I discovered that I am my Mother’s Daughter


The Purple Fig

The Purple Fig

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“You look just like Munnoo!”said my grandma several years ago. She always called my mom using her childhood nickname. I was standing in my mom’s kitchen, with my back facing her. “Really?” I laughed in surprise. It was probably the way my hair was done that day; tied up on my head, showing off a meek looking neck that begged for respite from the raging Lahore summers. I never thought I resembled my mama much. Her beauty and ability to look good in anything, her grace and skill, her judgement and critique, her determination and confidence, her kindness and wrath. Who was to know?My grandmother’s statement would often make me wonder in the future.

I was an insufferable part of the corporate sector before I got married. Whenever I got back from work, I’d melt into the living room couch like an overzealous ice cream cone working hard under the sun. House work? Yeah, right. That was never my thing. My mama worked too. Almost all of her life really. But my brother and I never felt her absence. Nor do I remember many times where she was preoccupied more with her work than her family.My little ones sometimes miss me even when I’m sitting right in front of them. Because well, when I write, I forget everything else. Strange, now that I think of it. It seems almost unreal to be present fully in both demanding worlds. But that’s what mama has been always known to do. The impossible. A cliché for many, but one of my biggest truths.

There’s no way to explain her overpowering and protective presence throughout my life. Wiping away my tears and telling me to chin up on my failed cupid adventures. Giving me freedom but always hovering at the background, making sure I didn’t mess up diabolically.  Serving me delicious food at my study table during my final exams in high school. Peeking in often, caressing my hair and face lovingly, telling me I’d do great in the exams. She made a huge deal out of it all. It was serious business. I was to study undisturbed, in the comfort of an air-conditioned room, while the rest of the house had to endure the heat. She understood where she had to let go, though. So I was allowed to watch ‘The X-files’ that was aired on the satellite dish every Wednesday night. Even this timid teenager would have lashed out on account of a missed date with David Duchovny. Fortunately, we understood each other. Well, mostly.

When I got married, the entire process passed by like a storm. Leaving us all exhilarated, tired, angry and relieved, all at the same time. This was one time when mama and I didn’t see eye to eye on certain matters. I even disagreed with my dad on a few things. That’s when I realized how parents are not always right or sure of what they are doing. But they do it anyway. They don’t have the luxury to sit back or procrastinate. That’s when I realized how parents too are humans who err and lose their way sometimes. And that no matter what happens, I  know that they’ve got my back.

I moved across town from my parents. I secretly yearned to find similarities between my new kitchen and my mama’s. The way all her kitchen counters would sparkle and shine within minutes of cooking up a delicious storm. If it were the cook in charge, he’d be forced to do just as mama pleased, or he’d never hear the end of it. Everything was always in its rightful place. From the oft-used rolling pin to the coriander powder spice jar. And why wouldn’t it be? It was my mama’s kitchen. All this time, I wondered if I’d ever be able to keep it all together like mama. I wondered when some of her magic would trickle down the hereditary ladder. I still do.

A year later, I had a baby boy. The first month I felt like a child lost in the jungle. Forever on the verge of tears, and always choking with delight when mama came to the rescue. She fed me healthy and strange concoctions that were apparently a necessity for a new mother’s ravaged body. Turmeric and almonds with hot milk. And a few spoonfuls of ‘Panjeeri’, a medley of delicious nuts and fancy things(I can barely pronounce) cooked with clarified butter to ease my bones. I never thought she was truly conventional or dated in her beliefs. But she knew the important things to pluck from the ancestral tree. Setting up a warm bath to sooth my stinging stitches. Putting an anxious baby to bed, while I snored away. In those few weeks staying with my mama, I felt like a queen.  By the time my daughter was born, I didn’t feel as Alice-in-wonderlandish lost as before.

Years later, I moved to Canada with my husband and two children. When it was time to set up my kitchen, I thought I’d be clueless. But then I felt myself moving about my kitchen as she might have. She gave me a hand-written a small cook. I  wanted to preserve some of her taste in my cooking. I had my entire life ahead to fall back on Google for recipes. Though I’m still struggling and nothing’s perfect, I just hope I’ve not fallen too far from the tree.

Mama used to tell me how she was as emotional, trusting and vulnerable in her younger years as I was. But then real life happened to her. And that’s how a person hardens with time. Something that she hinted would happen with me too. I don’t think I’m there yet or ever will be. Because of her I have lived a beautiful life, and continue to do so. Because of her, I continue to revel in my safe bubble, where in my head no harm can come. It’s all because of her. And you know what? I don’t agree with her here. Sure life can deal you a hard blow now and then. Yet it can’t change your soul. Because all it takes is an injured bird at the doorstep and voila, you see the little girl that my mama once was.

My parents are visiting us this June. I am pregnant with my third child. I am hormonal and already hyperventilating. I have to clean, scrub, organize and arrange. But you know what my mama will say when she enters my home for the first time? “You didn’t have to tire yourself in this condition, beta ( loving name for son or daughter). Relax! House work can always be done later.”

I may not be like you, but I am my mama’s daughter.









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!