I discovered books as a child. My mother died when I was about five years old. My siblings and I were divided among our relatives. The youngest one, who was ten days old, went to our maternal grandma. My ten-month-old sister went to my father’s mother. My father took my older brother (eight years older than me) along with him. My three-year-old brother and I went to live with my elder uncle. After a period of four months, when our father came to see us, I clung to him and refused to let him go without us. Baba (my father) took us with him but was unable to look after my kid brother as he was away from home a lot because of his army duties. Baba had to leave him with his mother.
I used to be alone in the house most of the time. Lala (my elder brother) would be out playing with his friends. That’s how I discovered books and found a totally different world from the world I lived in. It was a world of magic for me. Snow White, Cinderella and the Mermaid Princess became my friends. I came to know dragons, wizards and Greek Mythology. Hercules and Zeus came alive. When I would wake up, I would find books lying near my pillow, brought by Baba, and left for me. When I was in grade six, I think I finished reading all the books in our school library.
As I grew older most of my pocket money was spent on books. When I could not buy, my time was spent in bookstores. My younger brothers by that time had come to live with us and the three of us would be visiting the local bookshops on bicycles. My favorite authors at that time were Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austen and Agatha Christie.
Alas! such a heavenly atmosphere could not last forever. My husband disliked books as much as I loved them. He only read his military books and newspapers. With my husband and two kids to look after, the world of books became a distant paradise.
Now with time on my hands, I have re-discovered my lost world. For me books are fun. My books are my companions. They were that in my childhood as they are now. I have to confess though I may go down a few notches in some people eyes but one of my favorite authors is Stephanie Meyer. I love her vampires and all, though I do not like the movies made so far based upon her books. My other faves are Suzanne Collins and Jodi Picoult.
My idea of bliss is to curl up with a book in a quiet place with no one disturbing me.
I saw him standing in white clothes. I am seeing him exactly after a gap of two months. Joyfully I rush forward and put my arms around him to hug him tightly. “You are not going to leave me, are you?” Smilingly, he promises,” No never.”
But he is gone and never holds on to his promise. I wake up and realize it was just a dream. Tears stream down my face whenever I think back to Aug 2, 2012 the day the sky and everything around me turned black. My husband embarked on this day on his final journey. He was suffering from Signet Ring Carcinoma of stomach, the worse type of cancer imaginable. I used to block thoughts about his impending death to hold on to sanity.
Friends and relatives say he was a person who graced any occasion with his presence there. He was always smiling but cancer took away his smile.
He is gone but in a way he is still there for me. He is there in the smile of our son, the sounding of his footsteps and his voice. He is there in how our daughter conducts herself. She is really a chip of the old block and in so many ways resembles him.
I know he will be there when I begin my final journey.
There are smells which, when pervade your senses, evoke and bring back memories of those far away moments which will never come back and are gone forever. The sense of smell varies from person to person. Those that one person likes probably won’t smell so heavenly to others.
My first loved smell is when the first drops of rain hits the earth and a sort of earthy muddy smell comes out. Lovely isn’t it? I love to take deep breaths at that moment. The smell of freshly cut grass is another one of my favorites. Another heavenly smell is that of Raat ki Rani (Cestrum Nocturnum). Small buds open up at night and the smell is exquisite and simply out of this world. It spreads far and wide. I wish someone can make it into a scent. I would love to have it for always.
The smell of Motia (Jasmine Sambac), a white flower found here, gets to my heart. Whenever I smell it, I go back to my childhood days. Once where we lived, the whole garden was filled with it. The bushes were planted thickly and they formed a low hedge. It smelled incredible when the flowers bloomed.
I love the smell of Jasmine. This was the name given to me by my mother but sadly my father didn’t agree. It’s a climbing plant. Our house in the village has pergolas covered with lush green leaves from which peep small white flowers smelling like heaven.
And the last ones which I love are the smells of burnt toast in the house, coffee, and baking. Ah ah & oh oh!
When I got married, my husband was in Rajshahi, Bangladesh (former east wing of Pakistan). We had a marvelous Bengali cook. He was a culinary wizard. God bless him wherever he is. My husband, Hano (his nickname), told me to stay away from the kitchen. He didn’t have any inkling that on my part I had no desire to be there as I didn’t know the A to Z of cooking anything. From Rajshahi we went to Sylhet. We were fortunate to get another good cook.
My life as a cook started when we came back to Sialkot, Pakistan. Hano was at the border guarding our homeland. My father-in-law was staying with me and our baby son. Our orderly/cook asked for two to three hours leave. Seeing my woe begone face, he promised to be back by twelve. I waited for him to come back. Seeing that there was no sign of him, I could not delay going to the dreaded kitchen knowing my father-in-law would soon be asking for food. It looked to me that my doomsday had arrived. The chap before leaving had soaked mash dal (lentils) and rice in dishes. I cringe and shudder when I think back to that day to what I cooked. It was simply terrible but hats off to my father-in-law for bravely eating what I put in front of him and not saying anything.
A few weeks later, my life as a cook started in earnest as I was unable to find someone to do the cooking for us. You can guess what Hano had to endure. After practicing on him for a few months, I started getting the hang of it. He used to say, “Whether it is chicken or something else, there is no difference in taste.”
Finally I did get better. Sometimes I would crave a few words of praise at my culinary achievements. Hano would reply, “Look, I eat what you give me. That means it is okay.” Sometimes when I truly excelled (please do believe me), he would say, “Oh, you have reminded me of my mother’s cooking.” Oh my! His mother was one of the best.
Dear Nola, you are the best daughter in the whole world and I love you. When you came in my life years ago and I had my first sight of you, I felt extremely grateful to God that he gave you to me.It was the same with your father. You were his bundle of joy many times over. When you were a baby the first thing he used to do when he came home from his office was to take you up in his arms and swing you around. You would be all smiles. The years passed so quickly. It seems a blur already. I feel so proud of you that you turned out kindhearted, generous in nature, helpful and always doing whats’ right. You are a precious gift, to be cherished, given to me by God. You will be forever a part of me, one I relish.
Today was our Quran’s class. The women in our weekly class are learning Tajweed which means the correct pronunciation of the words in Arabic. For this purpose our teacher would listen to every one there recite the 73rd Surat and correct her. Some had brought their young kids along ( probably couldn’t be left alone at home) who were bent on breaking our concentration with noise of their own. After that Mrs. A (the teacher) read the Surah Lailatul Qadr and gave us the Tafseer for it. Tafseer indicates the dates when the angel Gabriel brought the Quranic verses down and it also gives the commentary about these verses. Lailatul Qadr is the night in the month of Ramadan when the Quran’s first verse was revealed to our Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him). This is the night when all the decisions for a year are made by Allah. Our Arabic lessons began after that. I was in for a disappointment. I moved my chair closer to Mrs. A to listen to her. It resulted in her taking my book leaving me high and dry. I couldn’t mark anything in my book. Poor me! This was my last lesson as I will be returning home insha’Allah next week.
This is my first blog so I will begin with myself. I am a mother of two kids. I am currently on a visit to Riyadh and staying with my daughter. I love it here. I like the Arabs. People around the world are so misguided about them. I like the way they dress irrespective of whether they are rich or poor. The women are in abayas and have their faces covered. I wish I could do the same. I will continue with the abaya when I go back to my country, insha’Allah. I am used to wearing a chador partly hiding my face but I have found that wearing an abaya covers you more. Plus, an abaya leaves your hands free and you are not fiddling all the time trying to cover yourself properly. I am trying to learn Arabic. It is simply beautiful. My teacher with whom I study the Quran in-depth once said, “It’s the language of Jannah”. Here is a picture of where I am staying.