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.
So, on your birthday, I want to tell you why I love being with you and your family. Why i think the world of you. Why I love the pampering I get whenever I’m at your home….
Just take your cooking, for instance. Your lamb roast is the most amazing one, without any oil in it, and cooked simply but with great effort for almost three days. Then the chick-peas dish accompaniment which goes with it. The fish you make which is almost fully sautéed. The tea and coffee you make with your own gizmos. So, whatever you do becomes an art in itself.
Otherwise, you don’t do it.
Remember, when we all got marooned in Duval, Seattle for over 21 days! We couldn’t leave the house, as all the roads of Seattle were ‘snowed’ up due to the worst snowfall they had had in twenty years? That was in December 2008.
You are a blend of East and West. Very close to your mother and sisters, your regular phone calls to them, and even sharing of recipes, is so nice. I can never forget your conversations with Tahira Apa, your great and wonderful mother. It would be full of your humor and her tolerance of it. Of course she too was very well read, and a good writer in Urdu language like your sisters Sabahat and Rahat. I’ve been a keen reader of their writings which are deep and full of sensitivity. Your relationship with your sister Shafaq is full of its own intonations, with a lot of childhood mischief and jokes included. Your brother Haroon, his wife Uzma and son Daniyal are one great family who have become so dear to me. They are more than just family to me, they are also my very close friends. I can never forget how they stood by me in my rough times, and have been my haven. Spending part of every weekend together has become a habit for us.
Your eldest sister Rahat’s writing about how people should deal with her death, written at the age of twenty-five, which was a preempt for her own early death later, in her forties, through cancer. Now, I remember, that was the reason I had got to know you better. It was a sharing of a painful reality. (I too had faced a similar situation when I had a close brush with the deadly disease,) and an operation during which it was found that I didn’t have it, saved me, where as in her case, it was not so. She had already completed her life. Her time had come, the deadly disease was the ‘excuse’. The pain that the family went through did not get any lessor due to her article written so many years earlier, at the prime of her youth. The ages of my children and hers were almost similar, and I felt this deep connection with Rahat. Talking to you online made me feel a deep emotional connection, though you didn’t mention it, but one could feel how pained you were at such a time, as you couldn’t come home to your family to share your own pain with theirs. Taking it all alone, was another sign of your great courage, which made me feel your strength. I wanted to communicate with you, and learn more about this awesome personality. Your being a very private person, sharing your grief only with your art and music, gave me another feeling of connection. I too, have had this habit of sharing my grief with my art and writing.
I just love your musical compositions, your passion for hard rock. Your love of Pink Floyd’s band, and your knowledge about each members’ interesting history and background of each member shows your great interest in them. You know each song and the reasons why they were composed. Yes, you love them. Your love for guitars and the way you play the instrument is also great. Your collection of different guitars on the wall of your study is quite impressive. Naturally, your wife had to gift you with another one for this birthday. Your tunes were very deep, different and ‘catchy’. Our late night chats and your sharing of your musical collection with me. Watching movies and sharing thoughts on all sorts of things, means the world to me.
Your expertise of the computer – a programmer for Microsoft – what else should one expect? Any problem I have on the computer, you are there to help within a jiffy. Like a maestro, you just fix the problem of my mobile phone or laptop.
Your love of books and collecting them. Your ceiling-to-floor book collection with its books by Salman of Junoon, writings by Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Rumi and Iqbal. So, it is with great pleasure when I get books for you signed by the author as I did of ‘Allah’ by Uxi Mufti among several. I know you will be the one to cherish it and appreciate it. Your gift to me of Bulle Shah’s poetry is one of my most treasured possessions.
Your thoughts and visions always make me stop. The belief of a time to come when there would be no borders, just ‘states’ in this whole world – perhaps, not in our life time – all with their own inner governance, but belonging to one whole entity. You are on a quest, for a better world, which includes the responsible use of all the earth’s resources, in order to leave a better world for coming generations. No wonder you have been working in positions which find better uses of alternative energy sources.
What I really like about you is your being a chronic law-abiding citizen, you follow laws to the letter. Yet, if wrongly accused, you are ready to fight for your rights in the proper way. This is something so wonderful about you. You are honest and have integrity – qualities that I admire anywhere. Well, as the son of a very well-respected Judge of the High Courts in Pakistan, you knew the importance and value of the law.
You are not so much into rituals of religion but your hard-core knowledge is great. Your principles are centered and your North is well grounded. Such a generous person, that it is just the ‘norm’ for you. (I remember, before your marriage, my girl said “I hope he isn’t stingy” – I looked at her and asked, “Tell me, how am I to find that out? It is all in Allah’s hands. What can I do? Just pray he isn’t that’s all!”) With you it’s an issue of so much generosity! Once before your marriage, my mother called me and said “Hope he doesn’t get angry!”
“Which person doesn’t get angry?” I had asked her. How was I to know. But the beautiful fact remains, that you, actually don’t get angry. You are such a stable and patient person.
Once, when there was so much ‘down-sizing’ going on, right left and center. So, I was giving you all a ‘talk’ on importance of ‘kafaiyat shuari’…. and you were busy on your laptop and I saw you had got your wife an expensive jewelry set. I realized, I better not give my unwarranted advice. Just hope you can afford your lifestyle and generosity.
Of course there is so much more, that I’d love to share about you. The fact that you are a great dad. Your daughter just dotes on you. I know you will be her benchmark for all men in her life. No wonder she is one of the outstanding students in the whole district! I also know how much you hate seeing off your cute family, to stay home alone. Yet, you do not stop them, and let them come to their family and relatives ‘back home’. It is another sign of how great you are, and why you are so dear to me.
Stay blessed young man, may you enjoy and cherish all the blessings that you’ve had so far. May all of these bloom into greater blessings during times to come. Wishing for you a long and healthy life – which is filled with love, happiness and your unique form of creativity.
It is my wish that next birthday, we all may spend together. I’ll bake a nice cake for you for a change, and we’ll all be together.
Happy birthday Bilal. 🙂