Whenever I travel, whether domestically or internationally, I always look forward to coming home to Karachi. It is the city where I was born and where I have spent the last many years. Each time I land at the airport it is as if the city is opening up its arms and welcoming me back with a warm hug.
And then I come home and I can’t help feeling the heartbreak of not having Ammi and Abbaji here to welcome me. Whenever I went anywhere, no matter how frequently, I always came back to them. They would be waiting to ask how the trip had been, to hear the many stories I had to tell, to share in my excitement, my achievement or my disappointment. Although they never expected anything, I always brought home something special for them because I wanted to see the joy in their eyes, the smiles on their faces as I handed over my gifts. Abbaji, ever the banker, would always say “Why did you bring this? I have everything I need. You shouldn’t waste your hard-earned money like this”. Ammi would just smile, make a fuss over my gift, give me a hug and then settle down to hear all about my trip.
Walking into the house now is difficult because although they are everywhere in spirit as are the many special memories that I am lucky enough to have, I walk in the front door and immediately turn to look into their room (force of habit) knowing that they won’t be there, that they have gone forever. I know I was fortunate to have them with me for as long as I did but whenever you lose your parents, it is too soon … and you never really get over it.
Today is one of those days when I returned home and missed them terribly. I unpacked my suitcase and looked at the things I have brought back from Sri Lanka – but that special excitement, the thrill of taking things out and showing them to Ammi, of just chattering away without the fear of being judged – that was missing and I felt lonely. It is the kind of loneliness that will never go away no matter how many people I have in my life.
The depression had already started setting in yesterday evening. I got up very early this morning knowing that it was Ammi’s death anniversary. The fact that she has been gone 12 years is hard to come to terms with.
It seems like only yesterday that she was lying on her bed and smiling as I walked into the house after work – warm, loving, welcoming and anxious to hear about my day. That is what I miss most about her. She was such a calm and loving person, such a great listener. One could talk to her about anything at all without feeling judged. I know my siblings all felt the same way. She was our closest friend – someone who was the repository of all our wildest dreams and our greatest fears.
As time passed I thought her loss would become easier to deal with. But it hasn’t been easy at all. I try to focus on the happy memories, on her gentleness, her love and her great sense of humor. It brings her closer to me when I do that but the emptiness is something that is still hard to bear. Living in the same house and not having her nor Abbaji around is not easy at all. I am glad we valued them when they were alive, that we let them know how much we loved and cared about them.
I went to the cemetery this morning to lay flowers on their grave, to say a prayer for them both and to tell them how much they were loved and missed by each and every one of us. Sending food to an orphanage in their memory is something that has become a standard thing I do every year. Ammi had a soft corner for orphans.
I have been thinking about supporting an initiative in the healthcare area because I know that both Ammi and Abbaji worried a lot about the pain that people who were ill went through and the lack of adequate access to healthcare for a large number of people who suffered from a variety of illnesses.
Ammi, you were such a wonderful person, such a great mother and friend. We all loved you so much and we still do. We admired you for the great human being you were. May God keep you in His care. We know that He rewards those who were kind, generous and compassionate – and you certainly were all those things!
As we go through life, we hope we can all be a reflection of you. You taught us so much. We will forever be grateful.
As I sat on his bed this morning exactly a year after my Abbaji breathed his last, memories engulfed me of times gone past – of Ammi and Abbaji watching cricket together praying for Team Pakistan to win, of jumping with joy when the team won and forgiving them when they didn’t. Memories of them listening to mushairas, qawwalis and ghazals together or doubling up with laughter while watching Moeen Akhtar, fifty-fifty and other comedy shows on television. Or just watching the news and discussing political issues. That companionship lasted so many decades. It was no wonder then that when Ammi died in 2003, Abbaji no longer had the will to live. But he survived and lived and functioned for another 11 years – never quite the same man. It always felt like he was waiting to rejoin her in her heavenly abode.
They tell me time heals all wounds. I am not too sure that’s true. I think over time we learn to accept that our dearly departed are no longer physically present but their spirit, their values, their memories live on in us and the happy memories give us comfort as we continue with our lives without them.
Today as I pay homage to my father, I remember what a great man he was, a wonderful human being who was always there for so many people – family, friends, colleagues, even strangers. It seemed to me that it gave him joy and satisfaction to be able to help people. He never rested. He was always on the go. He worked long hours but always found time to visit friends and relatives especially when they were ailing or in need. We often wondered how he did it, where he found the energy. He just loved people and networking was an intrinsic part of who he was – connecting people, getting things done – the word ‘impossible’ did not exist in his dictionary.
Fostering community spirit was another thing my father did well. He headed many organizations during his life time – he was Chairman of the UAE Bankers Association, Chairman of the International Islamic Society in Hong Kong, President of the Pakistan Association in Hong Kong, he was on the committee for the rebuilding of the Kowloon Mosque in Hong Kong just to mention a few.
Associations tend to be very political and there are always egos at play but my father somehow managed to keep everyone happy and get them to work together for causes that benefited the community. He was also a natural at fundraising. He convinced numerous people to donate to causes that he felt strongly about – and he collected millions of dollars for the Kowloon Mosque reconstruction, for the survivors of the Iran Earthquake, for the Society for Special Children in Pakistan, and for many education and health related social causes. People so easily trusted him. Some gave him large amounts of money on a regular basis to contribute to whatever charities he thought were doing a good job. He kept a detailed account of every cent contributed by anyone and made sure they knew what their money was being given in aid of.
During his banking career, Abbaji met and interacted with a lot of high profile people all of whom were greatly impressed by him – one such person was the former British Prime Minister James Callaghan who signed this picture “Brothers-in-arms”. He treasured all these pictures and if you ever made the mistake of asking him where such-and-such a picture was taken, you would be entertained with stories of amazing encounters.
Large dinner parties and house guests in every room, were a normal occurrence in our household. I remember very few times when we didn’t have someone staying with us. The house was always full of people. Abbaji loved to entertain. It made him happy. I am sure he is throwing one grand dinner party after another in his heavenly abode. Rest in Peace Abbaji. We love you and miss you very much. Give our love to Ammi. Both of you continue to live in our hearts and in our memories.
Najma Sadeque was many things to many people – a journalist for over three decades, an activist for many important causes whether it be human rights, gender rights, the environment, education, economic rights, land rights – you name it. If there was an injustice and Najma spotted it, she would take it on as a personal mission to take a stand against it – not by yelling off the rooftops but by researching the root causes and campaigning for reform through the power of the pen (or the keyboard).
Najma was a soft-spoken person with a great sense of humor and the ability to make a person feel totally comfortable in her presence. I hadn’t seen her lately due to my schedule (and I will always regret that) but I remember the many conversations and interactions we have had over the years. She was such an easy person to have a discourse with even though she had very strong views and a deep knowledge about a diverse set of issues but never once did I feel overwhelmed in her presence. When we look for heroes in our midst, and women leaders who have made impact, Najma Sadeque should certainly be counted amongst them. She led through her writings, impacted policies, changed minds and highlighted injustices.
Some of the books, reports and chapters that Najma Sadeque wrote include:
The Great Agricultural Hoax
How they run Pakistan
How they run the World
Death by Entrapment
Haunting Shadows of Human Security
Why Land is a Woman’s Issue
Seed Heritage for Sale
Some of her pieces can be read on her blog: https://najmasadeque.wordpress.com. We are assured that her daughter, documentary film maker and activist Deneb Sumbul will continue to update Najma’s blog with her articles and thoughts so that the wealth of knowledge and research are not lost.
Najma Sadeque was one of the founders of Shirkatgah and was amongst the founding team of the Women’s Action Forum. People she worked with in the Dawn Group and The News, as well as in WAF and Shirkatgah speak very highly of the teacher, the mentor, the team player, the activist and writer that Najma was. Her commitment to her work and to the issues she stood for was very apparent to anyone she came in contact with, and she worked tirelessly to try and address the injustices that exist in society.
Najma Sadeque passed away yesterday morning as a result of kidney failure. May she Rest in Peace.
In a message announcing her death, her daughter Deneb Sumbul stated: “In how many ways can I describe my wonderful indomitable mother – she wore so many hats – an activist to the last, journalist for over 35 years, one of the founding members of WAF and someone who had so many interests and never short on wonderful ideas and new perspectives.”
My condolences go out to Deneb and her brother and the rest of Najma’s family. She was an amazing person who was an invaluable member of our society. Her passion, her sincerity, her friendship and her work and values will not be forgotten. She will continue to live through her children.
Each January they celebrated their birthdays at midnight together. Abbaji’s birthday fell on January 5 and Ammi’s on January 6. We loved the fact that the celebrations continued for two days. They asked us not to make a fuss but we always did. Our parents were very special and whatever little we could do to show them how much we loved them, was nowhere near enough. They deserved much much more.
Ammi was a pillar of strength for Abbaji and for all of us. It was difficult to understand how a soft, gentle and loving woman could be the glue that held us together. She was there in our most challenging moments, she offered kindness, tender loving care, compassion, words of understanding and support to anyone she came in contact with. She never had an ill word to say about anyone and, despite being seriously ill for decades, she never lost her sense of humor or that soft, charming, sweet smile.
Through all the years that I was growing up I remember Ammi busy seeing to everyone’s needs, never complaining, never asking for anything in return. Whenever any of us asked her if she wanted anything she would just smile and say “I have everything I need”. In the early days when we were kids and Abbaji was a struggling young banker, she had very little. My father was a very generous man and even though his income was small, in addition to the needs of his family, he always tried to fulfill the needs of his parents, siblings and friends. Ammi supported him completely in everything he did.
I know everyone thinks their mothers are very special but my mother was truly one of a kind. I don’t think I have ever met anyone so selfless, so caring, so giving, so full of love and compassion. Although she never made any demands on any of us, we would pick up gifts for her wherever in the world we happened to be – things we thought she would enjoy. She appreciated everything we bought and derived so much pleasure from the gifts.
I remember a time my brother sent her a new walkman (yes this was pre-iPod and mp3 player days). She was so excited because she loved listening to music. A family member came to the house later that day, saw the walkman and asked her if he could have it and she gave it to him without any hesitation. We were really annoyed with him but she said his heart was set on it … and it was okay.
A lot of people took advantage of her good nature and she let them. It wasn’t that she didn’t know they were taking advantage of her. She just liked making people happy, seeing a smile on their faces. Her first instinct always was to say yes to whatever was asked of her.
Having been married at a very early age, she was self-educated. She read a lot, watched films and documentaries and engaged in social and political discussions. Anyone who met her thought that she must at least have a Masters’ Degree. We used to laugh about it and Abbaji used to say that she should get a PhD. :)
Throughout our school years and our work life, I remember running into the house, seeking her out and telling her everything that had happened during the day. She would listen patiently and smile and ask questions and laugh. It seemed that she lived her life through us. To a lot of feminists that may seem wrong but it was what she wanted. Does anyone have a right to decide how someone else chooses to live? She lived for her family … and that is the way she wanted it.
Ammi was ill for decades. It was painful for us to see her in hospital so often. But she was such a good patient – such an easy person to look after. When we think of her even now what we remember most is her smile, her laughter, her love. She really was the best mother in the world. God bless her. We miss you Ammi but we know that wherever you are, there is a smile on your face. :)
He would have been 90 today if he had not passed away last year. A lot of people have said that we were lucky to have had him in our lives for so many years – and I know that we were indeed fortunate. But no matter how old a father is when he passes away, it is too soon. It leaves a vacuum that is impossible to fill. No day passes by that we don’t think of him, of the person that he was, and all the things he did for us and others.
I was speaking with someone the other day about Abbaji – and he said “Mushtaque Sahab did so much for so many people. He was responsible for getting employment for a lot of people, for giving them the opportunity they needed to build their lives and progress in their careers”. And it is true. When I think about the number of lives he impacted, it truly amazes me. And he never expected anything in return except perhaps a smile or a visit now and then to update him on their progress. He was also a mentor to many.
My father was very well respected by all who knew him and worked with him. He started his career with the Bank of China in Karachi in 1948 but was then “gifted” to the National Bank of Pakistan five years later when the Bank of China closed its operations in Karachi. He was a banker for 43 years in Karachi, in Hong Kong and in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He was a man of integrity and was a person whose handshake was enough of a commitment.
The officials at the Bank of China were well known to him. In later years we discovered that the President of the Bank of China was an old colleague and friend of Abbaji’s. I remember that in the many years that we spent in Hong Kong, they visited us often and considered Abbaji to be a close associate.
In 1995 the Government of the People’s Republic of China appointed Abbaji as the only foreign advisor to China on the transfer of Hong Kong to PRC in 1997. That was indeed a great honor for him and for Pakistan. He was very disappointed that the Government of Pakistan never accorded him any recognition for this great honor that he brought to his country. But then do they ever really recognize people who deserve to be recognized?
Abbaji was the greatest PR man I have ever known. It didn’t matter what anyone needed done – friend or foe or a complete stranger. They just had to mention it and Abbaji would go to every extreme to make sure that their work was done. Our house was always full of guests. He used to say to Ammi ” I don’t have any vices – I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t gamble – the only vice I have is entertaining people.” And entertain he did. I remember cooking for 100 people at a time sometimes when he decided to throw a big party at the house. We always had a variety of dishes on the table from different types of salads, meats, fish, curries, barbecues and numerous desserts because Abbaji had a sweet tooth. He would say “There is a separate place in your tummy for desserts.”
Once he went to Hong Kong airport to drop off one of his guests. There he saw an Indian couple who seemed to be fretting so he went up to them and asked if everything was alright. They told him that someone from the Indian High Commission was supposed to pick them up but there was no sign of him. Abbaji said “No problem. Come home with me and I will have you dropped off at their home after a while”. It was 6 a.m. on a Sunday when he brought them home. He asked me to make puris, tarkari, suji ka halwa, chanas etc which I did. After they had a nice breakfast, he phoned their hosts and arranged to have them sent over to their home. As the Indian couple left, the wife said to Abbaji “Aap to bhagwan bun kar aagaey humaray liyay” (You descended as a god (I guess she may have meant angel) to rescue us). That was Abbaji – ever ready to assist, to be the saviour for any person in distress. He raised funds for many causes – people parted with their money easily whenever he asked because they trusted him and knew that he would make sure it went to the right organizations and causes.
Is it any wonder then that people remember my father with great affection and miss him immensely. As for us, his children, all we can do is thank God for having given us a father whom we can be proud of, who worked hard to give his family whatever he could afford, whose honesty and integrity everyone would vouch for. He instilled in us values that have become an intrinsic part of our makeup. All we can do is live the life he wanted us to and hope that he is looking down on us with pride.
Happy birthday Abbaji. We love you.
I haven’t blogged for quite a while – Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are to blame. But today I felt the need to write more than just a tweet or a status message and so here we are …
The last few weeks have been hectic. The P@SHA ICT Awards 2014 and then the preparations for APICTA 2014 in Jakarta have kept many of us on our toes.
Some may say that I should have waited until I had news of how Team Pakistan fared at this year’s Asia Pacific ICT Awards APICTA). I think not. The wins are just part of the journey – and that news can wait until after the Gala Dinner tonight. I need to pen this down now before it is coloured by the results.
Every year for the past 11 years we have been bringing teams to APICTA – to capitals across the Asia Pacific … and each year we have been able to hold our heads high at the effort and the performance of tech innovators from Pakistan. Judges from across the region have started to sit up and take notice. They have remarked (with some surprise) on the quality of teams and ideas. They have asked jokingly what we were ‘feeding them’ these days, of how products keep emerging through the cracks from a country that has not been traditionally known as a tech innovation hub.
Each year we continue to impress them with the people we bring to these Awards. Not all the teams win – they can’t because they are competing against the best-of-the-best from the entire region. We at APICTA acknowledge all of them as winners because that is what they all are – winners! Whether they bag an award or not, they are bursting with confidence, with knowledge, with innovation and passion for what they do. They mingle and network and show the world the true face of Pakistan …
Something Hunaid Hameed (our Secondary School Student entry) said during one of the first mentoring sessions in Jakarta this year, has remained in my consciousness for the past few days. He said “Jawwad Farid has been guiding and mentoring me since I won the P@SHA LaunchPad event two years ago, helping me to improve and develop my product. Another few months of this and I may start worshiping him.” Those words touched my heart. It is kids like these who make us continue to do what we do – put in 24 hour days, put our heart and soul into working with the teams, sharing their hopes and dreams, their joys and their heartbreak. We are all one – Team Pakistan!
This year was no different. 21 products from Pakistan were presented at APICTA 2014 in Jakarta. The teams started working tirelessly on improving the presentations they had made at the P@SHA ICT Awards, working with mentors remotely and in the cities they were based – Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
Chief Mentor Jawwad Ahmed Farid did not travel with us to Jakarta but he worked constantly with many of the teams to assist them in presenting their products in the best possible light. In Jakarta Team Pakistan took over the Executive Floor, lounge and meeting room on 3 consecutive nights where Zafar Khan, Dr. Shoab A. Khan, Badar Khushnood and Sultan Hamdani listened to pitches, mentored, scolded, cajoled and did whatever was necessary to get our bright innovators to put up their best performance.
It is always good to see them all coming together and working towards a common objective – to leave an impression on the minds of hundreds of technology professionals and judges from the region that Pakistan is at par with them in producing cutting edge technology solutions for business and consumers across the globe . It is no doubt exhausting but it is well worth it because in the end, win or not, we are able to hold our heads high and say we gave our best for our country and our industry.