It is about your awesome journey so far… you are 82 years old on November, 7th 2016.
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.
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.
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!
Your fantastic memory is what our whole family banks on. You remember, names, ages and places of people 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 him.
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.
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.
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!”
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. 🙂