The Wonder Years

When we were young, carefree, without the restraints and constraints of the real world hanging on top of our heads. When we were free to roam and do as we pleased without a 9-5 or 6 or 7 routine hanging on top of our heads 5 days a week. When the biggest stress points were just exams in our life. When entertainment wasn’t mostly digital or technology based. When we could live with our heads up in the clouds. Those were great years. They were wonder years (yes the statement is a play on the old show which is also on some levels synonymous with the ideology of this post).

True the above outlined is pertinent only to the privileged class – somewhere along the lines of our SECs A to perhaps a little higher side C. So not getting into the division in fortunes over the more spread out SECs. That is better left for another blog post.

So coming back to the premise of this post.  The wonder years. How things can go from that to such a complicated pattern of dealing with different aspects of life and people and real life stresses is unbelievable. And it’s not just any one particular aspect of life. It is more or less in all areas. Work, personal life, professional life, future, operational day to day stuff, commuting for things, social, micro, macro. All. All of a sudden everything becomes pertinent to you which previously wasn’t. I mean let’s be honest, really honest with ourselves. How many of us truly cared about the GDP of the country or the IMF before we joined the ranks of salaried individuals or for some the family business. Or for that matter how much did our local residential body’s governing mechanisms and processes for xyz things matter to us. How many of us were interested in the economic policies that were taken up by the government? How many paid any attention to topics like circular debt? Very few I am sure.

It was a carefree time in our lives and we will always look back and cherish on them. I bet if I did a survey, some of the happiest memories would be of people either in their childhood or perhaps of their early parent-hood from their children’s birth to early growing up years.

But then again one must consider that the wonder years I am referring to were perhaps a better time overall in the context of the world. It was a more secure climate overall. Terrorism wasn’t as spread an evil as it is today. In the generation before me it was even better. I was talking to my aunt yesterday and we both agreed on this – even till my childhood I could at the very least take my bike and ride to my uncle’s place to play cricket with my cousins. During daytime and even at times during late evening. It was ok. And it’s not like I had a cellphone on me in those days. Nor did anyone else my age. Not that I recall. Not the case anymore by a long shot. It was even better for my parent’s generation. In retrospect their life was perhaps even more simpler and less complicated even though it did not have many of the technological conveniences that are present today.

I believe that will be an ongoing thought process for every generation to come. Maybe 50 years from now someone else will be writing a post along the same lines. And 50 years from that someone else.

All we can do is just look back upon our wonder years and reminisce. And smile at the memories.

Judgement

Humans have a tendency to pass judgement almost instantly on people, situations, events or circumstances without taking all factors into consideration. A person’s action at a point in time are judged without looking deeper into what led to the action or the circumstances behind the same. An event without understanding the external and internal factors revolving around it – this is of course barring all natural or very obvious events. A statement. A mindset. An act. Behavior. Different things but all resulting in a natural tendency for a person to pass judgement. Or an opinion. Without taking into consideration all things or all factors.

This is a tendency that at least I have come to realize lies within most people. Maybe not applicable to one person for all situations but that one person would have judged something or someone at some point without getting into the details. Labelled them also perhaps. And then the label itself serves to be the point of judgement for others. An example, mundane example, a restaurant experience for someone might have been bad resulting in a critical review being posted online. The review going viral and the restaurant in question gaining the label of a place having questionable service or product. While in actuality the case might have been a one off or a bad day. Or a new place going through teething issues.

But that was a mundane example. And one which might not hit home with people a lot. Let’s take another example. A person’s behavior.  People might be having a bad run of days. Or they might be going through a difficult patch in life. Or maybe they are just born that way. I am not saying that a person’s negative behavior is immediately required for us to think of a reason for them to be that way. Perhaps for some people that is not the case. That’s their personality as it has been molded since birth by the environment around them and their upbringing. For some it might have been some experiences which have changed them. For some it might not actually be who they are but a consequence of what they are perhaps going through at a certain point or period in life.

Everyone has their own set of problems or challenges that they are facing in life. Some deal with them with remarkable ease, strength and poise. Some fare on an average level and manage to survive out the other end. Others find it difficult perhaps. And this also can vary form point to point or situation to situation. Not necessarily written in stone as a trend for someone to be the same always. Some people buckle after having to go through something of the other again and again. Some buckle after facing something of absolute enormity for the first time in life after having a pretty protected and otherwise near perfect life. Some have a system to get through things. Some don’t. We are all humans after all and every person is different to every other person and hence has differing attributes and differing perspectives towards each experience. Things which on paper may be same are not necessarily be the same in actuality for people. Every experience, every relationship, every feeling is different just as every person and every human is different to others. There are commonalities here and there. But never entirely the same.

One person has not gone through experiences that you have not and similarly you have gone through experiences they have not. We shouldn’t judge people. We should always try to examine the entire information set that we possibly can and even then discount for the fact that we still don’t know everything. Live and let live. Don’t judge. Always keep an open heart and mind. Stay calm and approach things with calm. Stress kills (something I also really need to learn). Giving stress also is just as bad. One must always learn to stay positive. Especially towards people. It will help a long way in life.

As is a usual trend in my blog posts – I am not sure if this will make much sense to people. I hope it does.

Memories

I was thinking of various things tonight before starting out on this blog. About how Time is not just the great healer but also well the great almost everything. As everything needs time. About how things that you are born into are unconditional and not just limited to human relationships and families. It is also about the cultures, sub culture and the society in large in which you are born into which is there and inherently very much a part of who you are. About how given enough freedom your mind tends to take you to the most obscure of thoughts and conclusions and coincidences. And I have had moments with that much mental freedom that has come across very …well … let’s just say coincidences which I would rather had not been there. (more on that later….. perhaps this blog or another). About how music and pictures can combine to give some of the best emotionally moving results and trigger one’s memories. 

So yes there were a lot of thoughts going through my mind before I sat down to write this blog. My mind though started getting stuck on one thing, that last bit. Memories. And if you think about it then all the things that I was thinking of did hold this one common factor as well – memories.

Memories are the treasure chest of thoughts that keep safe all the experiences and special moments and even ordinary moments that mean something to you. Memories of events, activities, a particular time in life, a partner, a parent, a job, a friend. Memories of sadness and memories of joy. Memories that make you cry in pain as well as cry in happiness. At times memories are all that one needs to get by. At others memories are what you cherish and treasure once someone close goes away or a good time comes to an end. Memories can keep people alive. They are alive in the stories that are shared with each other. They are alive in the photographs that we go through, the albums of days gone by. Times gone by.

However at times such memories, especially of loved ones who have passed on or are no longer a part of our life can have an adverse effect as well. They may keep a person from ever moving on in life. Of accepting things as they may be. Of rejecting life as it is happening so to speak. Some people are bogged down by their memories. Memories of a trauma. Memories of an emotionally crippling experience. Memories of a tragic death. Memories of a better time in their lives , happier time. Of course circumstances might be such as well and memories may not be alone in bogging someone down. But still. 

We all have our share of good and bad memories. We are all in the process of life and that will have different experiences , different moments , different challenges which are thrown at our way in absolutely differing circumstances. No two people can have the exact same experience ever. But they most definitely can have similar experiences. But we all have them. Good or bad. Hence we all have good and bad memories.

Everyone I suppose has their own way of cherishing these experiences or on the flip dealing with these experiences. We all have our way of remembering or forgetting. Of keeping alive and moving on or simply moving on. Photographs are such a great thing for me. For my memories. I love making photo collages with music and give the whole thing a different emotional appeal all together. It is my way of honoring my past, present, loved ones and experiences.

Here’s to our memories. Let’s pledge to remember the good ones, learn from the bad ones, keep those of our loved ones alive in the best of ways. And let’s move forward and make new ones for the future!

The First of Many Firsts

The first Ramadan, the first Eid, the first Birthday, the first anniversary, the first happy event. There will be many firsts from here on. In fact they have already started but its on the big-ish ones that it starts to really hit home. In 29 years this was the first time that I had Eid without Amma, that I came back from Eid prayers but not to Amma at home. Just as it was the first time in 25 years in 2010 with Abbi. The firsts are bound to be there, utterly unavoidable. But we still carry on. Life goes on. With every step we hear that little voice tell us ‘This too shall pass’.

The thing for me is that there are already a whole lot of obvious firsts and constants that will now be there without either parent. My brother has said on a couple of occasions about how he not for even a split second would have thought our mother would not be there when for example he was turning the decade. Or that she wouldn’t be there for other events like his first born entering teenage years. Or starting University for that matter. Family history and average life kind of plays its part in that thought process too. And it’s not just for him – it is for all of us. Also I think given the age set / life cycle part that we are all at right now – it is uncommon to have lost both parents at these junctures. We are not questioning it of course because that is Allah’s will. ‘From Allah we came and to Him we shall return’ – there is no doubt in that. But it still something that is natural for us to wonder about.

As for me – I will never have the opportunity to give this bit of life’s happiness to either parent while they were with us of having settled down. Of becoming parents. Of adding to their grandchildren. Unfortunately for me the one chance that was there in Amma’s life to see me settled didn’t work out. Of course there must be some ‘maslihat’ in it that I as a mere mortal cannot fathom right now. Maybe I can at some point in time in the future. Near or distant. But for now I am but a mortal and it is but natural for me to feel the fact that neither parent would be there when I find someone. That my children would not have the pleasure of knowing their paternal grand parents in person – only through the stories that they will hear from me or their uncles and aunts (and there will be many). But not in person. My better half to be (whoever she is) will not know the love of an added set of parents. They will not see me head into a more senior roles, more senior achievements in work and life. I have had a few of my posts published online on various websites (express tribune and chowk.com) so my parents saw that happen. But I recently got published in print for the first time. But alas. Many things…

Again – Allah’s will … the betterment in this plan is something that I will have to wait to be able to see. But betterment there must be for Allah knows best and does what is best for us.

Today was the first of many firsts. There was rejoice and comfort of course in being with loved ones on holidays. There were of course smiles. There were eidis distributed. There were lunch get together plans, there were old stories shared and laughed upon, there were those memorable and funny moments that become stories of the future. There was love. But there was no Amma. First time without her. The first of many firsts.

I have said it before and I will say it again – our parents continue to live through us as their reflection. I love Amma and Abbi. They might not be with us physically but they will always remain in our hearts and in our spirits. May Allah grant them maghfirat and the highest points in Jannah.

And I hope they are able to see us and feel happy. Love you Amma and Abbi.

Thoughts From Above The Clouds

There is no measure to how fast time flies. It is a month already that my mother passed away. Forget the last 5 months, it just seems like yesterday that I boarded Sri Lankan airlines for our family holiday to Singapore – to celebrate Eid together at my eldest brothers. One the most treasured moments in the last 4 years. Other moments might have been tainted. But the trip in August and then the family reunion in Karachi in December will remain closer to heart then all other memories of recent years. Yes emotional bias is there but that is just natural I suppose.

Allah is kind on His creations in this that death of a closed one (barring some traumatic experiences beyond even that which we have had to face) is also something which invokes a naturally tailored recovery within ourselves. We eventually – if not consciously then in the background – realize that life has to continue. That it must continue. That it simply does without really anything being done about it. It is only in times when you realize this that you feel this sudden sense of a gaping hole following you around. A void stuck to you. Forever being attached with you. A permanent companion from here on. I think somewhere along the way the acceptance has come. The realization of what this acceptance truly represents hasn’t really set in thou. It still seems unreal.

Both my parents went after fulfilling all their responsibilities towards us and we feel and hope a complete and full life. However there did arrive a sense of completeness in terms of moving on with my father’s passing. Emotionally I mean. With my mother’s passing there seems to be a sense of something being left incomplete. Like an unfinished conversation perhaps. I don’t know how else to put it. There was peace made after Abbi’s passing. There is peace with Amma’s passing as well but just that little bit of nagging feeling of something having been missed out. Maybe that is the sense one gets when they lose both their parents.

This feeling has certainly led me to believe that I needed to get away. Which I did for a week to Bahrain to my elder brother. And it was great. Relaxing. Time away from the routine and responsibilities of Karachi which I will have to get back into. But before that I think I needed this journey that I embark on now. Sri Lanka. If nothing else I get this sense that this place for some reason is calling me. To visit , to explore, to discover. Itself and perhaps my own self as well. Just 4-5 days and a packed itinerary but on my own so at my pace. I think it will do me good. I really think it will help.

Maybe, just maybe it will slow down the otherwise fast moving or at least bring us neck to neck. And maybe it will help me discover whatever it that is amiss. Some things I have already come to a conclusion for regarding the immediate future of my life. However I think maybe an epiphany or two in Kandy while watching the elephants will further that.

I can almost imagine my parents smiling at me but at the same time also thinking I am probably weird to go to Sri Lanka alone for self discovery and epiphanies and what not’s. (like some others Smile)

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So 10 months on I am travelling on Sri Lankan again – for a different holiday. For self discovery and to answer a ‘weird’ calling. Written on flight and just got access to post it online.

P.S.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with coconut trees and greenery and nature aplenty!

My Mother

Afshan Mohajir

Born: 29th September, 1955

Died: 22nd May, 2014

Mothers – a child’s first and best friend for the rest of their lives. Irreplaceable confidants. Trusted advisors. Mentors, guidance councilors, motivators, guardians, protectors and I could go on and on. Mothers are a child’s best support system no matter how old either may be. Amma was all of the above. And beyond all of that she was amazing.

I had written a piece for my father when he passed away. It helped with dealing with his loss. I write again 4 years and 5 months later to help the same way to deal with the loss of my mother.

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Amma was first and foremost a loving person. She was strong willed. She was caring. Understanding and patient. She was as I said before – beyond amazing. I have no doubt in my mind that as was the case with my father, all the people who have called and wished to condole all did so from bottom of their hearts. I mean those who knew her. They all really did cherish their time with her. They all did love her. She was that sort. Both my parents were.

Over the last couple of days I have heard a lot of people remembering Amma in the best of ways. For all the time that they have spent with her. For all the fond and cherished memories that they have with her. After all once loved ones depart all we are left with are the memories. Memories that we want to treasure and hold on to forever. As our only connection with the departed.

Memories often end being more like a collection of stories. Stories from childhood, from being posted somewhere together, from a trip, from a holiday, from an event, from mundane and routine activities. Stories nonetheless. Memories of my mother and my father for me are also stories. For me they are a collection of all things that have happened in life that are all Amma or Abi.

If I could I would probably end up filling pages and pages of the different stories that I have in memories of Amma. Stories related to how she was always particular about our studies. Stories of how she always was proud of her husband and her sons. Stories of how she loved remembering her childhood days in Dhaka with her brothers and her parents and other relatives and friends. Stories of  what she was during her college days. Stories of how she used to make the most amazing marble cakes, muffins, sutriyan, badaam kay los (nawaiti mithai for those who are wondering what this is) etc. Stories of how she always wanted all of us to be at our best. Stories of how she would after a lot of negotiations agree to get a picture taken and then how we would have to end up taking several perfectly great shots of her and she would still end up saying ‘Meree pictures sahi nahi aatee – please mat liya karo’ before agreeing on one!

Like all grandparents she adored all her grandchildren. She loved them all to bits and pieces and found no greater joy then to see them and be able to play with them. She would beam with happiness when they were around. I am (my brothers are probably more than me) grateful that she got to see and enjoy her grandchildren. Thoroughly. In fact so much so it was easier to take her pictures with them and get her to like those pictures as well!

I still remember the day that Amma came back from London and surprised me with an iPad that she was fully and completely operating on her own. A happy surprise for me as the ‘mouse’ was her most irritating things about technology and lo and behold here she was using an iPad!

I remember how Amma used to love all her gardens in our army days and even after that as much as possible in Karachi. Gunjrawala was by far her proudest garden and Peshawer too.

I remember how Amma didn’t like the idea of Laika (our dog) but was the most concerned about its well being and care as well.

I remember how Amma would get teased about having all ferozis in her wardrobe (not true entirely but she had quite a few).

I remember how Amma enjoyed her serials (star parivar say lay kar hum tv kay sitaray tak). And how she would always happily corner me or Abbi or my siblings by saying ‘haan tou aap log bhee tou itna interest lay kar dekh rahain hain’. I remember how often I would walk in on Amma seriously discussing some issues on the phone, get concerned and then find out that a character from the play is being discussed! She would often do that with Amani. And a couple of my aunts as well.

I remember how Amma used to love playing chess. The matches she would have with Bhaijan. With me (although I always used to lose I loved playing with her). In the more recent months we started playing scrabble as well. Any time I would score a huge word Amma would say I cheated because I took too long and was trying out too many combinations and the same for her was strategizing (she was cute that way).

I remember how she would light up telling stories from her childhood especially in the company of her mother and siblings.

There are so many things that I remember from our life about Amma and Abbi that they can never end. And that is what I must keep now with myself. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that can ever fill the void of my parents. The memories however will help. They will always remain with me.

The last 4 years were really tough for my mother. First Abbi passed away, then Amani’s health and her passing. And in between all of this my divorce. It was not easy for her. And it pains me that one of those things was unnecessary and linked to me (not my fault perhaps but linked to me nonetheless). The 4-5 months prior to her diagnosis in January however were perhaps the best moments in the last 4 years. The family reunion in Singapore (all grand children, all her children) and then the family reunion in December in Karachi with all children and grand children and almost all nieces and nephews. She loved her family. She loved being around them.

From that family reunion in December till now seems like a nightmare that I am just not being able to get up from. I was there with you, as were my siblings and your siblings. But they would all agree that it all just doesn’t seem real. It hasn’t sunk in and it will take time to sink in. It is beyond understanding and belief of how it just suddenly happened and how fast it happened.

I love you Amma. I love you and I know how much I will miss you. You were my friend, you were my confidant, you were my metaphorical diary (more so in recent years). You were my advisor. You were my greatest support system. I have no words to explain how much of a void that has been created in me with your loss. I take peace in the fact that your pain came to an end. That your suffering did not last long. I know from as much as anyone could from the outside of what you were going through. And for that I am relieved that it is over. I am sad, heart broken that you are not with me anymore. But at peace that you have gone to Allah and that you will InshAllah get a peaceful abode on your journey to the highest points in Jannah. And that you are now with Abbi. Ameen

I said this when my father died and I say it again now. Children are the reflection of their parents. Ammi and Abbi may have passed on but they, their memory will continue to live through us. Through us they will continue to be reflected as the people they were. Amazing, loving, caring people. We cannot stop our loved ones from going. We all must go one day. We can however celebrate them, their life and their memory. 

The Greener Grass

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I was recently told by someone that despite all that is taking place in my personal life with my mom’s cancer and visits/stay at the hospital that I still manage to come to work without giving any such impression. While it is good that people perceive that, I know I have some tells which can give away that there are cogs working in my mental background. However it did make me think that there are people who while being in the midst of some of the most traumatic life experiences still manage to show up looking like a million dollars as if life was all cherries and gold. And that in turn made me think more and how people tend to look at others or their circumstances and start wanting all of that. The greener grass.

People inadvertently always tend to drift towards this psyche that regardless of what their current circumstances are – the philosophical grass is always greener on the philosophical other side. In all this philosophy the reality is of course sometimes a foregone conclusion. Nailed somewhere in the background and out of sight. But the thing is that the grass while greener isn’t all that it seems. Eyes can deceive and things may not always be as they seem.

Every one is fighting their own personal battle and regardless of comparison of one battle or the next or someone else’s – it is ‘their’ battle. Everyone’s circumstances are different. Everyone’s struggle is different. Even if a person is genuinely happy with nothing wrong in their life at a certain point in time one simply cannot know what that person has already had to endure to get there or what all he must endure in the future. One cannot know of someone else’s trials and tribulations simply by looking at them.

People are where they are after having gotten there. They have either endured or their cosmic fates are preparing them to try and endure what lies ahead. Everyone’s journey is different.

It would be better then to stop lusting for that philosophical grass and instead working on the one that we have been given on our side to fend for. We are given our lives, our specific lives because we are strong enough to live it. To face it. Let’s remember that. And then go forth and live.