Family Relationships

Maintaining Relationships

“Love your relations” Said General Jilani to my father, then he added with a twinkle in his eyes, “ – but only from a distance!” General Jilani, was my father’s senior, when he joined the army. Later, he became the Governor of Punjab, however their closeness continued.  By the way, his home was always full of guests and relations. So, don’t take these remarks too seriously.

There is a lot of wisdom in this remark too. 😉 It just means, ‘be in contact, but give space to each other!’ So, that is what I’m talking about….

Times like Eid, Christmas, Divali make you think of ‘family’ and relations. You want to spend this time with your loved ones. It is a time to cherish them, and let them know you value their presence. So this blog is all about that value;

Your relations with relations. You can’t have relations with relations, without having any relationship with them! You’ve got to meet them, at least now and then.

How to meet them? Frankly, it is quite simple.

These are the rules:

  1. Avoid family politics.
  2. Forgive as much as you possibly can.
  3. Create and make opportunities to gather everyone together, at least once or twice a year.
  4. Mention the good things done by elders and young ones. Take pride in each other’s accomplishments.
  5. Cherish the good deeds of each other, (just as you repeat the bad ones!)
  6. Avoid and discourage ‘gheebat’ or back-biting.
  7. Specially give time to the elders.
  8. Specially also, give time to the younger ones of the clan.
  9. Make a family tree and display in your home. Yes, you belong.
  10. Make more opportunities to meet up with distant relatives also.These meetings are so important, so that we feel as if we belong to a bigger ‘clan’.  Celebrating the family stories and acts of valor are also nice. Writing a small book with the family history is a good idea. You will also find some skeletons in the closet. Try to ignore them, in the hope that they will improve with time. Then you can write about them too! Google your family history and share with each other. I found a lot about the Gheba tribe ( . If you make an effort you can dig out relations from all over the world, as my daughter Nadiya Najib did. She has a genealogy section on her webpage. She found out our family history from my mother’s side in the English records, and found relatives of hers in Canada, and in South Africa. Now she is in contact with both sides. We are planning a meet up with my mother’s grandfather’s sister’s great grandson and his family, this year. Dave and his wife Valerie are planning to come to Seattle specially to meet us. (Really looking forward to that one. He tells me his wife and daughter love the arts.)

Exemplary relationships:

‘Family’ includes the step-relations, the adopted ones as well as the ‘saukans’ or second wives of your dear ones. While in my life I’ve known terrible family feuds between close blood relations, I’ve also witnessed exemplary love and affection between ‘step’ and ‘half’ siblings. I personally know a second-wife who was chosen by the first wife of her husband, and has now gone into deep depression because after the death of her husband, her saukan also passed away recently. She actually misses the first wife of her husband. I’ve only seen love and beautiful bonding and closeness between these relations. Here are exceptional examples of ‘relations with your relations’. I’ve also witnessed how a step-sister has been nurtured, educated and married off with dowry and property shares. The step brothers and sisters are taking care of their little sister and their step-mother with love.

It all boils down to this: Love conquers all.


Going to great distances to meet up with family and friends is a good way to celebrate important occasions.

The fact remains, all relations with family and friends need to be nurtured, and sustained. Otherwise, like neglected plants they will wither away. Once you appreciate the importance of this bonding, you will be motivated enough to go out of your way to create bonds between family members.

Here are a few ways to get your family and relations together:

  • Stay in contact: Prepare a family phone contact list in your phone for whole family. Starting each number with ‘relations’ or ‘rel’, so when you click that, all the names will come together. Or prepare an email list, so you can send invitations all together. You can even make a Facebook page with a closed group for your close family members. So, there is an on-going online activity going on. Make a Whats App group.
  • Have family gatherings: So, look for every opportunity to meet up. It can be at your own home. If space isn’t enough, have a time slot of three hours or so, during which anyone can pop in and leave, so everyone can come at their own convenient time-slot. Once I held a gathering between 3.00 pm till 8.00 pm so anyone could come at any time. The food was laid out, and kept getting supplemented. Whoever came, helped themselves, chatted and then left. Like this almost everyone comes. Yes, it was a gathering of over seventy persons at my home. You can arrange a picnic or party at an outdoor location. Like a lakeside or popular resort, and call everyone there. Make sure the place is easily accessible for all.
  • Food is the main concern. So either you can get a ‘deg’ made, or ask everyone to keep it a ‘one-dish’. This later is the best. As in that case, it doesn’t matter how many people would or would not be able to come. Each one brings enough for their own family. Then the food is shared. You can arrange the plates, cold drinks, tea, and general seating etc.

Of course, you have to make an effort, but it is so worth it. The point is to be together.

There is great bonding in such gatherings, which is essential for all of us.

The smiles on faces are enough reward. Stay blessed lovely and handsome ones.

  • Note: Photographs by Waliya Najib Khan and author.

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  1. Poppy says:

    I do agree with everything that you’ve written. Unfortunately, I don’t have a single member of my family here in Pakistan. So all we can rely on are WhatsApp messages or emails.

    1. Shireen Gheba Najib says:

      Dear Poppy,
      Thank you for your comment. Even if they are not in Pakistan, it is good to remain in contact through WhatsApp. The calls are also possible through it. Specially video calls. These are literally almost equal to having a meeting. It is so good if you use them. It is your time and attention that you are giving, which is important. Take care.

  2. Shireen Gheba Najib, thanks a lot for the article post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

    1. Shireen Gheba Najib says:

      I’m so glad you liked it. Your comment is always important for me. Take care and stay blessed.

  3. Javeria says:

    An excellent piece of writing as always. Although I have a different point of view but the article is worth-reading.In this time of confusion and chaos, where everyone is after wealth and status, sometimes blood relations are the ones that tear you down, ripping you apart from happiness. I think that sometimes it is better to part ways in order to save yourself from their toxic and intimidating natures. As the saying goes that “Sometimes blood ins`t thicker than water and family will cross you quicker than strangers.” I understand the significance of family meetings and gatherings but it is better to part ways than to sit like mannequins, posing fake smiles when all you have in your heart is dis-likeness for each other.

    1. Shireen Gheba Najib says:

      My dear Javeria, thank you so much for your comments. Who could know more about toxic relationships than myself! (Believe me, I’ve been through the works, right up to court cases!) Yet, I have no regrets. I’ve enjoyed wonderful times with my parents-in-law. I’ve had their love and carry beautiful memories of them. If some relatives went the ‘other’ way, let them. You see, it is not so with everyone. We are only to answer for our own actions. Let Allah take care of the ‘villains’ in the family. As the saying goes, ‘no one is guilty until proven.’ That is what I say for relatives also. In the fear of a few ‘maybe rotten’ happenings, why lose out on some of the most beautiful relationships? Let us give it a full chance. If things go wrong, we are free to go our own ways. At least one can have a clear conscience that one tried one’s best. Let me say, the majority of relations are good. These are the ones we need to nurture and celebrate, and not deprive our own selves and our families of them. Stay blessed lovely one. 🙂

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