Me and My Baba

Me and Baba

Me and My Baba

Fathers and daughters –  a royal bond. Almost like the queen in a game of chess, standing out from the rest as something intriguing, something powerful, something special.

Looking back, I have many reasons to celebrate my relationship with my baba (father). In so many little or big moments that take turns warming up my heart. Moments that I keep safe in my mind, like a possessive collector. Moments that are majestic only because they are about me and my baba.

Baba, I know you will be one of my first readers here. You have been my most enthusiastic and loyal fan. I am no way near the writer you think me to be. But your encouragement is all I need to take on the world. I have many memories of us together.  I am surprised I remember, since memory isn’t my strongest suit. And like you, I am not good with the spoken word. Writing comes more naturally. So today I am going to write some of my most precious memories of us together. Just you and me.

You remember how you could never scold me? I loved taking advantage of that. On the face of it I’d freak out like any typical hormonal teenager but inside, I knew it was only a matter of time before you burst out laughing; an embarrassed, hearty laugh that made you turn red. Then I’d end up laughing. So your laugh invariably saved me from what could have been many ‘go-to-my-room-and-slam-the-door’ incidents.

You have always expressed love in a quirky way. You didn’t give me big hugs or cuddle me as a child. You’d pull my cheeks. Your favorite name for me was fluffy cheeks.  The only reaction it got was my sulky pout. Now it only makes me smile. Over the years, cheek pulling transformed into something else. You’d put your finger on my dimpled cheek and give me a slight poke. To this day, this is my favorite ‘hug’.

You’d stop me from overeating or junk-food, not by telling me straight on, but by joking about it or teasing me to a point where I’d feel like banging my head on the wall. You knew me too well because that always did the trick. I guess this bonding isn’t complete until a daughter sulks at something her father says and then expects him to make her feel better.My 20-month old daughter already does that with her dad!

Your love for books and written prowess are two things I will always be proud of. You were the smartest kid in school and college. People wondered how you did it all because you were always playing sports and never studying.  I often wondered too. I love calling you a human dictionary. There is not a word you don’t know the meaning of. And the best part is, the only help I got from you was, “Look it up in the dictionary yourself!”. A hereditary trait that I will love torturing my children with.

I remember a trip we took to Murree soon after my graduation. A time when I needed a breather from my life. It was a memorable drive, with blaring loud and annoying Bollywood music that you never told me to turn off.  I had time to think about what I was doing, where I was going in my life. Even your silence comforted me, guided me. And by the time mama and my brother joined us, I was as good as new. A couple of months before I got married, I used to go with you for your morning walks. You loved them, still do. That is one of my happiest memories of us together. Another time, during my first pregnancy, I was housebound on doctor’s orders. My mood swings were at an all time high. You again came to the rescue baba. You took me out of home, drove me to a book store and what do you know! I was as good as new.

You taught me to be honest and upright. You taught me to never be impressed by false status or money. But to always be in awe of intelligence and ability. You taught me never to be stingy or unnecessarily worrisome. You taught me to go with the flow and to take it easy. You taught me the power of books. You taught me never to cheat – people, work or your country. You taught me all of this not by lecturing, but by doing.

Remember how you felt for an entire year after I got married? Every time I’d come to visit, you would just look at me with sad eyes. That was the first time I realized how much you missed me. Sitting in the car, waving goodbye, all I remember are your watery eyes and forced smile. One time I even cried on my way back because I saw how much you and mama missed me. And to think I was in the same city! That’s why I never wanted to go away. But you and mama made us apply for immigration. You made us go continents away for our betterment. Your foresight helped us make a great future here. But that doesn’t change that you and mama are sitting so far away from your children and grandchildren.

I miss my special hug. I miss sulking over something you teased me about. I miss your joyous laugh as you greeted your grandchildren with open arms. I miss how you spoiled me all my life and how you now spoil your grandchildren. I miss how you scolded me about junk food and now with your grandchildren you can’t tell the difference. I miss how, after every other week, you came home with a new stash of best sellers. I miss how you’d get upset when I’d make fun of your endless morning sneezes. I miss your laugh when I’d imitate how you read a book before going to bed.

I am glad I wrote all this down. But there is more. Maybe I will keep adding it all here. Nothing like the written word to breathe immortality into a precious memory.

See you soon bopsy!






The simple truths

Every other year, it seems like the world will end and then, it doesn’t. It sometimes gets difficult for sunlight to pierce through this widespread, inner darkness. Negativity breeds faster than rabbits. Amid this bleak invasion, we occasionally blow it all out of proportion. The good, the bad and the exaggerated all gets muddled up like water colors mixed with water. But if we look closely it’s not hard to understand that some truths are simple. They are not really good or bad or even unbelievable. Truths that echo our varied existences during different points in time. Truths that are not meant to be judged.

Hard to believe but there was a time when one person in the entire neighborhood had television and all the children gathered during prime time to watch black and white cartoons. That was not exaggeration. It was the truth then. Now any child who does not own a laptop, cell phone or television is like a dinosaur treading Manhattan. This is not exaggeration either. It’s a simple truth.  Or when it was normal to have ten siblings at home. A ridiculous notion in our eyes today, but a common truth back then. Now, remaining childless by choice is an acceptable norm. Or how it was something of a herculean task just to say “I love you” to parents. Now, people we love have ‘days’ named after them so we can show them we care. Another truth that just is.

Why create days to celebrate such simple, overstated truths? We know we love our parents. No one puts us on gunpoint just to say those three words. What’s the underlying concept anyway? Mother’s day founder, Anna Jarvis created the idea to “memorialize her mother by working to promote a day that would honor all mothers.” She was against the entire commercialization of the day based on simple truths of heartfelt emotion vs. greedy profiteering. While this is a noble idea for drawing-room, virtuous talk, it’s just that. Talk. While I do understand and nod fervently on her basis for this, I can’t seem to make mends with her extreme disgust for florists, card companies and anyone else who ended up making money out of Mother’s day. If the world profits from beastly things like weapons, disease and terrorism, then what’s the harm in earning a few more bucks on days of love and joy. That’s just how this world works. We profit out of everything. Someone dies, there’s a whole line of people waiting to fill their wallets; From gravediggers to funeral home owners, to catering businesses. Where natural disasters destroy lives, they also make the lives of many working to resurrect lost lands and infrastructures. So if you love someone and feel the need to go slightly over the top in your expression, do it! Even if it means a hurried trip to put some money in Hallmark’s account.

We are already exploding with cynicism and hatred to appreciate the true emotions in life. So if a few days in the year connect us with feelings that may have numbed over time or neglected, then why not? And if you are the perfect son or daughter who shows love every day, then another day to express your love should be a bonus.  That does not mean that love for our mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, teachers etc. has been confined only to  these ‘days’.  Nor does a showy post on Facebook give you extra points because you wrote a love-filled status and others didn’t. It’s just a method of expression, just like there are different ways to get from one place to another. This transfer of emotions is like a ride on a hot air balloon. Different. Exciting. Showy. At times pointless. But still a wonderful mode that gives us wings to escape from mind-numbing routine and to forge stronger bonds.

This was the first year my four-year old son came home with a Mother’s day card. And I did not mind one bit that the chart-paper, crayon, glue and printing companies earned an extra buck because he and so many children around the world chose this way to say ‘I love you mom’. A truth, that is what it is. Simple.

Raahim's card on Mother's dayRaahim's card on mother's day



Junipers weep as Father’s Day approaches…

credits: The Express Tribune

credits: The Express Tribune

Children in schools around the globe excitedly prepare for Father’s Day with messy, colorful postcards and a whole lots of love. Teenagers take out their stash of pocket money and hurry to the nearest mall for the perfect present. Adults just feel warm inside and thank God for giving them a father who is still alive and well. Fathers themselves feel an overwhelming feeling of pride and gratitude as they wake up to a day that is theirs to celebrate.

That is the perfect Father’s Day, in some fortunate corner of the world.

Quaid-e-Azam was also a father; a founding father of an entire nation. He also had similar feelings of pride on the day Pakistan was born. Even after his death, he deserved all the love and respect from his legacy – his people – his country. What he got instead, was a whole lot of disrespect showered with blood and agony. What he got instead, was destruction of his beloved sanctuary in Ziarat (Balochistan), one day before the much celebrated Father’s Day. The historical refuge where he lived on and off during his life, amongst the glorious juniper trees, was his gruesome gift from his children.

Sadly, father’s day celebrations had just begun. More bloody surprises were in store for a man who wasn’t even allowed to rest peacefully in death. A few hours after the Ziarat tragedy, fourteen female university students were killed in Balochistan from a ruthless blast followed by another blast where the culprits laid siege to the Bolan Medical Complex. More presents for the father all carefully wrapped in horror and disbelief.

I began this post with scorn and hate. I thought I would be able to vent out my anger.  I was wrong. No amount of contempt for the attacks can make a difference here. No amount of shallow words of comfort can mend the broken heart of a father. There is a limit to torture a father can bear. There is a thin line between what a father can or cannot forgive his unruly children for.  I believe this time, there is no forgiveness. There are only weeping junipers and a battered heart.

Sad Father’s Day to you all.