THE LITTLE GIRL WITHIN!

THE LITTLE GIRL WITHIN!

     A difficult part of aging is that those who are younger than us also have a set of rules and norms for us, which they expect us to abide by. In their opinion, an important requisite for being the eldest in the family is to be serious, grave, responsible and dignified most of the time. But there are times when we throw caution to the wind and behave like we used to do in the days of yore. And that is when the problem begins!

      I realized this hard fact on the day my college friends came over for lunch. We were a large and mischievous group in the Dhaka College of Home-Economics, famous to the extent of notoriety because of our endless pranks. But our group was also the one which always bagged the highest marks. Although we were caught red handed many times, the teachers always let us go after a lukewarm warning. After college, we stepped into practical life and drifted apart to different countries. Meetings were scattered and though most of the friends visited Karachi for one reason or another, this was the first time in decades, all of us were here at the same time. Excitedly, we had been planning this get together for weeks. E-Mails were exchanged, text messages went to and fro and at last my place was decided as the venue for the meeting.

          After lunch, we were reminiscing about the good old college days and the great time we had shared together. It seemed that everyone was talking at the same time. So much water had passed under the bridge! The joys and sorrows we had experienced during the decades we had lived apart, latest news about our lives and gossips about friends (not present) had to be shared. Amongst the laughter and chattering, we got so carried away that the years seemed to simply slip away, and we did not even realize we were behaving exactly in the same manner we did in our college days.

      “Remember the day we were caught by our English Professor bunking the ‘Home Management’ class? Ambreen asked laughingly. “Oh yes! We had hid behind the library, but just when we were about to start our Chat Party she came along from nowhere”, Naheed exclaimed. Salma said with a smile, “We were caught red handed but we all ran off leaving Seema behind with her big dish of Aloo Chat!” Seema looked visibly annoyed, “How selfish of you people! For weeks you were asking me to bring your favourite chat to college and when we were caught, you all ditched me. I remember looking like a fool holding the dish and having no explanation for the breach of discipline”, Seema was looking as agitated and angry as she was on that particular fateful day. Ambreen quipped back accusingly, “But you gave her the list of our names after being caught, you traitor! We got a good scolding only because of you”. We all laughed until tears rolled down our eyes.

     “How nice it is to be with you all again”, Salma said in a wistful tone. “After Ahmer’s death I thought I would never be able to laugh again”. Suddenly a quiet descended on the room and the mood changed from merriment to mourning. We all felt sad for our dear friend who had lost her only son in a car accident three years back. “Sohail still blames me, because I was driving the car”, she said in almost a whisper. “Things were never the same between us after that unlucky day”, she broke into sobs and not knowing how to console her, we all of joined in her tears.

     Time seemed to fly as we shared memories and laughed and cried together and finally it was time for the party to be over. Amongst smiles and tears, we parted with heavy hearts because we all had the feeling that this could be our last meeting. My four year old grandson was coming and going out of the room at some pretext or other and looking at me in a strange manner. But I was so involved with my friends that I hardly noticed him.

     After everyone had left and I went to my room to rest a bit, he peeped timidly from the door. “Come inside darling, why are you standing outside”, I called out to him. But to my surprise, instead of coming to me he ran away. After some time Bahu appeared with a cup of tea, “What is wrong with Ali? Why is he not coming to me”? I asked her.

Bahu was a bit embarrassed “Forget about it Mummy, He is just a child”. Just then Ali came in, perhaps emboldened by the presence of his mother. “Amma, kya aap pagal ho gayi hain? (Amma, have you gone mad?) He asked with a troubled look on his innocent face. Surprised I turned to Bahu, “Why does he say so? “Actually Mummy, he has never seen you in this mood…. I mean chatting excitedly, laughing and crying in this manner, he has been worrying for you all day long”, she replied with a sheepish smile. I was shocked and a bit sad. I had worn this cloak of a serious and grave person for so long that even I myself had forgotten that once I was a cheerful girl, a bit naughty and always full of laughter.

          Gently I took my darling grandson in my arms, “I am alright dear, just behaving like a naughty girl today”. I rocked him gently until he fell asleep. “Amma has not gone mad, my son” I told him sadly, “But there is still a little girl in Amma who refuses to grow up”, and before I could stop them, two tears dropped and glistened on his rosy cheeks.

Mohabbat Ka Dastoor (From Ankahi Baatein)

کسی چاہنے والے کا دل
کبھی بھولے سے دکھا بیٹھو
تو
پریشان نہیں ہونا
کہ
محبت کرنے والے دل کو
اللہ نے بخشی ہے
فیاضی بہت!
جبیں پہ آئے ہوئے
ندامت کے چند قطرے
مٹا دیتے ہیں سب شکوے
اور پشیمانی کی صرف ایک نظر
محبت بھرے دل کو موم کرتی ہے
کیونکہ
محبت کا دستور ہے کہ
خطائیں معاف کرتی ہے
لیکن کبھی بھولے سے بھی
محبت کی آبرو پہ
انگلی نہ اٹھانا تم
وفا پہ کبھی بھی شک نہ کرنا
کہ
محبت کے ان لکھے دستور میں
یہی ایک جرم ہے
جو
قابل معافی معافی نہیں ہوتا

WEAR GREY WITH GRACE! An Old Article in The Review (Dawn)

 

 

          I looked at Saima’s annoyed face with amusement. “And what was so wrong if the salesman called you Khalaji?” I asked her in a teasing tone. Last week I had gone for shopping when I ran into an old college friend. We hadn’t met for ages, (both of us busy with our homes and kids), although we remained in touch on the phone. I invited Saima for some refreshments so that we could chat for a while before parting ways. “Just one last suit”, Saima said, “I saw a lovely print in that shop’. She asked the young salesman to show her the suit. “Eik minute Khalaji”,the poor boy replied, having no idea what wrath he was about to incur on himself! Saima gave him a glaring look, turned around and angrily marched out of the shop. “Why Saima, didn’t you say that you wanted to buy that suit?” I asked her in surprise. “Silly man, how dare he call me Khalaji, do I look like a Khalaji?”  Saima quipped back in an annoyed tone. Dear Saima! She was always so concerned about her looks in college days.

          It is a natural desire of every woman to look young and beautiful and the search for the fountain of eternal youth is universal. We are living in a world which places a great importance on looks, and everywhere around us, we find women striving hard to look younger than their years. Cosmetic surgeries, botox injections and lipo-suctions are becoming common with those who can afford them. Those who can not afford these luxuries go for cheaper options like anti-aging creams and lotions and frequent visits to the beautician. But is this war against nature’s course worth fighting? I believe that however hard we fight, in the end we are always the losers, because we can push back the years but can not avoid them totally. They come back to attack in a more vicious way, so isn’t it a netter option make age a friend instead of an enemy and grow old with grace?

Old age has always been associated with ugliness; it is hard for women to perceive that they can be old and beautiful at the same time! Sometimes the quest for youth lures them to make wrong decisions, going for options which are theirs no more. The wrong choice of dresses, colors and jewellery, that hairdo which makes them look funny (instead of a few years younger) and the bright makeup which should be done no more, are all part of a war they are losing. The key to aging with grace is to explore the options which compliment one’s looks in spite of the years, enhance the strong points and conceal the weak ones.

When I started to dye my graying hair I opted for a soft brown shade, (which blended well with the signs of age showing on my face), instead of a jet black one. Slowly and silently I changed the colors of my wardrobe, choosing softer and lighter shades instead of the brighter ones which I once loved to wear. Pink, red, turquoise and purple were out and in came grey, soft shades of green and blue, beige and off white! Gone were the long and dangling earrings, the trendy hair styles and dark shades of lipsticks. I was content to age with grace, to be myself; at least if I did not look younger than my years, I also didn’t look older than my age.

These and many other thoughts were going through my mind as I sat sipping juice with Saima. Suddenly she spoke up sharply, “I feel you are not taking care of your looks, the same careless approach you always had, you always came to college with your hair oiled and tightly braided” she had not forgotten (and forgiven) my crime! “So what do you think I should do to hide my age? I love it when my grand children call me Grandma”.  I replied in a careless tone.

Not heeding to my words, Saima examined me with a microscopic look in her eyes. “I see lines on your forehead and wrinkles have started to appear beneath your eyes”, she said disapprovingly (as if I had committed a great offense). “Haven’t you been using the anti aging crèmes and lotions which are so popular these days? They do wonders to your skin.” She pushed back her chair suddenly, “Come with me, the shop from which I purchase cosmetics is nearby, you have to get it now because I know how lazy and careless you are and you would never buy them yourself.”

 Nearly shoving me inside her favorite cosmetics shop, Saima asked the salesman for the magic lotion. He appeared promptly with a tiny jar. “How much does it cost?” I asked him cautiously. “Only Eighteen hundred, Baji, (this one was clever enough not to call me Khalaji), but in a month you will look ten years younger,” the salesman replied in a luring tone. “Eighteen hundred for this tiny  bottle! My God!” I nearly dropped the bottle on the glass counter, “I would rather look my age, be called Khalaji and wear grey with grace”. Chuckling to myself, I marched out of the shop not stopping to look at the surprised faces of Saima and the salesman.

MORE CONFESSIONS OF A GRANDMOTHER! (Dedicated to my darling granddaughter Javeria Elahi)

 I traced my index finger tenderly down the delicate features of my granddaughter; she seemed so vulnerable as looked at me with a timid look on her little face. I exclaimed to my daughter who was sitting propped up in pillows in her hospital bed, “She is so pretty, but I will have to admit that I would never be able to love her as much as your first born”. As if instinctively, my daughter nearly grabbed her three days old daughter away from me. Holding her closer to her bosom she enquired in an indignant tone, “Why do you say that Ammi, isnt she my daughter just like Sadia is?” I laughed at her reaction (although I felt a bit surprised), “Relax darling, of course I love her too, but the bond with a first grand child is different, but maybe you will understand my feelings when you yourself will become a grandma!” I was adamant in my confession as I took the little one back from her arms and busied myself in changing her nappy.

Javeria (as she was named later) was a loveable child and although I carried on with delight the duty Grandmas usually perform when their daughters are convalescing after childbirth, some how I could not feel the same rush of ecstatic happiness I had felt more than three years back when her elder sister was born!

Days passed into weeks and weeks into months. My grand daughter was growing up, she seemed to bubble with life, was more demanding than her sister and definitely possessed the qualities which endear a child to everyone around him/her.

Snuggling closer to me whenever I took her in my arms, she seemed to look at me with questioning eyes. “Why should I be loved less if I was born a second child” she seemed to challenge me! I often felt that she remembered the discourse between me and her mother on that day in the hospital! Or maybe my inner guilt was playing games with me!

Even before I realized it, I found myself deeply in love with my second grand daughter. I would call my daughter just to hear her cooings on the phone and whenever she came to visit with her mother, I just couldn’t put the darling child down, carrying her in my arms the maximum possible time.

Yes, I had to admit to myself that she was making inroads into my heart. I was confused. My first grand daughter was as dear to me as ever, but somehow her little sister was sharing the same amount of love. After her first birthday passed and Javeria started to speak a few words, the loving way she called me Naneemee (Her way of saying Nani Ammi), her sticky kisses when I took her in my arms and the way her pretty face lit up with a happy smile when she saw me, I slowly realized that I was fighting a losing battle.

On her second birthday I had to make the confession! On her card I wrote, “My darling Javeria, this is the best day to admit that YOU are second to NONE! And I accept my defeat with pride. Because having a granddaughter as loving and caring as you, is no little honor for me!

Forever yours,

Naneemee.

          After Javeria, although I have been blessed with more grandchildren, I never made the mistake of making any above mentioned claim again. I realized that each grandchild holds a special place and brings with him/her a new fountain of love which erupts from the depths of a Grandma’s heart.

          My grandchildren have taught me that love defies all rules of Mathematics! It multiplies when it is divided, has no option of subtraction and keeps on adding up with time, until it reaches infinity!

          (Yesterday was Javeria’s twelfth birthday and in moments of nostalgia, I went down memories lane! And I found myself smiling at my folly as I remembered my hurried claim when she was just three days old!)

 

LOST COMPANIONS…an old article in The Review

They are one of my early childhood memories, my sincere friends who were always ready to help me, cheering me up when I was sad, giving me company when I was lonely and always eager to share their wisdom with me. I too loved my companions dearly and felt refreshed whenever I had a meeting with them! They were always there for me, never complaining if on some days I ignored them and spent more time with my family, toys, or the television.

          We remained together till my teen age years, when I was a school and college student and however busy I was with my studies, I somehow managed to sneak out some time for them. Sometimes this meant less sleeping hours, but my companions were so dear to me that I didn’t mind compromising my sleep for their sake.

          Life moved on! I stepped into a married life, had a home to run, children to look after and time became a precious commodity for me. Although I missed my childhood companions badly, gradually I lost contact with them. On some nights, as I lay in bed, tired to the bones and half asleep, their memories came drifting to my mind and feeling a rush of guilt for abandoning my faithful friends, I promised myself that someday I would make up for this lost time. But try as I would, I just couldn’t manage to carve out those extra hours for myself, time I needed to re-bond with my childhood pals.

          Time flies! Before I knew it the children had grown up and were no more dependant on me for all their requirements. They had their own activities and hobbies to pursue, their friends and studies to spend their time with. I had to realize that they needed space, time for themselves of which I could no more be an integral part. The years of hectic activities were finally over! Days grew longer and I had to find out means and ways to keep myself busy. Although at times I felt lonely and left out but had to put up with this new stage of life. The wisdom my childhood friends had given me helped me a lot to cope with this change, to make compromises without a word of complaint.

One day, just to kill time, I decided to clear up a cupboard which I had not opened for years. And I stumbled upon my old friends whom I had nearly forgotten in the hectic years gone by! Ah! My books, my best friends forever! It was a moment of mixed feelings. I felt a surge of delight although I could feel the tears pricking my eyes. I picked up my old friends lovingly and carefully wiped and dusted them, one by one. over the years, they had aged just like me! My hair had grown grey, their pages yellow and the lines under my eyes matched their worn-out look. But they were as eager as ever to give me company, to wipe out my loneliness and to impart me the wisdom and courage to move on with my life! And then did I realize their true value! Books are my blessed companion which on just a touch, pour out their hearts into my own and the love of books lasts through out a lifetime and is a joy forever! Since that fateful day, I have never had a moment of loneliness!

 

 

I SHALL BOUNCE BACK…. INSHA ALLAH!

I have been through this phase earlier, or to be more specific many times earlier! This hollow feeling….. as if I am living in a vacuum! Ideas evade me, and I find myself unable to focus on the ones that come and go through my head like fluttering butterflies. It has been weeks since I have written anything new. But this span of un-creativity also brings a sense of frustration and deprivation.

My all time favorite novelist Pearl. S Buck says “I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.” And this quote becomes my inspiration!

I feel that the days passing by are being wasted, that I should write something, anything! But as I scan my mind for ideas, I feel totally lost. There are times when they rush in so quickly I feel breathless, but there are spans when I can not come up with anything I feel would interest my readers.

Finally, an idea struck in today! Why not make this very feeling my new topic, because I feel every writer experiences these phases of hibernation in their writing careers. This reminds me that I do not have much of a career! A few published articles, a published book and a blog site can not make one a recognized writer. The basic requirement of being a good one is having a lot of readers, hits and followers on your blog site, and a book which sells like hot cakes. And I can boast of none of these!

Writing for me is not only a hobby, a means of spending my spare time in a positive manner; it also brings a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. I sometimes feel that a part of me grows older after every blog or article I write and a part of me dies! Yes, the pain of creating something new is definitely experienced every time, but I love to go through this agony again and again.  

I do not write for fame, neither for money, but to give a path to my inner feelings, frustrations and emotions. I do not want to share my woes with my readers because I abhor washing my linen in public. But I like to share experiences which may help them to recognize and face the harsh realities of life. Personal traumas, hopes, aspirations and yes sometimes even disappointments teach us a lot and I love to share these lessons with anyone who is interested. Positive thinking is my plus point and I want to spread this frame of mind to people around me.

So, my positive emotion for today is that I promise myself that I shall bounce back, comes out of this period of hibernation! Finally I have realized that writing has become my soul’s bread and butter. I can not survive without it. So, I will start writing something new. Very soon!  Insha Allah!