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For a Mother on Father’s Day

Recently, my mother passed away, succumbing at last to a long illness, which, fortunately, did not cease her quality of life as much as put a very early expiry date on her life’s passage. To the last, she was a woman who was loud, somewhat rowdy in pursuit of her pleasures in life: her children, cricket matches involving Pakistan, Atif Aslam and Imran Khan (the cricketer turned politician, not the actor).

She will be, in my memory, most fondly remembered as a woman who loved her children and, in her own way, did what she thought best for them and did the best she could by them. While she was no revolutionary, politician or stateswoman and no monuments may be erected in her name in the future, she was a brave woman who brought up three children on a government teacher’s salary, battling finances, society in general and an alcoholic husband. The lesson she most often trued to drill into me was that despite everything, family is what counts. Family will always be there for you and family will always stick by you, when friends find other interests and acquaintances drift away.

Her happiest moments were when she was in the middle of, of hostess to, a party. She would slave all day, ordering the servants about to clean the house till it sparkled and to ensure all the guests had the three basics of a good party: good food, good music and a good host. When I got married and insisted on a small wedding, she bullied me into several mehendis, which is a wedding function primarily for singing and dancing and making merry. Today, I look back on videos of those nights and am glad I let her push me into it, for how else would I have a legitimate record of all my friends, relatives, my loved ones, singing, dancing, laughing and essentially having a great time?

I still remember the glee with which she promised all of her children’s friends participating in the mehendi that she would take them out at dawn for the best desi breakfast in town, conditional on their dancing and making merry all through the night of wedding, much after all the other guests had left.

I miss my mother because her strength in facing life, and ultimately death, awes me. And I miss her because I lost the friend I didn’t know I had. I realize now that I never thought I was that close to her because we never had a serious conversation, and I miss her now precisely because we never had a serious conversation. You were always there for me, mom, and happiness came too late in life for you. I hope you’re at peace now.

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