I have not received my army pension for the last two months, so I kept phoning Lala (my older brother) to find out whether it’s just me, or there is some new protocol to be followed. Lala wasn’t picking up his phone. I tried different times to get in touch with him. The result was zero. Yesterday I mentioned it to Son. He said, “why don’t you ring Ibadat? I was mystified. I didn’t know anyone belonging to that name. Son elaborated, “your brother’s daughter in law”.
I told him, “I don’t think her name is Ibadat!” Son was adamant, “No, her name is Ibadat”.
Rather than insisting it wasn’t her name, I called her. After giving her my message for Lala (at that moment Lala was enjoying his afternoon nap), I asked her whether she could give me the correct spellings for her name? She did, and her name turns out to be Liaba. Son corrected her name in his phone index.
Lala gave me a return call. It turns out the army people needs constant reminders of my being alive– once in March, and another one in September. Before leaving I had made several copies of alive certificates, signed them, and left them with Lala to be posted regularly to GHQ. One reason for leaving them with brother was more money is spent in postage when sent from US. He promised to send them a copy immediately.
I asked Lala for a phone number for the pension department, but he said there is no phone number, or they don’t give their number. It would have been useful. I could have called them to show them on camera that Masha’Allah! I was still alive, and needed my pension to stay alive.
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A Variety Show, and dinner was being held at our Army Ladies Club. I had been attending it from the day we landed at Peshawar. Many a time, I thought of leaving it for good, but would think it all over again. I kept attending meetings, dinners and functions. After all it was a way to meet old friends, and enjoy a few hours of each others’ company.
I reached the gates of the club. It was an Army Officers Mess which we used for the meetings. After getting thoroughly investigated by the guards on duty at the gates, and showing them my ID and driver’s license I was allowed to pass through. Our way of life changed with the advent of terrorism, making life difficult for us.
I usually parked my car inside the premises of the club, but on this particular day the sentry wouldn’t allow me, even after seeing my car had all the requisite stickers on it. I asked to see his senior. He came, but it was still a big No. I left with my cheeks burning a bright shade of red with anger. My (late) husband was astonished to see me home within such a short time. He expected to see me after nine in the evening.
I banned myself from the club from that day onward. If I had to park my car on the roadside, and it wasn’t allowed inside, I had no need to go back there.
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Fierce reminds me of a neighbor’s mother. We were living at Thall. Our home was inside the Fortress. My daughter Nola, and I were the only ones at home. My late husband was at that time a Lt. Col in the army, and commanding a Unit. Mostly his unit was at the border. My son was at Burn Hall in Abbotabad. He would come home during school breaks.
Our neighbors were army doctors. Lt. Col Dr.Q’s mother was living with him. She had no other children beside him. She was fiercely protective of her son’s children. When the children came out to play, she accompanied them.
She would be dressed in black. I think I never saw her in any other color. I never could understand her. Although both of us spoke Pushto, but the dialect changes from region to region. Mine had softer edges to it, whereas hers’ was difficult to understand. I would just nod when she would speak to me, trying hard to decipher what she was saying. Most of the time I wouldn’t understand a word of what she would say. I could only make out a word, or two, with that I would try to carry on the conversation with her.
My son S had come home on one of his breaks. He had a slight altercation with Q’s son. Nola came running in to tell me. I went out to see what had happened. S had come to blows with one of the boys. Q’s mother was crying as she said something to me about S fighting her grandson. As a punishment I gave a slap to S’s behind. At this she started to wail. I was horrified at her crying, not knowing what to do. It turned out she was now crying because of my son’s tears. She didn’t want me to punish S. I saw her hugging S, drying his tears, giving him a sweet from the ones she carried around.
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When we moved to Mangla for the first time my children were very young. My son was one year and eleven months and my daughter was a two months old baby. My husband as usual was at the Border. With threats of War from India the Army was deployed at the borders of our country. My husband would come home for a night after two weeks or so and then leave in the morning. With two young children to care for my hands were full. I don’t know how I found time for gardening.
I tackled our front yard first. Took out the weeds which were growing in abundance and planted hedges and flowers. That was easy. Just bought the plants and found the appropriate places for them. The back yard was another matter. Nobody had done anything there. It was in a state of wilderness. It was rocks and wild grass. I must have been insane even to think of clearing it, but that’s what I did. I think at that moment somebody should have suggested to me to have my head examined. It was sheer hard work for me. I somehow persisted in my efforts. When the children would be napping, instead of catching two winks myself I would escape to my backyard. I cleared a plot twelve by twelve feet all by myself. 😊. It took me almost two months to do it.
I bought the seeds for peas, carrots, cauliflower, cabbages, radishes, spinach and whatever the shopkeeper suggested. I had never planted seeds in my life. So in each small hole I would put a number of seeds. Somehow the Over Worked Person I was, I thought that the seeds would move and spread around themselves. They Obligingly came out in clumps. I was proud of myself, ☺, and at the first opportunity when a neighbor visited, took her outside to show her my Handiwork. She duly made appropriate noises and departed after some time, with me none the wiser.
My husband came on a day’s leave. I took him out to show him the fruits of my labor. He gripped his sides and started laughing HoHo….. Bewildered I looked at him, not comprehending as to why he was laughing. I was terribly embarrassed when he explained. He replanted the seedlings for me, but for years afterward it was a source of merriment for him. To tease me he would tell guests how I planted my first vegetable garden with Poor Me trying to stop him. 😕.
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