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.

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.