Happy birthday Bilal! :)

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Today, a strange thing happened: Nataliya had asked me to make a video for you, for your birthday. Believe me, I made three videos. Each time it would get too long. I was literally flooded with memories…. I was already considering writing a blog post on you.

This did it. I realized a two-minute video couldn’t do justice to such an amazing personality. So, on your fortieth birthday, I want to wish you a very happy birthday.

 You were less than thirty years old when you came to take my daughter’ hand in marriage, you and your qualifications were awesome. – Just the distance from here was the hitch. (The way the marriage happened was another interesting story! Perhaps another blog about how an arranged marriage was arranged. ) Your comment later on, that “it was all planned by the Master Planner,” seemed the only feasible theory. It was not just your qualification of having worked for so long in Microsoft. More than that was your multifaceted introvert personality; your love for art, literature, music and the fact that you write very well. – All qualities I really admire. Perhaps the best thing was and is your sense of humor.

Continue reading “Happy birthday Bilal! :)”

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Fantastic birthday ideas

My daughter Waliya and I share the same birthday. So, we have a blast together, all thanks to our family and friends.  Its always been this way, but this year’s birthday really took the cake!

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May I say I had one of the happiest birthdays of my life – that’s saying a lot – because I’ve had some fantabulous birthdays! This one was the best as it was full of surprises and gifts which showed that it had a year of planning and efforts in it. Just awesome. Suddenly, I realized that the stage of my age is not bad at all. I must have done something good in these years to have such a great birthday, but we all know, it’s the gift from God to be blessed so much.

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Nataliya and Nadiya, my daughters living out of town, one in Seattle, one in Lahore and Waliya the one living with me in Islamabad all of them had been working on it- as it was a milestone – (tombstone????) –  Nadiya herself came as part of the ‘birthday gift’ (God bless my son-in-law Haaris and his mother Rumi).

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Brig Jaffar Khan, My Debonair Uncle

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When someone near and dear to you, suddenly leaves the world, its hard to accept. We say ‘Inna lillahe wa inna ilaihe rajiun’ (to Him we belong and to Him we return). It takes time for the words to sink into ourselves and our lives. There is this complete form of inertia that you suddenly feel, when your heart isn’t into anything you do – even though you keep trying to force yourself into  a normal life.

It was the recent death of my uncle Brig. Jaffar Khan which shook us all up. As a child, I always admired my dashing and  debonair uncle who was in the army’s Guides’ Cavalry, and the President’s Body Guard during the times of President Ayub Khan. He was a sword of honor winner too. Now, leading a retired life in his farm house where their horses were in the stables and the lovely flora and fauna grew with so much pampering from the loving care given by him and his loving wife, Shahnaz Jaffar.

Brig Jaffar, thirteen years younger than my dad, has been a wonderful brother to him.

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Brig Jaffar Khan sitting with his eldest brother Sarfaraz Khan.

He has been a constant factor all my life. You know the kind of uncle whom you don’t even have to ask. He is just there for you, no matter what!

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Brig Jaffar standing between his youngest brother Dr. Riaz Khan Gheba, and Col. M. Mumtaz Khan, behind their eldest brother Sarfaraz Khan.( May, 2016.)

Continue reading “Brig Jaffar Khan, My Debonair Uncle”

Dealing with loved ones in pain

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Life has a way of testing you in different ways. As they say, “our lives in this world is like an examination, yet  each one has a different paper.” Yes, a different paper, and that paper keeps changing also! “As you get used to one channel, life changes the channel!” Is another one of my favorite quotes.  You can read as many quotes as you like. Take on as much pain on yourself as you can bear. But to watch a loved one in pain – whether it is physical or emotional – I think that is the hardest thing to bear. On top of it, when it is also your responsibility to look after that person, it can be even more painful, yet it is a relief to know you are in a position to do something about it. At least you are in an active position, not a passive one. Putting on a brave face is vital, to be able to relieve your loved one’s pain for a while at least.

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So many times I’ve taken my father or mother in almost unconscious state to the hospital. – Hoping that I’m not making any mistake of some sort in the process. Thank goodness, physiology was my favorite subject in school and Home Nursing was another subject which I took in my first and second year in College of Home Economics. All that really helps. Now, on Google you can have every type of information at your finger-tips. Still it is tough. The doctors and staff of hospitals are a real consolation. With a few ‘incidents’ you find out whom to turn to, for which problem. God bless them all.

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Love is a feeling we have for so many individuals in our lives, specially our parents and children, then our relatives and dear friends. Frankly, I can’t see a total stranger in pain either. So, how do you deal with it?

  1. Ask the person directly, how you can help. Remember, sometimes the person is too upset to think straight. Then you do whatever you can think of as the best thing.
  2. Get spiritual strength: Say two naffals for the person, specially Tahajjad, (when you are awake at night worrying about the person. Why not put that file on God’s table?)Read ‘Hasbi Allah ho wa nemal wakil’, ‘La haula wala quvvata, illa billa he’, and surah Fateha (which is one of the best for getting well from illnesses), la illahi illa, anta subhanaka, inni kunto minazzualameen. Each of these is awesome to be recited as much as possible to get strengthened.Reading the Holy Quran (preferably starting from one end, and read whenever you get time) is the best. Coming across incidents of stress and struggles of the prophets really helps. You realize you are not alone.  The prayers here and there, sometimes really feel as if they are tailor-made for you!
  3. Get physical strength and energy: Try to get full sleep, six hours straight is the goal – and two more if you are lucky. You’ll need it to be your fittest. – Recitation of simple word Allah helps a lot. Even taking a sleeping pill sometimes is better than staying awake all night. Do some exercise, or walk extra in the hospital. Take proper meals, but focus more on fruits, juices, soups and veggies.
  4. Food is one of the best ways to help. Take along something for the person or their live-in guests. Fruit, sandwiches and soup always come handy.
  5. Perhaps, you can help those who are caring for the ill person. They need a great deal of support also. I remember, when my husband was seriously ill, his friends  taking my children to a restaurant nearby or ordering food for us. We all need a relief sometimes. Especially when tending to long illnesses.
  6. Be careful what you say. Avoid telling them all sorts of similar horror stories, especially with tragic endings. Never use negative words like ‘bechari’ or ‘you poor soul.’ Talking about the weather or any other small talk works fine. Sometimes, say nothing. Just be with them. Keep alert to find out how you can be of help. Also avoid giving unwanted advice. People are intelligent and well equipped now to get any information they need. Unless, it is something really vital for them, and only you know it. Or if they ask you.
  7. It is also important not to impose on the person. Sometimes they need to be alone, or rest. So, keep the trips short and crisp.
  8. Be positive. Pamper and value your own contributions and enjoy the appreciation you get. Also, ignore if your efforts went unnoticed. You are just doing the best you can. That is enough.  We owe it to our own conscience to do our best. Particularly for those who stood by you, in your hard times. IMG-20160817-WA0011
  9. Give yourself a treat to get strong again: Don’t feel guilty … Take a break: listen to music, watch movies to boost your morale. Once you’ve done your bit, it is okay.20160827_182012 (2)

There is an amazing book ‘The Anatomy of Courage’ written by a psychiatrist Lord Moran, during first world war, first published in 1945. Its about Courage – of course!  The doctor says, that when a soldier has just returned from a battlefield, all you need to do is offer that person who is in shock, a place to sit in, give him a cup of tea and soothe him. Help him through the first few moments of shock, sit with him, he will be fine in a while. Its those first few moments that matter.

My dear Reader, we all need each other to ease the pain that we and our loved ones are going through. Stay blessed and very strong to be able to be there for your loved ones when they need you most 🙂

My Dad gets a new life!

 

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Wondering why I’ve been so quiet? I’ve been through the works, last week. Taking care of two elderly parents is a responsibility with its beautiful moments and very difficult moments also.

Last week had the difficult moments….

Remember, when my mother fainted last month, when I’d gone to service my car? Well, this time on March 17th, 2017 it was my dad. I was at my art class when I got the call from Sabir ( my Dad’s domestic help,) around 5 PM;  I went home to find my dad almost unconscious. Ever tried to move an unconscious person into the front seat of your car? Let’s hope you don’t have to … it was tough, in spite of the two helpers.

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Continue reading “My Dad gets a new life!”

More respect for the man in our lives…

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I know all the feminists would want to kill me, for this blog. But sweetie, I believe in truth. The fact is that people are cruel, whether they are men or women. There are the good, the bad and the ugly among both genders, and I’m sure among the in-between genders too!

About six years ago, I had given a lift to four ladies after our Mashal meeting, in my car. On the way, a weird thing was happening… each lady was talking about the ‘greatness’ of her husband!WP_002249.jpg

I smelt fish.

I mean I really did. Usually, women when they get together, often leave no opportunity to do some ‘husband bashing’, or talking about this or that trait of theirs. Here were all of them saying grand things…. Soon I found out, that they all were widows. So, it turned out ‘that the only ‘good’ husband is a dead husband!’

“Why is this?” I thought?

Continue reading “More respect for the man in our lives…”

Are my children becoming orphans?

  Whether you work or not to work outside your home, this is a possibility.

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Calm down please! I know, it is an emotional topic. – But very important.

There are busy spells in everyone’s life. You can get caught up in your job or your husband’s job or it may be a family event, and get into a spin of events. Through all this the children get left out and a bit neglected.

Continue reading “Are my children becoming orphans?”

Caring for elderly parents and parents-in-law.

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I have a mentor with a great sense of humor. She said “Why is it written in the Holy Quran, that you must take care of your parents without a single ‘uff’ from your side? – (He never said that for taking care of your children!) Because He knows, your parents will create situations which will make you want to exclaim!” And then she went into peals of laughter. It doesn’t mean the kids won’t be difficult. It means we don’t mind them being difficult. Then, why can’t we be more patient for our parents who have already shown their great love for us?

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Continue reading “Caring for elderly parents and parents-in-law.”

 60th Wedding Anniversary.

Here are points for any married couple to learn …….  

My parents celebrated their golden anniversary on June 25th 2016. On that wonderful day, their daughter (that’s me) and granddaughters took them out to dinner, and afterwards my father presented my mother with a beautiful diamond ring.

 

Every married couple would like to know how they’ve kept their love for each other alive.

“What has been the best thing about your wife?” I asked my father.

He said, “She never asked me for anything.”

When I asked my mother the same question, she said, “I never had to ask, because he always gave me everything I needed.”

Simple!

She had come from a mother who believed in ‘contentment’, and that is all I ever heard my mother talk about all my life. “The secret of happiness is in Contentment.”

Should I end this post here?

Do you think there is more to it?

Yes, I agree, there is much more to it.

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I’ve grown up with parents who always looked out for each other.  I never heard my mother talk back to her husband. (It wasn’t that she never disagreed, she just saw the futility of speaking when he is not in his right frame of mind.) – So she wisely chose to stay quiet. Maybe, days later, she would broach the subject in her own loving way – When my father was in a more receptive mood. It was a matter of wise timing.

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So what qualities have I witnessed? Here are a dozen points I’ve collected for you:

  1. Love. Total and complete love, which I’ve seen in every form: there were times, lately when my mother wasn’t too well. I asked my father to get a maid to take care of her. But he refused, saying “She has taken care of me all my life, now it’s my turn to take care of her myself”.
  2. Loyalty. Never letting anyone get away with talking against one’s husband or wife.
  3. Patience. I’ve watched my mother being so patient through situations which would have driven anybody else crazy.  Not her. She sits calmly, finding something to occupy herself with  like  knitting, embroidery, cooking or reading. Lately, she has taken up watching Pakistani dramas on her tablet! She keeps herself busy and stays calm.
  4. Expressiveness. One is never at a loss when one is with any one of them. Each one says exactly what he or she feels. Yet my mother knows when not to express also. When they were building their house, she would keep quiet and let my father make the main decisions. When I asked her why doesn’t she speak to him? She would say, “I don’t think its that important that I spoil our relationship over it.” So, she chose to keep her opinions to herself. This has been her policy a lot of times. She believes that nothing is worth spoiling the atmosphere of one’s home for. So, she kept her peace.20150122-20150122-img_3447
  5. Humor. Laughing out loud and ‘catching’ the humor in situations. In the grimmest of circumstances, I’ve seen them laughing and telling jokes. My father came back from 1965 war, with his funny tales, then after the life in POW camps and even the solitary confinement which is the severest form of torture. He came telling us jokes of his times in the camps. When he sat at the table, he said, “where is my dish? Daal! I’ve only had that all these years!” Then he had everyone in stitches telling us about the radio program of messages which all the prisoners would listen to with great sentiments. Once a person sent a recorded message on radio, of how “Rodu also has failed!” (Baldi has failed in his exams…) Now, what was the need of sending such a message? So it was hilarious. He came back full of stories. One of them was when a Sikh guard inadvertently walked into their make-shift mosque. So, they all gathered around him telling him “How dare you go into our mosque with your shoes on?” The guard duly apologized, but on the side my father told his friends jokingly, “we never go there, why are you going?” There he was, laughing and telling everyone jokes. We all knew the horrors of the experience. He was just trying to make light of it, (what was the point of sharing the horrors?) later on, he did share these with us. But I’m sure, he left the grizzly stuff out.20150114-20150114-219
  6. Financial interdependence. My father has always handed over every penny he had to my mother. She has been his custodian of all important papers and cash. He knew he could trust her. Her amazing memory and skills in mathematical calculations make her the best person for the purpose. No matter how tempting a thing might be, she won’t buy it if she can’t afford it. She has never bothered with what was the ‘fashion’ or ‘trend’. Yes, if she could easily afford something she would get it. She loved spending on her home, husband or her daughter. However, all within limits. My father knew that she would try to keep some money on the side, for a ‘rainy day’, so he could depend on her to bail him out when needed.
  7. Courage. Both my parents have never lacked in courage and valor. Both have been brave and courageous in their own ways.
  8. Caring in every possible way. They both have cared for their partner like anything. When mum was fine, my father was the pampered one. She took care of him like anything. He was the pampered eldest son in his home and the brother of three doting sisters. So, he was used to being given top priority all the time. My mother also saw to it that our household literally revolved around my father’s requirements and wishes. His preferred foods were always served the way he liked them. Yet he too encouraged and supported my mother’s preferences in style of serving food and the English way of laying a table, and having both English and Punjabi style food. Both respected and honored each other’s wishes, so parathas, daal and saag was enjoyed with ‘makai ki roti’, along with soups, stew, roast, and cakes and tarts.
  9. Praising one’s partner. Always blowing each other’s trumpet, both of them have admired each other and do not leave out any opportunity to praise each other up.
  10. Ignoring each other’s irritating habits. Being human, naturally, each one has habits which the other finds difficult, but they will both show so much tolerance for it. Patiently waiting for the other partner to get ready, or any other thing.20150821-20150821-317
  11. Looking out for other person’s interests and needs. Both are interested in sports. They love to watch tennis and keep each other updated. My father enjoys watching cricket. He will be up at all odd hours watching the latest matches. My mother hates the noise in the room, but will patiently tolerate it, while she tries to sleep. Having common interests. My parents have played chess always. Both are brilliant in it. They literally spend hours playing the game.20160625-dsc_0389
  12. Faith. I’ve seen them facing great financial and other life’s hardships with patience and tolerance.

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Happy birthday Mummy.

It is about your awesome journey so far… you are 82 years old on November, 7th 2016. 315931_10150796973810171_5378442_n1

Your getting married to a Captain in the army in East Pakistan, made it a news story in the papers. You were so courageous. Your Muslim friend Surraya, had warned you “these Muslims can be quite awful, don’t just marry him without finding out more …” your father GWF Young was adamant. “I trust him” and he never investigated my father’s background. Mom, you had told my father, that you won’t marry him, unless his family agrees to this marriage. So, you married my father after his family’s consent.

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You remember your happy early years of marriage in sharp detail. The living in frugal conditions in two rooms while living in Cantonment area of Rawalpindi, has memories you fondly remember till today. No money for fuel and owning nothing. Even the quilt you used was borrowed from friends! Yet you always said “Since God has to give us some problems, so our problem  ‘no money’.”  Your love for each other made up.

You baked that rainbow cake on my fifth birthday and Daddy threw a big party for me. We lived in our little hut in PMA, Kakul. When I was to have my first day at school, I was put on the school bus, to go to Abbottabad and find my own class in Burn Hall. Yes, you believed in giving me full confidence. You knew all about that one. As you had yourself been sent to boarding school at the age of four!

Bringing up your child as a Muslim is something amazing about you.      “Islam is very close to Christianity. It is very similar; I want my child to know her religion.” You engaged the best Molvi sahib in the area, to teach me passages from the Holy Quran with translations daily. (I often wonder, if could have done the same?)  When we did Qurbani on Eid-ul-Azha, it was you who knew how many portions are there for the family, relatives/friends and for the poor. 10550099_10152699340227033_736269574015649571_o1

Yet, you didn’t mix conversion  with marriage. “ I’m not going to my religion  for you.” You told my father. Since Islam has no issue with that, and a Muslim can marry any person of the Books.  It showed how much you valued your faith and God. You grew up in a family who had values and principles.

Living with the Muslims, and being part of this society, Mum you won the hearts of everyone. You made friends, who loved you for who you are. You were good to all relatives of my Dad, cooked tasty meals for them, and looked after them, when they came to stay with us.

In school and with friends, you left me to fend for myself. You never backed me up anywhere, knowing that as an only child, you prepared me well. You  knew, other children had siblings to back them up, but you wanted me to be strong. Being an only child yourself, you knew how it feels. You  didn’t know, however, that in school (and elsewhere,) I invariably had someone who did back me up! 20150821-20150821-450

Your fantastic memory is what our whole family banks on. You remember, names, ages and places of peo14079914_1684742931849821_6135030403363999369_n1ple we met long ago. Even those you never met! You are like a computer. It is this memory of yours, which gave Nadiya the clues she used to find your family tree from the British records. It was amazing. She succeeded in finding your Canadian cousin Robin, just a few months before his death in Mexico. Here is a photograph of you with your father, when you were a schoolgirl.

After marriage, when you came to West Pakistan, from East Pakistan, you knew no Urdu, and found Punjabi mystifying. You were used to wearing western dresses. You willingly, changed your dress, and learnt Urdu, enough to manage very well. When you went to the village Pindi Gheb with my father for the first time … he asked you “How does Punjabi sound to you?”

“It looks as if they are fighting with each other!” you remarked.

My grandparents had held a grand Waleema function for you both in Pindi Gheb. It was such a landmark in your life, that for decades later, you would calculate people’s ages  from that first time!

Though you lived just ten minutes from my college, you insisted on putting me in hostel. You believed, this is essential in life. (I’ll have to agree to that one!) Always a self-less person, you made sure I got the best of everything.

“My mother always taught me ‘the secret of happiness is in contentment’.” Is what I heard from you, all my life. Yes, you’ve always been contented with whatever my father gave you. Of course, he always handed over all his money. You managed everything. You had all his papers and took care of everything for him12042887_1033556840010941_4812420889195803829_n1.

Mum, remember when I was expecting Waliya in Karachi, you and daddy had come to visit us. One day, there was a call from an editor of a new magazine. “Please let us know your terms and conditions, as we want you to write regularly for us.” In those days, my weekly column was appearing in Dawn’s Tuesday Review. I was thrilled, and told you. You looked at me and you started laughing. “Tell her I am ‘full term’ and condition is in ‘full bloom’!”

Mom, you are amazing. I know you could have made a claim to your father’s property in Narrabeen, Australia. But you didn’t. When my maternal grandfather passed away, my step grandmother Mavis was in the home. But when she passed away, that’s when I said to Mom that she could have claimed it. Mom said “She took care of my father, that is enough for me.” My Mummy, you just dont have it in you to go for wealth of any sort. I know you  just leave everything to God. Your  faith has always been unshakable. I can see how God takes personal interest in your wellbeing too.

While having spent a life of being quite hard up, you never minded my father’s generosity to poor people around you, or for anyone else.  Always by his side, always supporting him in whatever he says or does.

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You never liked jewelry, and never bought any. The few trinkets handed down from your parents and your grandparents were all you had. Life in the army took care of the rest. Living an honest and hardworking life, my father couldn’t afford to give you any more. Yet, you never demanded either. You never looked at others, nor compared. Yes, contentment is all I saw. You didn’t mix around much, nor had many friends. Just a few sincere friends, whom you’ve had all your life.

Your cooking was always amazing. The food in our home was awesome. The dinners you gave, your black forest cake, your walnut cake and your chicken roast were out of this world. I specially loved the stew you made. The fresh juices with carrots, oranges, and honey are still remembered.

You were always as good in Math as I was bad in it. That’s why you always lost your patience while teaching me Math.  Whack!!!!

One day, several years ago, in your home in Safari Villas, Daddy and I were planning our Haj trip. You asked, what about the children? “Mom, they will be with you…” I said. “But I’ll be with you both, I’m also performing Haj!” you said. That was it. You had decided to covert to Islam. It was a great moment. We wanted to share the news with relatives and friends by having a gathering. But you are a very private person, and didn’t want us to make a big event of it. We respected that, and were thrilled. A conversion should not be from convenience, but from conviction. It’s a very private and emotional moment.

We also respected the fact that you didn’t want to change your name. “It is the only thing I have, which was given to me by my parents”. Rosemary is a beautiful name, Mom, we love it. Just as we love you.  Most folks often like to call you ‘Rose’ which also sounds great.10478219_739215312787040_8676699203763179237_n1

Over  two years ago, when you and my father, sold off your home, to shift in with me, you adjusted so well. A few months after the move, I asked you, “how do you feel leaving your own home, and moving in?” and you made me so happy when you said, “I’ve forgotten it all, I’m here with the ones I love, I’m happy.”

You were always the techno person in our home. When the VCR came, it was you who knew how to record programs. You even learnt to use the computer.  Now, at 81 years, you have your own Ipad, watching all your favorite films. Your latest craze is watching the Pakistani dramas on your ipad. ‘Humsafar’ beats all!

“There is only one person more handsome than Fawad Khan,” I heard you saying “That person is your Dad.” With a dreamy expression you told me “If you could have seen him, at that age, he looked so dashing, always well dressed, and used a  cigarette holder, for his cigarette .”

When I ask her “what was it about daddy that made you fall in love with him?” instantly the reply is “His polished shoes!” That’s her humor all the way.

When I’m out, you are the one who is monitoring all my movements. The moment I step out of my art class, your call comes, “is your class over?” and then “Can you get me some croissants from Tehzeeb?” you know, that once I step into that bakery, I won’t come home without several other goodies either!”20140114-img_7273

When we went to PC Rawalpindi for brunch and you and Daddy and entertained some friends. When we came home and you had gone to rest. Waliya and I sat on the sofa, daddy sat across from us. Daddy started saying something… we could barely understand, (I looked down at my phone, where a call was coming from Nadiya. Waliya, was looking at me, her look said ‘pick it up!’, I was ignoring it, I texted Nadiya, ‘l’ll call back’, I whispered to Waliya, ‘daddy is saying something important… and this is what he was saying… “you know, as time goes by, I love your mother more and more!”

What more can I say…..!  Except, Mum I love you too, more and more each day. Happy birthday and may you have a long, healthy life. Ameen.

Stay blessed, my dear reader. Wishing you beautiful relationships with your loved ones.  🙂