mum Firoza also emigrated to Canada, to help raise their children.
The couple were proud of their roots and made sure their son and daughter were respectful of their Bangladeshi heritage.
At the core of their teachings was the importance of family and a strong work ethic. Zaman and Malesa were told from childhood that education and hard work were the foundations of success. And by 2019, Malesa was at university and wanted to be a neurosurgeon. Her brother left the house every day to catch the bus and returned with talk of his mechanical engineering studies at Toronto’s York University.
Zaman’s graduation was going to be on 28 July, and there were discussions about him doing a master’s degree afterwards.
But he had a secret. He’d been living a double life for years and there wasn’t going to be a graduation.
Zaman hadn’t started at York University at all – he had enrolled at a local college but then quickly failed the classes, and despite being given the chance to repeat them, he still didn’t succeed and dropped out in 2015 after a couple of semesters.
But he didn’t tell his family. He just left the house every day, with his backpack and laptop, and pretended he was going to university in an elaborate lie that continued for years.
At the start, Zaman did head to campus, but he’d just find somewhere quiet to play the multiplayer role-play video games that he was obsessed with. He made online friends from around the world and disappeared into a virtual life – where he wasn’t failing.
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