Posts tagged ‘love’

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

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