Posts tagged ‘family’

She lives on in us …

I woke up this morning after a very restless night feeling extremely lost. alone and out of sync. This is a day each year that I dread to relive. Eighteen years ago on this day, the person whom we loved and adored most, was taken from us and the world has never been the same again.

Ammi was unique, she was the glue that held us together. She was the cornerstone of our existence, the person who was always there to love us, to care for us, to celebrate with us and to unruffle our feathers and soothe us whenever anything went wrong. She was our guardian angel, our best friend, our confidante, our cheerleader- the person who loved us unconditionally and in whose eyes we could do no wrong. We were the most important people in her life and she always made us feel special and important.

That day 18 years ago is still so vivid in my memory. We were in a hospital as we had often been over the years. Ammi had multiple health problems – systemic lupus, hypertension, pulmonary embolism, rheumatoid arthritis etc and so she sometimes had to spend days and weeks in hospital. But she would always come home. Except this time! We had been in hospital more than a week. That day she had undergone multiple more tests because of some new symptoms. The doctor had just come in and told us the result of those tests. Apparently Ammi had Hepatitis C and she had 5 tumours in her liver which were malignant. A few minutes following this diagnosis, as I sat by her bedside holding her hand, Ammi breathed her last. Just like that she was gone.

The next few days were spent in a blur. First there was disbelief, then a slow realization of what had happened. Ammi was gone. The woman who had been there for us all our lives had gone to heaven. She had left a vacuum that no-one else would ever be able to fill.

Ammi had been married while still in her teens so she grew up along with us. She was self-educated – a voracious reader of everything – fiction, literature, poetry, newspapers – you name it. She watched films, documentaries and listened to discussions on television. Most people who met her assumed that she had a Masters’ degree or a PhD. She could carry on a conversation on any topic. She was passionate about so many things, had a strong belief in the goodness of people and our ability to make things better.

Despite being so ill for almost 20 years, Ammi enjoyed life. She was always happy and whenever anyone enquired about her welfare, she would smile and say “I’m fine”. No complaints. No whining. That smile was warm and affectionate and lit up her face and eyes and drew you to her. She was a very loving, thoughtful and sensitive person – empathetic to others’ needs, ever watchful and available to give advice, to offer help or just be there when someone needed her. Totally selfless to the core. She was so very generous and forgave people instinctively. Sometimes we wondered how she could forgive someone who had been nasty but that was who she was. She would say maybe they had their reasons, maybe it was in a moment of weakness that they had done or said what they had, that it was okay.

Ammi’s sense of humour was really infectious. She would find something funny in almost everything. We would be in fits of laughter after sharing stories or experiences of days gone by. All harmless. Just a reason to smile and enjoy the fact that we were together.

The past year has been rough on many of us – seeing so much suffering, losing friends and colleagues, having to distance ourselves from people we care about, restricting our social contact, struggling economically – it has all been difficult and continues to challenge each one of us. The uncertainty is hard but we have to put up with it and somehow support each other through it. This is when I miss Ammi even more. She was so good at being there for everyone, for consoling people during their worst crises. Her mellow, gentle and warm nature somehow made everything seem much easier to deal with.

As we commemorate the 18th anniversary of her transition to a better place, I would like to honour her memory by showing kindness to another human being, by alleviating someone’s hunger or suffering and by committing to being the best version of myself that I can be.

Ammi was a wonderful and exceptional human being. She gave so much of herself to those she came in contact with and certainly contributed to making this a better world. I hope that we – her children – are a small reflection of who she was. That is the least that we owe her.

April 1, 2021 at 1:22 pm Leave a comment

Coming home …

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.




August 16, 2015 at 8:03 pm Leave a comment

Ammi we hope we can be a small reflection of you

Ammi and Tiggu 4The 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 Ammi and Tiggu 3all. 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.

April 1, 2015 at 3:19 pm 3 comments

Has it already been a year?

Abbaji with Jamil Nishtar and HSBC headAs 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.

Abbaji and James CallaghanDuring 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.






January 17, 2015 at 8:37 am 2 comments

Ammi – you continue to live in our hearts!

ammi in smilesTen years ago, on this day, the person who was the key to our existence was taken from us. I can still remember so many years later my total sense of disbelief that she was gone. How had it happened so suddenly – one minute she was smiling at me and the next moment she had breathed her last? Why is it that it had never occurred to us that this day would come? It was as if our very foundation had been shaken. Abbaji and my siblings and I were all in a state of shock. Our sweet darling Ammi had been taken from us. It was just so unthinkable, so totally unbelievable.

Time passed and as I threw myself into my work, I began to realize that no matter how much I missed her, she had not really left us. She was a part of us and somehow in everything I did she was still with me encouraging me, cheering me on, celebrating with me and watching over me. Her smile, her calm demeanor, her courage, her ability to forgive and look for the best in people, her complete honesty and the unconditional love that she showered on us every day of our lives, has stayed with us giving us the strength to go on and to live our lives to the fullest.

As we mark the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death, I remember all the happy times that we spent with her – laughing with her, sharing even the most trivial of stories. She was our repository of confidences. Ammi knew everything because we told her everything. The minute any of us stepped into the house we would go to her and relate all that had happened that day – the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. She would listen with such patience and such attention. She shared in the excitement and in the joy and unruffled our feathers when we faced any adversity. Everything we said was of interest to her. We mattered to her – and she made sure we knew that. Is it any wonder then that we grew up knowing that we were loved and cherished? Every memory of Ammi is special to each of us. She dedicated her entire life to us – her family. And we loved her more than we will ever love anyone else.

Many times in life we forget to tell those who are special to us how much we care about them. And much later we live in regret because we didn’t appreciate them when we had a chance. Not so with Ammi. All of us told her every day how much we loved her and how much she meant to us. She knew that she was the center of our existence. She knew that we thought she was the best mother in the world. She knew that our lives revolved around her. She knew that we appreciated everything she did for us throughout our lives. She was an angel from heaven and to heaven she returned. But even now she seems to be watching over us from the heavens – making sure we are happy and looked after.

Thank you Ammi for continuing to be our guide. We love you and miss you and hope that you will always be proud of who we are. You taught us to be warm and affectionate, to be humane and compassionate, to be hardworking, honest and just and to make the most out of life. I hope we will always be the kind of human beings that you wanted us to be. That is our homage to you.

April 1, 2013 at 6:59 am Leave a comment

The challenge of a lifetime

This was only the second time that I had been admitted to hospital – the first being a few years ago when I had dengue and had to spend 4 days at OMI. That was bad enough but this stint has been the most challenging. To be diagnosed with cancer, to have major surgery, to be immobile and dependent, to not know what lies ahead. I have had to muster up all my strength and positivity to get through it this far. There have been many who have helped either from a distance or from being right there every step of the way.

I must admit to being very scared. Going under the knife (scalpel) was not something i was looking forward to. I had watched enough medical shows on television to know that things could go very wrong. The consent form i had signed spelt out all the possible risks. I would have to be stupid not to be scared. Nonetheless I put up a bravado and maintained a sense of humour for the sake of family and friends. The fact that I had cancer had already traumatised them. If they saw how terrified I was they would not be able to handle it. I did however ask my old friend Rukhsana to draft out a will for me – I am not rich but I didn’t want what I do have to go into limbo in case something happened to me.

I was admitted into AKU on the 30th of October. I would be third in line for the surgery the next morning. There were 2 minor operations scheduled prior to mine. As I was taken away on the stretcher at around 10 a.m. my friends followed until they were finally restricted from going any further. I waved goodbye, took a deep breath, said a little prayer and got ready to face what lay ahead.

In the prep area, my doctor Dr. Aliya Begum Aziz came and spoke to me. She is young, very professional and inspires confidence. I was so glad that she was my surgeon. She explained that the anaesthesiologist would present me with two options – one was the epidural which was better in terms of pain management post-op. My threshold for pain is extremely low so I opted for the epidural. I do remember asking the well- spoken and pleasant anaesthesiologist if there was any risk associated with the procedure. He assured me there was not. Of course implanting the epidural took some time and several attempts due to my body mass (note – must try and lose weight).

Thankfully, the next thing I remember is seeing my doctor through a haze telling me that although the surgery had taken 3 1/2 hours, it had been totally successful; that she had managed to take out all the cancerous bits and the disease seemed to be contained and early- stage. She looked happy. That must be good, I thought to myself.

In the recovery room, I remember seeing my friends Afia and Rukhsana reassuring me and asking how I was. I must have dozed off after that until they moved me to the Special Care Unit where I was tied to machines and tubes which monitored my progress post-op. Quite a scary sight!

Fast forward to 18 hours later when I was moved to my room because the doc thought my condition was stable enough.

The next few days were tough. I had always been the caregiver, never the patient, so this was a new experience for me. I had never felt so dependent on others. My Chief Attendant, Afia Salam – a friend for decades – was a blessing. Having been through this herself, she knew what to watch out for. She also knew when not to panic and transferred much of that calmness to me. Other than one day when I remember being a grouch, I think I was a pretty good patient.

Afia stayed with me at the hospital and took on the duties of Executive Secretary answering all the enquiries regarding my health, putting up health updates on Facebook and Twitter so that family, friends and well-wishers would know how I was doing. Some of these were photo updates. She screened all my calls. My Florence Nightingale team also included Nuzhat, Rukhsana, Farieha, Sana and Seema all of whom took out time to be with me, to provide cheer and support.

Family is very important when you are going through a rough time. My siblings were a great source of strength and support through this period. They kept in touch letting me know that they were there for me and that everything would be okay. My brother Samar and his wife Faiza came over from London and spent some time with me prior to the surgery. They also insisted that I have my room refurnished and wrote out a cheque so that I would be pressurised into getting it done.

My brother Zafar who is a very busy chap and never leaves his office for more than a few days at a time, flew to Karachi from Hong Kong to be with my father during my hospitalisation so that I would not worry. He also came to the hospital daily and other than spending time with me, brought various gadgets to cheer me up – the primary one being the new iPad Mini. Wow! That really brought a smile to my face.

My uncles, aunts, cousins (especially the ones who are doctors) offered support and advice pre-op as well as post-op.

I spent 8 days in the hospital. Some of these were extremely rough – the pain, the nausea, the weakness, the dependence, needles being poked into me – it was all quite challenging. I don’t think I would have got through it if not for the prayers, support and good wishes of friends and family, the bouquets,  the calls , the visits that Afia “hitler” Salam allowed :).

Several things occurred to me as I lay in that hospital bed:
1. How had my dearest mother gone through so many years of illness and hospitalizations and retained her sense of humour?
2. Ammi had been right about how lucky we are to be able to afford such good healthcare. If we still went through so much discomfort, what happened to those who couldn’t afford these facilities?
3. Men and women who are not compassionate and who don’t consider nursing as a mission, should not become nurses. When a person is ill they need gentle, tender, loving care coupled with professionalism. Nurses can make a patient’s stay a pleasant bearable one or  a nightmare from hell.
4. When you keep telling someone who is going through pain that it will be okay, it doesn’t help. All it results in is silly platitudes that eventually tend to irritate.
5. When someone tells you that they can’t eat or drink something, listen to them. Their body is telling them that there is some reason why it won’t accept food or drink. Don’t insist!
6. Do what the doctor says! Sit up, walk, do your exercises. The healing will be quicker.
7. Hospitals should have more nurses to go around. It is a tough job and for them to do it well, they need to be well rested.
8. Hospitals should have better chefs. This is when patients need palatable food the most.

While I was in hospital, my two activists-turned-interior designers, Farieha and Sana, re-furnished my room. Technology was used at every stage as they sent pictures of bookshelves, mirrors, cushions, bedspreads etc on What’s App and got my approval. They even used Skype to show me the designs of the blinds. By the time I got home the room was re-done. My brother had helped by putting rods in the bathroom and by installing the television on the wall of the bedroom. It was all made very comfortable for me.

I have always known this but the one thing that has been re-established in my mind and in my heart is that I am extremely fortunate to have so many people in my life who care about me and are willing to rally around whenever I need help. They are there to share in my joys and are there to offer prayers and support through the most challenging times. That is such a blessing. To say thank you would never be enough. From the core of my being I pray that they are showered with God’s blessings always.

November 18, 2012 at 10:26 am 15 comments

The time has come the walrus said to speak of many things

To say that I was not happy when I was told that I needed a D&C, would be an understatement. It meant hospitalization for the day, general anesthesia, a procedure followed by a biopsy. But there was no choice so I got it done. Everyone assured me that I was worrying about nothing and the tissue would be benign. I wanted so much to believe that and convinced myself that it would indeed not be malignant. I discharged myself from hospital at 2 a.m. and went home rather than spend the night much to the chagrin of Afia Salam who was staying with me. Like most normal people, I don’t like hospitals and wanted to be out as soon as possible.

A week or so passed following the D&C and it was after attending an event in Karachi, that I went to collect my biopsy report from the AKU collection center at Teen Talwar in Clifton to find out what the verdict was. As happens with most medical reports, this report, with all its medical jargon, meant very little to me. However, the words Endometriod Adenocarcinoma raised a red flag in my brain – didn’t ‘carcinoma’ have some connection with cancer? I tried not to think about it as I drove home. As soon as I got there, I typed Endometriod Adenocarcinoma in Google Search – and the words cancer were the first words that popped up. As the realization engulfed me, the tears started to flow down my cheeks. I let it all out and then the brain started to function. I needed to find out how serious it was, had to fight it, had to deal with it – not so much for my own sake as much as Abbaji’s. Who would take care of him if I wasn’t around? He needed me. For his sake I had to get well, I kept telling myself.

Anyway, I had to push everything out of my head for a few days because the next morning I was leaving for Istanbul to attend the Turkish ICT Summit. I had committed to going there on behalf of P@SHA and so off I went. Tried to keep thoughts of  the diagnosis at the back of my mind and to concentrate on the networking and on the conference proceedings and on seeing Istanbul for the first time. But that story is for another time.

Back in Karachi four days later, I called the oncologist. She checked out the report I sent by email, told me it was indeed cancer but that it appeared to be stage 1. She asked me to immediately get a CT Scan and MRI done so she could assess the extent to which the cancer had spread if it had.

Even though several of my dear friends have struggled with this disease – some have conquered it while others haven’t, I was not ready  to be told that I was suffering from cancer. Like most people, I had lived under the illusion that this type of thing only happened to other people – until one day it happened to me.

Anyway, I had to accept it and deal with it. So off I went for the CT Scan and the MRI. Thank God for dear friends who accompanied me for doctor’s visits, tests and follow ups. Some showed up with chocolate cake to cheer me up. Others showed up to crack a joke or two to distract me from the seriousness of this disease and what awaited me. Thank God also for my siblings & extended family and friends who offered their love, understanding and support and the P@SHA Chairman, Central Executive Committee and my team at the Secretariat all of whom told me to focus on getting well while they would take care of P@SHA and its activities.

The CT Scan and MRI indicated that the cancer hadn’t spread. The oncologist looked at all the reports and said that I would need surgery – a complete hysterectomy – which would possibly have to be followed by several cycles of radiation but she said the prognosis was good. It appeared that we had caught it early and although the surgery and follow up treatment would be rough as would the recuperation, I should come through it okay. Of course she would only be really sure of the extent of it once she operated.

The surgery could have been done right away but my haemoglobin count was low so the doctor said that I should bump that up with iron, folic acid and a better diet and scheduled surgery for October 15. This suited me since the P@SHA Annual ICT Awards and Conference were scheduled for October 10 – yes I was worried about that! I focused on preparations for the events and tried to keep my mind off the cancer but at the same time I worked on increasing my iron intake.

I kept my spirits high and, other than a close inner circle, no-one knew what I was going through.

The surgery was further delayed by another week due to an infection which had to be treated with strong antibiotics but finally today I was admitted to Aga Khan Hospital (AKU). The surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning. I will be in hospital for at least 6 days and will probably need a few weeks of recuperation time after that – before the radiation cycles are started.

To all those who have been calling and emailing and wondering why I won’t schedule anything for the next few weeks, you now have your answer. I hope you understand and will give me the space and time that I need to fight this.

My doctor says I can be on my iPad 24 hours after the surgery if I am up to it so you may start seeing updates very soon after I have been cut up and released from the Special Care Unit.

To all those who have been around the past few weeks seeing me through this tough period  providing love and support, accompanying me for doctors’ visits and a plethora of tests, bringing me cakes, taking me for nice lunches, making sure I continued to smile and stayed positive and, most important of all, praying for my health and my quick and complete recovery – all I can say is thank you. It is great to have so many people in your life who care so much. That is what gives me strength and enables me to continue smiling and laughing.

To Sultan Hamdani and Atif Mumtaz, thank you for your prayers at Mecca during the Hajj. To Norbert Almeida and Raza – thanks for bleeding for me (donating blood) at such short notice. We’ll all party once this is all over! :-). For now please say a little prayer that all goes well tomorrow and in the days that follow.

October 31, 2012 at 12:22 am 56 comments

A day I can’t ignore or forget

I remember a time long long ago, when I was just a little girl,  April 1 was the day we would pull harmless pranks on friends and family. We didn’t know the significance. All we knew was that it gave us an excuse to think up clever tricks to pull on unsuspecting people. Admittedly, as years passed, April Fools’ Day began to lose its appeal and I more or less let the day pass without giving it much thought.

All that changed on April 1, 2003. Something earthshattering happened that changed my world forever. My mother, my wonderful sweet mother whose smile lit up every room she walked into, whose very presence brought a serenity into our lives, into our very existence, left us on April 1 seven years ago.

When I think about how long it has been, it’s hard to believe that 7 years have gone past. It seems like only yesterday that I came home from work to Ammi’s warm and loving smile. It was a norm. I would walk in, peep into her room to see if she was awake. She would be waiting. I would sit down with her and bring her uptodate on the day’s activities – whom I had met, what they’d said or done. She was the repository of all my joys and frustrations, of both the good and bad things that happened to me. She knew all about my friends, my business colleagues, people I met through the course of my day.

She would listen to me chatter on and on smiling indulgently at all the funny bits. She was so proud of every little thing I achieved and she shrugged off every failure as if it didn’t really make a difference to who I was. Ammi made everything seem okay. She was our number one champion. She could see the best in us – and it was her confidence in our abilities that made us strive to put in that extra effort.

We are better human beings because Ammi expected that from us. She could never understand cruelty and meanness of spirit. War, struggle, poverty and illness all worried her and she would always try and figure out how we as individuals could make a small difference to the community in which we lived.

This morning as I placed the orchids that I had brought back from Thailand for her on her grave, I remembered the many times Ammi had smiled at the sight of those lovely flowers. We love you Ammi. We miss you. No day passes that we don’t think of you. You were the best mother in the world and we will always try and live up to your expectations of us.

April 2, 2010 at 12:11 am 5 comments

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