There are times when I so wish you were here;
There are times when I am grateful that you are not.
I have many regrets. Regrets that if only I had….you would have been a happier person; if only I had not….I wouldn’t have made you sad. The ‘if onlys’ and the ‘if only nots’.
You had always wanted me to write, to write my story. Whenever I returned home after my travels, you would wait for me to write my story. When I got lazy, you’d let me know ‘when are you sending me your travelogue?’ Yet, I waited for you to depart from my life, before I even decided to write my memoir. Well, I didn’t actually wait for that moment, that is just how it happened.
I thought of you when I held the brand new copy of my book in my hand for the first time. I tried to picture the look on your face when I showed it to you over Skype. “Bring it closer,” you may have said. You would have leaned towards the screen, perhaps squinted, and then moved back to get a better look. “Its beautiful!” I know you would have said that. I absolutely know. “Send me a copy. Kissee Aatey Jaatey ke haath,” urging that I hurry but send it with someone coming to Pakistan and not waste money on postage.
There were many firsts after that. I would have asked someone to Skype live with you when I had my book launch, send you a photo of the first time I signed a copy, read out to you the first review, forward you my first fan mail…so many firsts. Each time, you would have said, “I wish I was there.” But we both knew that you were too frail to travel.
Well Mummy, your daughter’s book made it to #1 on Amazon Kindle yesterday. I would have explained to you that it is not #1 in all the books, just the books on Women in Islam. “I posted it on Facebook and Twitter,” and you would have told me to stop bragging about it to the world, “Nazar lag jaye gee,” warning me of the evil eye. I would not have listened to you. Now I am smiling, because I just burnt my mouth after gulping down coffee, which turned out to be hotter than I thought. I am totally sore, and with my lower lip twice its size, I don’t look pretty. My friend Kausar just sent me a text saying, “Nazar lag gayee” (the evil eye got you). OK Mummy, I know, you told me so.
Then there are times when I am just grateful that you are not around to see my pain, and I don’t mean the swollen lip. Life happens, we are not in control, we take what comes, and try to get through it. Most of the days I am fine, actually totally fine, but then there are days when I am not so fine. When I watch my grandson Omar, unable to express himself, cognitively impaired, with a future that is fraught with uncertainties, I am grateful you are spared the anguish. When Khalid’s cancer relapsed after a five-year remission, I was relieved that you didn’t have to deal with it. He is responding well to treatment, and his prognosis looks good, but I know you would have worried. Speaking of worrying, the travel ban would have driven you to insomnia. Of course Pakistan is not on the list- actually the travel ban isn’t a ban yet—but I can see this unfolding so clearly. “Are you going to cancel your plans to come and visit me?” Your brow would have furrowed, and at every Skype call we had, you would ask the same question. “But what if they put Pakistan on the list? Will I never see you again?”
Mummy, put these worries to rest—just rest in peace. It’s your birthday. Happy Birthday.