She’s the woman who, when her 12-year old son told her he was in love, instead of exploding like a typical Pakistani woman, she told him he could marry her as long as he accomplished a degree that would allow him to take care of her in the way she deserves. My uncle is now the CFO of a successful Canadian company and him and my aunt have four beautiful children.
She’s the woman who, when her 3-year old daughter was diagnosed with polio, instead of shunning her away as handicapped, she made sure she received every possible treatment and surgery she could. And once her daughter recovered, she did everything she could to make sure her little girl grew up into a strong and independent woman who never felt inferior to anyone else. My mother is now one of the kindest, strongest, most beautiful people you’ll meet, while still rocking out at one of the most successful pharmaceutical companies in the world.
She’s the woman who then respected the independence she instilled in her daughter (and even let her change her own name when she was only 5!) and let her marry a man of her own choosing – something still rare in ‘90s Pakistan – even though he wasn’t of their social standing. And even when not one member of his family showed up to the wedding, my grandmother celebrated every single wedding reception, gifted the new couple a place to live and even a stable job for her son-in-law. This December will be my parents’ 22nd anniversary.
She’s the woman who loved her first granddaughter as if she was the most precious thing in the entire world. She protected her from her abusive father as much as she could, despite all the accusations that she was distancing a father from her daughter. She listened to the little girl’s every whim and fear and thought with the same respect she’d give to a peer. She wrote down the songs and poems she’d make up before she could write herself. She taught the little girl to read and write, she bought her first books. She taught her how to cook and bake and sew and dream. She fought against the world for her when she had to. She was her first and best friend. I am who I am because of her.
She’s the woman who was born and raised in the lap of luxury but lost it all when she came to America. She traded a house full of servants for a dingy two-bedroom in a run-down apartment complex and a catering business run out of her kitchen. Even years after she closed it down, there are people who still miss her biryani and kababs.
She’s the woman who taught dozens of children to read Qur'an for free, even in times when she could really use the money. And while most Pakistanis learn an Urdu-tainted version of Arabic, she made it a point to educate herself in proper recitation, pronunciation, and even translation. I never paid as much attention to my lessons as I should have, but people still compliment my recitation today.
She’s the woman whose extremely large family knows her for how strong and active she is. How she does everything herself and never rests a minute longer than she needs to. How she always helps as much as she possibly can. How a family event is incomplete without some words from her.
She’s the woman who’s never smoked a single cigarette or drank a sip of alcohol in her life, but has just been diagnosed with end-stage liver cirrhosis. Her body has been left so weak and vulnerable, that she’s currently in the hospital with an infection, on top of her disease. Talking about her condition brings me more pain than anything else, so instead of describing just how bad it is, I want to ask anyone who reads this to please say a prayer for her. For Allah to grant shifa in her treatment and to bring her home. For Him to grant us a miracle and reverse her condition, but if that is not what is best, then to just relieve her of this pain, so that she may enjoy whatever time she has left with her loved ones. Ameen thumma ameen.