Birth of my precious first child.
Your grandfather called you ‘my princess’. Your grandmother, loved singing lalabyes to you ‘meri jaani, meri raani, I love you! …… ’ (My princess, I love you.)
Of course, you were the apple of your parent’s eyes too!
When you were one year old, we travelled through Europe – ten countries in twenty days. It was so much fun. Your Papa had planned the whole trip. We went mostly by train from Kuwait to London and back. We travelled by airplane, Euro- train, ferry and at times we took the city tours in buses. You were never a problem. Once I met an English lady who was amazed at you! “I’ve been watching her, she’s so well behaved, I know, I’m a baby sitter. Then she kept telling other passengers about you, on the ferry from Oostende (Belgium) to Folkestone (England).
As you grew older, I loved seeing the world through your eyes. You were bright. At two and half years, you knew your alphabets, and could recognize words by three. At four you could read out stories from books, and by four and a half, you could read them, and translate the English words into Urdu for your friends.
I was clear about not sending you to school at an early age. I had decided to teach you at home. I knew you loved watching your own home films, so while I was having a session of alphabets with you, I’d record it. (Yes, our video camera was always ready.) While I did housecleaning and cooking, you’d watch your films, and learn without realizing. I’d put up flash cards of Urdu and English alphabets on the door of our tv lounge where you could see them, and you learnt fast.
It amazed me, how you kept your clothes so clean. I’d invariably dress you in white, you’d play with sand, and water and what not, but your clothes didn’t get soiled. You dressed well, and cared for your dresses.
The arrival of your sister Nadiya when you were just two and a half years, was another big event in our family. We did everything to avoid sibling rivalry for instance: I took a rocking horse, and other toys to hospital when I went for delivery. So, when you came to hospital with your grandparents, you were thrilled to receive your gifts from your sis! You happily showed the hospital staff what your sister brought for you.
You’ve been a great elder sister. So much so, that Nadiya thought the world of you. You were protective, helpful, responsible and very loving. (Much later, when Waliya arrived, you loved being her elder sister too, you just took her under your wing, mothering her at every oppertunity.)
When you picked the phone at age three, you would instantly name the person who was calling, even if you had met them once. The friend who called would be amazed. Your dad had put auto dialing on our phone, and by the time I woke up, you had already called Fatima, my friend, got all the news of their home, and would tell me what was happening.
Yes, and you were bossy. At two and a half, you had picked up Arabic language from our Egyptian neighbors Rasha, Marwa and their mother Shajia, in Kuwait. I was told your accent was great! You were friendly with most of the families in our block, including Pakistanis, Iranians and Palestinians. One day when you were three, the Iranian children came in to our neighbor’s flat in their night suits. You gave them a dirty look, and scolded them in Arabic, told them to change and come back properly dressed. Shajia looked at me and smiled in wonder.
You grew up as the strong eldest sister, making sure the pets too were aware of your authority. The cats would avoid you, and walked around you, knowing, you can make them sit on your lap and find out how much the tail bends!
When you were around nine years, I was going for my usual walk in Masroor, Karachi, and saw many little girls all dressed up in special clothes … I stopped to talk to a neighbor, and she said, I couldn’t sleep in the afternoon, as I had to take out gharara and special dresses for my daughter. She said Nataliya has thrown a party, and they have to go properly dressed up for it! I had no idea. I quit my walk, and dashed home to find it filled up with around twelve four-to-six year olds, all dressed up in their best, enjoying themselves dancing in the lounge. I went into the kitchen and quickly cooked stuff for that party!
Around age eight to ten years, you were known among your friends for the paper dolls you made. You drew them on paper, and colored them with pencils. Complete with a home of colorful floor plan like I made for interior designing. Along with family: mother, father, grandparents and siblings. They were made in enchanting detail and kept in envelopes along with different clothes for each one.
During Matriculations (grade 10), you changed three cities and schools, and still managed to stand third in your class. In FSc (grade 12) you topped in the school, and broke their previous record of three years. Your name is still on the Roll of Honor board in Sargodha ABIC school. I remember the day before, the principal called me to tell me you had topped. When I put the phone down, I was dying to tell my friend. You stopped me, you were sure it was a mistake! So we drove off to college at 9.00 pm to look at the result ourselves to make sure first!
Any event in your friend’s lives, was a major event in your life! I had to take that. (later, more of it, with your siblings!) But I always encouraged your friends to come over, and I loved them finding comfort in our home, – better for me to know your friends – that was the idea. But most of them, turned out to be good company for me too. Most of them are now in my friends’ list on Facebook.
You got into FAST on merit – you found that unbelievable too! Becoming a software engineer was very hard, as it was not your cup of tea, but still you carried on. I guess it was inevitable that you ended up marrying one of the best software engineers in the world. One who has worked in Microsoft for over fifteen years …! How that happened when we all were living worlds apart, is another blog! Bilal assured me, the world is going to shrink more in the near future. He was right. It has helped me feel closer to you.
Nataliya, you and I were always deeply connected. Communicating with you has never been an issue (nor is it with my other girls!) Nat, but you are psychic. You’ve never failed to surprise me with your intuition. It is so strong, that you can often guess the color of my dress while we talk on the phone. When I’m struggling to find the name of my ‘favorite’ song or singer, it is you who says the name first! You know me so well, (– now that job has been taken over by Waliya.)
You stood strong beside me whenever I felt weak or upset. Your determination to put things right side up always helped me through several storms. I can’t remember a time in my life, when I needed you and you weren’t there for me – in spite of your busy life in the US. Almost daily we’ve communicated. Even if it was just a quick two minute exchange of words. One ‘hello’ and you know if I’m fine or not. Thanks to Bilal, you’ve always come once a year at least. You always bring such thoughtful gifts for each person whether it’s your own family or your in-laws. – A gift to suit the unique personality and requirements of each individual. I don’t know how you do it! I guess, it is because you are so observant and make a note of what you hear and see. When you speak to a person you are really ‘there’ and not diverted. (though it is also obvious that you are doing something else!) so, one doesn’t expect you to notice such details.
It was you who noticed in your skype chat with your Papa that his face was swollen. It was you who knew things were falling apart here, when your Papa got ill. How you came with your hubby and baby to the hospital, making your papa so happy to see his grandchild for the first time! When you were at grandparents, and we would return from a full day at the hospital, you insisted on making us all wash up before touching Anya. Through those dark days of December 2011/January 2012, you stood right next to me like a rock along with your sisters. How you managed baby, me and the house move just three weeks after death of your papa, spoke volumes of your organizational skills. You could have slept in your brother-in-law Haroon and Uzma’s house, but you insisted on staying with me in our freezing house. With Allah’s blessings we made it through. Your giving me financial help when our banks were closed, and then refusing to take it back when things finally got better meant alot.
Nataliya, I’ve watched you grow into a beautiful, intelligent, caring, loving and responsible young lady. I’ve felt pride and joy by just looking at your dear face. Today, I sit back and know, you have your strong faith with you. Back in 2006 September, I watched you go across the seven seas to your own home and your brand new husband. I had faith in God who had protected you all your life so far – to take care of you across the globe too.
My faith in my God, is combined with my faith in Bilal who is such a stable, and well-grounded personality. His reading habits, and laid back approach to life is just what you need. His interest in composing music and reading, along with his sense of humor and ability to cook so well, makes him an ideal husband for you. I’ve enjoyed my conversations with him. He even offered to pay for Waliya’s education when I fell on hard times. Something, I can never forget.
Beautiful Anya’s entry into our lives has been the icing on the cake as well as cherry on the top. – More on her, in another blog.
Your interest in photography was the natural inheritance from your father. – Then Bilal, happily getting you any camera you wished for, added to that! Through your pictures you’ve come out as a professional photographer of a different class. Your choice of angles, your slant, your point of view is different, intriguing and so fascinating. Yet it conveys the whole essence, the fragrance, the music of a moment. The movement or stillness you convey is awesome. It is like a breath of fresh air, like the sun rays of dawn. I love the way you depict the minute details of living, and beauty and the ambiance of whatever surrounds you.
It’s the same with your home décor and dress sense and specially your blogs. The way you have integrated your photography into your writing of blogs, has such an impact! I’ve been a great admirer of your blogs. You have a way of putting words and pictures to everyday things which we find hard to express. Its no wonder, that you were chosen as one of the best ten blogger/photographers. Other bloggers have interviewed you too.
I could go on and on. But you and my reader would be collapsing by now. So, I’ll end now …. (I can see your pink cheeks, tears welling in your eyes, and your beautiful smile right now! I love you so much, and thank God for giving me such a great blessing as you. ) I pray for your wellbeing, long, healthy life and happiness always.
Happy birthday, Nataliya