Posts tagged ‘love’

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

Memories are all that’s left …

April 1 is always going to be a very difficult day for me to get through. It marks the day that I held my darling Ammi in my arms for the very last time. That was the most heartbreaking day ever. How could the person at the center of our entire universe be no more? How would we ever learn to cope without her? It was impossible to accept and yet it was something we had to face – that everyone has to face at some time in their lives. This was thirteen years ago.

Ammi on the streets of hong kongToday on the anniversary of her death it has become no easier. The pain and the emptiness are still there, as are the wonderful memories that she left behind.

My mother was the most beautiful person I have ever known – both inside and out. She was full of love and warmth and was totally selfless. Everyone else’s needs took precedence over hers. Everyone’s happiness, comfort and well-being were her primary concern – especially her family’s. She could not bear to see anyone unhappy. It seemed to be her mission in life to console, comfort and reassure.

I can’t remember a time when she was not accessible to friends, neighbours, relatives, all and sundry for advice or simply to be used as a sounding board. Her mere presence was soothing.

In a family where we were never very physically demonstrative as we were growing up, Ammi was ever ready to bestow a loving smile, a warm hug and soft, reassuring words to make everything okay. I don’t know how she managed it but she did. It was magical. She was magical.

As I woke up this morning I could feel her presence. I could almost hear her laughter – she had the most amazing sense of humour. There was a calmness about her that transferred itself to everyone she came in contact with.

The first thing I did this morning was to go to the cemetery, put flowers on her grave, say a prayer for her and try to dwell on all the happy times that I had spent with her. I had already organized a meal for 40 kids at an orphanage and am donating some money in her name to a health charity. These are things she would have liked. She worried so much about orphans and about people who didn’t have access to good healthcare. She spent many an hour talking about it and trying to figure out how things could be made better.

My mother had a very good heart. She was compassionate and sensitive, caring and generous. A beautiful human being without whom this world is poorer. Rest in Peace Ammi. We love you and miss you immensely and will always try and be whom you wanted us to be.


April 1, 2016 at 1:43 pm 3 comments

Wish you were here Ammi

Ammi and TigguToday is Ammi’s birthday. Because their birthdays were only one day apart, each year we would make Abbaji and Ammi cut a cake together. Both of them used to fuss about not celebrating birthdays at ‘their age’ and yet when my siblings and I bought them cards and presents and sang Happy Birthday, one could see the pleasure in their eyes and in their faces knowing that they were loved and appreciated.

As I sit here this morning, I feel extremely lonely because there is no-one to fuss over, no-one to buy flowers for, to make a special meal for, to buy lavish gifts for. But much more than that, there is no Ammi to hug. Oh God those hugs were so warm, so comforting, totally priceless.

Everyone thinks their mothers are special and I guess to them they are, but my mama was extra special. I have never met a person more down-to-earth, more loving, more selfless, more compassionate and more sensitive than she was. Despite being seriously ill for a large part of her life, I can still remember that contagious, gentle smile that was ever ready to greet anyone who came across her and that sense of humor that often had us in stitches.

Her thoughtfulness, her desire to help ease the hurt you were feeling, her empathy with anyone who was going through anything remotely painful and her ability to provide the tender loving care that was needed to reduce that pain even a little, made her the go-to person for all and sundry. She was everyone’s sounding board. She could be trusted to lock away the confidences you shared with her and not to judge you for whatever mistakes you made. How could one person be so wise, so loving and giving, not expecting anything in return? And yet she was.

Ammi left us too soon but she has left an enormous bundle of memories for us to treasure and find comfort in whenever we feel alone. I can feel her watching over us from above and smiling down on us. Happy birthday my darling Ammi. Rest in Peace. We always loved you to bits and we will continue to do so as long as we live.

January 6, 2016 at 9:58 am Leave a comment

Happy birthday to the best father in the world

Abbaji in China4-2He was a walking talking, real life example of integrity, simplicity, honesty, hard work, punctuality and selflessness. If anyone needed help whether they were friends, family or complete strangers, he would go out of his way to assist them. He was a good son, a wonderful husband, a great father and an amazing mentor to many. He was my father and today we would have been celebrating his birthday if he had lived. Unfortunately less than two years ago he succumbed to a prolonged illness and joined my mother in heaven.

MA with Deng Xiao Peng, Chou EnLai, Jamil Nishtar-2The world has not been the same for us since. No matter how old you are, it is always too soon to lose someone who has been an anchor for you throughout your life. To miss him and to honor his memory by remembering him on the day of his birth is natural.

Sometimes as children we didn’t understand why Abbaji forgave everyone no matter how  much they hurt him or let him down. In fact he went out of his way to be extra nice to such people. When we asked him why, he said “Bayta one day they will realize their mistake. It’s okay.” We were cynical but he was right as usual.

My father had a large social circle – all nationalities, all religions. Some of his best friends were much younger than he was. It was amazing to see how well he got on with a diverse set of people. He had a special affinity to Chinese people having spent a large portion of his life working with the Chinese. His first job was with the Bank of China and the friends he made then stayed with him for the rest of his life.

Abbaji in a suitHe didn’t smoke, drink or gamble. In his own words, his only vice  was that he loved entertaining people. So very early on, I learned to cook all kinds of cuisine especially all sorts of desserts. He always insisted that we have at least 3 different desserts on the menu. And so we did. There were times we had as many as 5 varieties of desserts.

Abbaji was someone people trusted implicitly. He was the kind of banker whose handshake was firm and you knew you could “bank” on him. A journalist once referred to him as a gentleman banker which he certainly was. We miss you Abbaji. You were the best father any child could have asked for and we hope that we will always live up to your high ideals.

January 5, 2016 at 7:46 pm 1 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

Happy birthday Ammi – you made us who we are!

Ammi & Abbaji7Each 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.

AmmiThrough 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.

Ammi11A 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. 🙂


January 6, 2015 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment

He was an amazing father and a great man – Happy birthday Abbaji!

Abbaji with XinHua chief Zhou Nan2He 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.

January 5, 2015 at 10:22 pm 1 comment

Ammi we love you and miss you

ammi She was an angel sent down from heaven to make sure that we had an absolutely amazing childhood and she left no stone unturned in ensuring that, as we were growing up, our lives were filled with love and laughter. She taught us what it meant to be gentle, compassionate, loving and generous human beings. Even her silence was comfortine; her smile made all our pain and worries disappear. Her life centered around us – her family. She was the best mother in the world and all of us adored her.

On April 1 eleven years ago Ammi breathed her last and left a gap in our lives that no-one can ever fill. Her physical presence, her voice, her lovely smile, her subtle sense of humour are all things that each of us misses acutely. In spirit though she never really left us. It is like she continues to watch over us every second of every day – celebrating each achievement, smiling with us through our happy moments and being comfortingly close through every difficult period of our lives.

Even now after eleven years, whenever I go home from a day at work or return from a trip, intuitively I look towards what used to be her room expecting her to be sitting there on the lookout for me, ready to welcome me home and listen to my so-called ‘adventures’, hear about the people I had met and the things I had done during the day. She was such a good listener and always knew exactly what to say. She was our confidante, our friend, our mentor and sometimes even our partner-in-crime especially when we were trying to get out of doing something that Abbaji wanted us to do. She covered up for us whenever it looked as if we might get into trouble for some minor mischief that we had gotten into and she was always there to protect and defend us whenever we needed her to.

Ammi was ill for many many years. She suffered from high blood pressure, systemic lupus, pulmonary embolisms and various complications. She spent a lot of days and nights in hospitals in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Karachi … but never through her worst suffering did she lose her ability to smile and comfort the rest of us. We marvelled at her patience, her ability to bear suffering without ever uttering a word of complaint. At times when she should just have been thinking about herself, she continued to worry about what Abbaji and the rest of us were going through. She didn’t want to put us through any discomfort or be the cause for worry. Whenever anyone asked how she was, she always smiled broadly and responded “I am fine.” She was the most amazing person in the world. We were so lucky to have her in our lives for as long as we did.

Today as we mark her 11th death anniversary, all any of us can do is to honour her memory by continuing to be the kind of human beings she wanted us to be – to care about each other, to love life and live it to the fullest, to work with integrity and dedication and to be humane, kind and compassionate to all those around us. Ammi, we miss you so very much. You were the best mother in the world and we will always love you. May God keep you in his care and bestow upon you all the wonderful bounties of heaven which you so richly deserve.

April 1, 2014 at 12:21 pm 3 comments

Happy birthday my dearest Ammi

ammi-abbaji7Midnight  on the night of January 5 and 6 had always been a special occasion for me. It was celebration time. Abbaji’s birthday falls on January 5; Ammi was born on January 6 … they always cut a cake together at midnight. There were smiles all round; exchange of gifts and cards; all of us singing ‘Happy birthday’ slightly off-tune. Those were magical and happy times for our family. I remember how as they grew old together, they still continued the tradition of exchanging birthday cards and gifts – Abbaji still bought for Ammi pieces of jewelery and some of the loveliest silk and chiffon sarees I have ever seen – things he hadn’t been able to give her in the early years of their marriage while he was building his career. It was so sweet to see.

Yesterday was Abbaji’s birthday. He has been feeling rather poorly of late. He suffers from Pulmonary Fibrosis and has withdrawn into himself little by little since Ammi passed away over 10 years ago. A companionship spanning decades had come to an end and I think he has just not been able to accept that Ammi is no longer physically amongst us although her spirit and her love continue to live in each one of us. We cut a cake yesterday as we always do and I sang Happy birthday a little off-tune as I always do; there were gifts as there always are, phone calls from all my siblings to convey special wishes … but none of it was quite the same. It hasn’t been quite the same since Ammi went away. We miss her every moment. She was the most precious person in our lives.

This morning I missed Ammi’s special smile, her unaffected and genuine laughter, her amazing sense of humour, her gentleness, her warmth, her kindness, her love. I wanted so much to wish her Happy Birthday, to give her flowers, to see the delight on her face when I gave her the suits that I had had made for her, to spoil her as much as I could, to make her feel like the most important person in all the world which she was. But I couldn’t. I went instead  to visit her grave, to lay on it a bed of fresh rose petals, to pray that she was blessed with everything her heart desired.

Happy birthday my dearest Ammi. You were the very best mother in the world. We love you … we always have and we always will.

January 6, 2014 at 11:00 pm 3 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 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

Love & respect that is truly overwhelming

I recently received a message in my Facebook InBox from a young woman in Islamabad who has been trying to connect with me for a while; something or the other always happens to prevent that meeting from happening hence she believes that the universe conspires to keep us apart. The message she sent was so affectionate, complimentary and yet sincere that I asked her if I could share it on my blog without mentioning her name. She said I could so I am posting it here.


The Universe doesn’t intend for me to meet you.

So, I’ll just have to let you know here how I feel about you. I love you – I think you are incredible and have a beautiful, fun spirit that is SO rare. I have absolutely no agenda in meeting you except to perhaps have a little bit of your awesomeness rub off on me :) I know if I ever met you I’ll just sit there like an idiot and not know what to say and maybe I should give up any plans of ever meeting you – but creepy as I may sound I am a HUGE fan. Your strength and energy and inherent goodness inspires me and at the cost of appearing like a complete fool, I’ll say it again … I LOVE YOU SO MUCH and I keep you in my prayers.

Keep doing the wonderful things that you do – you give women like me HOPE.


What does this message do other than give my ego a boost? Well, I think more than anything it shows us that we have a great responsibility toward the young people that we interact with. Today this young woman thinks I am the bees-knees. Tomorrow a small slip-up from me could shatter her faith in the human race. So it is up to me – and to all of us who are mentors and leaders in our own space – to make sure that we don’t say or do anything, nor behave in any way, that could result in young people in our community feeling disillusioned, in young people feeling let down. That is a primary responsibility that we must bear and live up to.

This young woman is a great example of someone who believes in the goodness of people around her.  I would never want her to lose that. I meet a lot of young people in the course of my job. Many of them have great expectations from all of us. I know we are not always able to do what they want of us but the least we can do is retain their faith and their trust – show them that there are people whom they can believe in, people who have values and who they can rely on.

July 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm 6 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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