MOM, WALIDA, MAA JI, AMMA
BY: Nusrat Osama
Reading the title some might think I was talking about four different mothers, but no, these are four different endearing names given to me by my own children. Since when they started calling me differently, I really do not remember. But it has been a way in my household that each of my four children has a different nomenclature for me; Mom, Walida, Maa ji and Amma, in the order of the caller’s position by birth. I find this a unique speciality. Interestingly, their spouses too have chosen to call differently, like Ammi, Mama, Mummy and Amma. As I look back and recall, I find the same unique speciality in their habits and behaviours as well. In their cell phone contacts they wrote a sentence instead of my name. Whenever I called Ashar the sentence ‘ghar kab aao ge?,’ on khawar’s phone ‘kidhar hain aap!’, and on Mehwesh’s cell ‘kahan ho?’, blinked with the ring tone.
It’s been almost twelve years. Yet the memory of that fateful day is as fresh in my mind as it happened. It was Friday 28th December 2001, a very normal sunny day that usually makes one feel light and cheerful. We had breakfast as normal. I was constantly nagging my hubby to put less butter on his toast. In September he had suffered from shortening of breath and had been advised by the doctor to avoid oily foods and tough games like tennis and squash. But to remind him this was like calling for a quarrel. He hated any advice that stopped him from playing his favourite games and eating butter and cheese at breakfast. Till death do us part… 9/11 had resulted in some devastating outcomes that involved Pakistan directly. On the Indian borders both the forces of India and Pakistan were standing alert and we could see F 16s zooming away at different times of the day. On that particular Friday, our family car had some mechanical problem and it was deposited with the mechanic early in the morning. We had planned to go for some shopping later in the evening for my son Ashar, who had cleared his CA examination and was selected by his firm for a secondment to Saudi Arabia. Around 11’O clock, while I was washing some clothes, I told my husband to go collect the car from the mechanic as the workshop was expected to close for Friday prayers. He was already dressed to go out. Standing by the door of the washroom where I was washing we talked about some usual household affairs. While our little tete-a-tete was on we heard the roar of an F 16 flying over our heads. ‘Looks like war may start any time.’ I said. ‘No, all this is a hoax, none of the two countries can afford a war.’ He remarked. Just as I turned my head towards my washing I heard a gulping sound and in the next second I heard my husband fall flat on the ground alongside the bed. I looked at him and exclaimed, ‘What? How have you fallen?’ I left my washing and rushed to him. ‘Get up.’ I tried to pull him up, but he was too heavy for me. ‘What happened? Are you ok? Get up!’ but there was no response, his hands tucked in his belt in his usual gesture of pulling up his pants, were jammed. He could not pull them out; he was lying flat, face down on the ground. ‘Listen, I can’t pull you up, you’ve got to make an effort yourself.’ I was getting panicky. The first thought that came into my head was paralysis. Was he having an attack of paralysis? I looked around for help. There was nobody in the house. The house suddenly felt too quiet. There was a slight tremor in his body for a few seconds and then he was still. Panic was striking me hard, one glance at my husband and the stillness of his body; a chilled wave ran through my spine and I screamed with fear. The shrill of my own scream scared me, I ran out screaming. My neighbour an ex-colleague came out of her apartment and gently brought me in. One look at my husband’s still body and she understood what had happened. What happened then is a nightmare that has haunted me almost every night for the past twelve years. That kind neighbour offered me her car and driver to get my daughter from her college, as that was the only place I could go and locate one of my children. When someone asked me what were the phone numbers and where my children worked I gave a blank look. My brain had stopped working, I could not remember anything. From then onwards when my children came? How my apartment filled with people and relatives? When the Edhi Ambulance took away my husband’s body? is a blur in my memory. When my daughter placed the Quran in my hands and said, ‘Amma, read this.’ I took the holy Book in my hands but I was so confused, thinking what to read in the present situation. I just sat quiet, numb with what I had witnessed, trying to comprehend the situation. Had he really died? Maybe the doctor will save him. But the bitter truth was turning into reality as more and more people were coming and offering words of condolences to me. My life had turned topsy- turvy. Today was not the same as yesterday and tomorrow would be totally different from all the previous days. My husband had suffered from a massive cardiac arrest and had died in a matter of few minutes. A lot of people ask me if my husband ever complained of pain in his chest or shoulders. No, even if he had any pain, he never complained. He was a sturdy man, a thorough fauji always kept his ailments to himself. What could be the reason of his sudden death? Yes, there were not one but many reasons. Like drops of water falling constantly on a stone can make a hole in it. Life was not very easy for him. He was a man of his words, humble and truthful. A number of people including some closest family members took undue advantage of his simplicity and piety. Some deceived him, some behaved rudely. He was heart-broken, but he was not vindictive, and kept the pain to himself. Together we stood steadfast against each other’s family squabbles. His decision to take early retirement from the Army in 1990 also did not prove advantageous. His simple and straightforward ways made him a misfit in the civil sector. This affected him badly. In his final days, he was painstakingly remembering and talking about his elder brother, a Naval Officer martyred in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 and his younger sister killed by the MuktiBahini in the riots in East Pakistan in 1970. They say when one’s end is nearing; one remembers his past too often and talks about people who are long dead. The signs were clear only we did not understand.
The Globe Trotter’s Diary: Malaysia
It was night; my daughter took me out on the balcony of her apartment. ‘See, Mom!’ I looked up and saw the magnificent Twin-Towers shining against the black backdrop of the night sky. I held my breath, it was fabulous. The KLCC Suria or the Patronas Tower as it is called is truly a wonder of Asia. Imposing and superb it is truly a jewel in KL’s crown. ‘O Lord!’ I uttered a silent prayer, ‘keep this monument of Muslim greatness safe from the enemies of Islam.’
There are innumerable reasons for loving Malaysia; its un-announced rains with thunder and lightning, drizzles playing hide and seek with the sunshine, its greenery, flowers and fruits, lush Tea-gardens, butterfly and honey bee gardens, the bird-park, theme parks and what not. Why I love Malaysia, I do not know but every time I leave Malaysia, I have an indescribable feeling that I am leaving a part of me behind. Malaysia is undoubtedly heaven on earth. One can watch the nature’s gift pruned and trimmed by the magical human hands for hours without getting tired. Feeling romance in the air it is an ideal place for honey-mooners and holiday-makers.
It is said, ‘English, whatever its merits as a language, is a bitch to spell.’ The Malaysians have made life easier for themselves by spelling English words phonetically. An amusing incident took place when my daughter received a letter from the Income Tax Department. The letter was in Malay however, one word was clearly written in Subject ‘Fail’. She anxiously googled for translation and laughed out loud. It meant ‘File’ in Malay. Some other words that one sees commonly are: Teksi for taxi, Skool for school, Sikal for cycle, Farmasi for pharmacy, Kolage for college, Biskit for biscuit, Kake for cake, Sains for science. While coming across these words one thinks for a moment to make out what these are and then smiles Oh! So that’s what it is!
The Pakistani community in Malaysia is quite active. Dinners, lunches, tea-parties and day-outs on beaches or other recreational places is a very common feature and takes place regularly. If nothing, meeting for a cup of tea or some gossip over a cup of coffee at tea/coffee houses is very much in. I have a great time whenever I visit my daughter. All her friends dutifully invite me over. I love being with them. My son-in-law has a very interesting habit. Whenever he is tired and wants to relax he goes into the kitchen and cooks something. He has earned a reputation for making excellent biryani and qorma.
Malaysian women are very hard working whereas men are lazy. It is said that the world’s largest number of female drivers are in Malaysia. The women are seen working in offices, at the airports, at train stations, in hotels, at the toll plazas and as sales-women. They even drive motorbikes. All wearing their traditional Malay dress comprising a long shirt, a sarong and head-scarf or hijab. Young Malay girls may wear jeans but the hijab is still an important part of their dress code. During the month of Ramazan, religious activity is similar to Pakistan. It will be interesting to know that during Ramazan, khateebs and qaris are invited from Pakistan because the pronunciation and qirat of Pakistani khateebs and qaris is better and our maulanas lead their taraweeh prayers.
I am generally not a fruit lover, especially not a person to try anything new. But living for longer periods in Malaysia I had to experience some new types and then there was no looking back. This amazing country would be so rich in producing exotic and mouth-watering fruits. The ‘mangosteen’ with its juicy, succulent, white cloves arranged symmetrically in a dark purple hard covering is simply out of the world. So is the Apple-guava a cross between the apple and guava, the Avocado, Coconut and the Jack fruit. The Durian, famous for its terrible smell is also widely planted. Its smell is so bad that it is forbidden to eat it in a train or bus. The Malaysians and Chinese are seen eating it on roadside fruit stalls. What is so good about this fruit is hard to say.
Malaysia, a land comprising more than 850 large and small islands, mountain ranges, caves, forests, coastal lines and highlands is a hot spot for tourists. Lying near the equator, it has a hot and humid climate the year round. Rainfall is plenty and so is the sunshine. I visited Cameron Highland, one of the most beautiful and largest tourist spot in Malaysia. It is said that Cameron Highland has retained some of the English garden touch. It is absolutely beautiful. Flowers that one may not have seen anywhere in the world grow abundantly here, fruit gardens, rose bushes, and tea gardens have a balming effect on the eyes of onlookers. I never knew that strawberries are planted in pots. I had a great time picking ripe strawberries. And later made jam which was overcooked but delicious nonetheless. We even stayed in a resort named after this fruit “The Strawberry Resort.’
There are certain traits of Malaysia which I did not find in any other country. Like during Ramazan eateries remain open but a Malay muslim cannot dare to eat in public, same is the case with pubs and bars. Malaysian Chinese and Hindus are exempted. Islam is the state religion but Christians, Buddhists and Hindus enjoy freedom of their religion. Tolerance towards each other’s beliefs is a hall mark of all Muslim countries except Pakistan. The government follows the Shariah laws and any teaching that deviates from the official code is illegal and punishable. Similarly, it is illegal to convert a muslim to some other faith but if a non-muslim converts to Islam he/she is given full protection, facilities of accommodation, citizenship, education etc. Malaysian government does not encourage citizen-ship nor gives Malaysian passport to people of other nationalities. However, one can buy and own property there. Despite all this strictness the Government sometimes, may acknowledge the services of someone and award him the rank of ‘Datu’ along with Malaysian citizen-ship — a rarity but not impossible.
One particular place to visit is the sky bridge. The link between the twin towers. One has to wait for at least two to three hours in a queue to get the ticket, people start queuing as early as 6 am. It is once-in-a-life time experience. The sky bridge is double decked. Visitors are allowed only on the first deck. The first deck is on the 41st floor. The view from the sky bridge is panoramic. In the middle of the bridge the metal arch legs are attached to a box girder. The floor of the box is made of glass and OMG stepping on it was literally a hair-raising experience for me. I felt my heart beating in my throat. My son-in-law asked me if I wanted to go higher up and see the observation deck on the 86th floor, the view from the box girder was stunning enough and I felt my heart was dearer, so I just nodded my head in negative.
By: Nusrat Osama
It is truly said that ‘Any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad’… and ‘A dad is a son’s first hero and a daughter’s first love’. And so was my dad, I am sure every son or daughter would say this because in everyone’s eyes his or her dad is the best. But what really makes my dad so loveable and likeable were the qualities of his head and heart. He was admired not only by his near and dear ones but also by his colleagues and co-workers.
My dad was an ICS – officer (Indian Civil Service – 1945), a thorough gentleman and highly sophisticated. None in our entire family of both mother and father’s side matched his intelligence, his style, his sophistication and his knowledge of the world and religion. He won the Roll-of-Honour of Government College Lahore, for all four years he studied there, a gold medallist in English Literature. His name, Shahid Ahmed, appears in the History of Government College Lahore for his brilliant academic achievements. He worked as Command Controller Military Accounts and Financial Advisor to Pakistan Army, Air Force and the Navy at different times and retired as Director Finance, Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation. After retirement he taught in IBA, till his death. Dad was a literary person, he loved poetry. He used to read and enjoy poetry in English, Persian and Urdu. Like English, Persian was his second language. He used to collect couplets of his choice in diaries. I still own one of his diaries that date back to 1951. An avid reader, a collector of books, owning a personal library that housed books on religion, literature, politics, history etc. He could speak and debate on any topic. He would be the life of any party or gathering mesmerising people with his wit and humour.
He was a great advocate of female education. His desire was to see his daughters as educated, confident and bold women. It was to his liberal and encouraging upbringing that we, his daughters, today stand steadfast, bold and dominating in our own spheres. I remember sometimes just to avoid kitchen work we would hide behind our school books with an excuse that we have lot of homework to do. And dad would take our side saying to our mother, ‘Nasim! Let them study, kitchen work can be taken-care-of by the maid.’
Not only education, my dad disliked ill-treatment of women in the society. He had a habit of carrying a walking stick while going for a walk in the morning. One morning he saw a man beating his wife on the road, he was probably a labourer. My dad got so angry that he raised his stick and told the man to lay off his hands. The man got scared and started giving excuses for his behaviour, but my father did not listen to him. He brought the woman home. She lived in our home for some days until a group of her family elders came, who apologised for her husband’s behaviour, only then my father allowed her to go back.
Dad was a very handsome man, fair complexioned and smart. Sometimes if his office- leaving time coincided with our off-time he would come to our college to pick us. Standing by the gate in his black suit and tie, holding a cigarette between his fingers, he would look so smart and so graceful that I used to tell proudly to the girls standing around that he was ‘my dad.’ He remained clean shaved till the last few years of his life when he donned a beard. Some people appreciated his beard but personally I never liked his bearded face. In his older years at one stage his physician advised him to eat vegetables and fruits to cut down on his growing weight. My mother put him on a diet of boiled vegetables and fruits. For two-three days he ate what was given to him, one day when my mom put the bowl of veggies in front of him he pushed the bowl aside and said, ‘Nasim! If you feed grass to a lion, he will die much before his natural death.’ And that was the end of his dieting.
Apart from poetry and literature religion was his passion. I remember from a very early stage in our life Dars e quran was held every Wednesday in our house, which continued for some time even after his death till our mother was alive. Dad was a true ‘Ashiq e Rasool’ (pbuh). He loved listening to naatia qawwalis and naats. I remember whenever he listened to a naat on TV or one recited by his ‘naat khawan’ friend, tears would roll down his eyes. Sometimes he would perform ablution and stand with his arms folded and head bowed in extreme devotion and respect. He authored two books ‘Sayyed e konain, pbuh’ and ‘Dastoor e zindagi,’ he was translating the holy Quran in English, but he could translate only ten chapters as he succumbed to cancer at the age of 69. My dad was a very gentle person, he had a very dainty disposition despite his somewhat heavy appearance in his old age. He was literally afraid of injections. I remember when he was diagnosed cancer; he refused to be admitted in hospital. His chemotherapy was arranged at home. But his condition worsened after the very first dose. When he was finally taken to the hospital, he looked at the sky as if it was his last glance. He died within a few days, leaving us all broken-hearted. May Almighty bless him highest place in Jannah, ameen. He was good not only to his family but to his extended family, co-workers
The Tangible Quran (contd)
The above two ayaats declare the Quran a way of life for the mankind.
Now note that in Surah Al Maida Allah Almighty praises Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and says: “Undoubtedly, there has come to you from Allah a Light and a Book luminous.” And further, “Allah guides there with him who followed His pleasure into the ways of peace and carries them to the light from darkness by His Command and shows the right path.” (Ayat 15)
In Surah e Al Furqan Allah SWT says: “Blessed be He who sent down the criterion of (right and wrong) i.e this Quran to His slave Muhmmad (pbuh) that He may be a warner to the Aalameen (mankind and jinns). (Ayat 1)
In Surah e Al Maida He says: “O people of the Book! Undoubtedly, there has come to you Our Messenger who makes clear to you Our Commands, after a break of the coming of messengers for a long time lest you say: ‘there came not to us any bearer of glad tidings or warner, then now there has come to you bearer of glad tidings and warner. And Allah is protecting over everything.”(Ayat 19)
Similarly there are many ayaats in the Quran that present Muhmmad (pbuh) as a spiritual guide, teacher of morality and a perfect example of Quranic teachings in its perceptible form. Another firm and repeated message of the Quran is that in order to obey Allah it is imperative to obey the Prophet (pbuh), because the Prophet (pbuh) does not say anything of his own, his words are the revelations of Allah and his actions are directed by the Supreme will.
The Quran gives evidence of the high level of morals of the Prophet (pbuh). His nature, his truthfulness, his trustfulness and honesty is proven beyond any doubt. Before the revelation of Quran, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was forty years old. In these forty years all the tribes and communities of Arabia knew Him as Sadiq and Amin (truthful and trustworthy). Hence when He declared that Quran had been revealed to him and He was the last messenger of Allah, all the heads of tribes and people accepted his words as truth. Although some owing to their wilful nature and selfish ways tried to falsify him for a long time. But whosoever embraced Islam became firm believer of His teachings. The entire peninsula of Arabia had come under the folds of Islam before His death, and countless people had accepted Quran to be the Book of Allah and Muhammad (pbuh) as His last prophet.
Had this Manifesto been revealed in the form of a book and not in the form of oral revelations on the Prophet (pbuh), it would have been difficult to accept it as the word of Almighty. Only the people who would have witnessed the angels bringing the book would have accepted it is a word from Almighty. In fact it was the honesty, the piety and strength of character and compliance of the Prophet (pbuh) that gave immortal strength to the Holy Scripture.
Allah SWT supports His beloved Prophet in the following words: The unbelievers say ‘Why was the whole Quran not sent down all at once to Him? It was sent thus that we may keep your heart resolute. So We enunciated it step by step and distinctly.’ Furthermore “There is not an example they advance to which We do not give you a right answer ad better explanation.’ (Sura e Al Furqan ayats 32 and 33)
In reality, we too accept Quran as a Holy Book and revelation of Allah SWT because we were told so by the Prophet (pbuh)
“Gufta e oo gufata e Allah bood
gar che uz halqoom e abudullah bood’’ (Rumi)
(His speech was the speech of Allah, although it was narrated by a servant of Allah)
His style of conversation, His speech, His mannerism, His teachings and His character depict the greatness and wisdom of Almighty. Light is a proof of sun so the greatness of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a proof of Allah SWT.
(May Allah shower His blessings on you dear Dad, and grant you a high place in jannah, ameen)