Tag Archives: Lala.


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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Lala (older brother), and I hold different views on everything under the sun. Whereas he tries to blast people’s ears with honking, I would like to forbid its’ usage – only to be used under most dire circumstances. 

When we are going some place in my car, Lala drives my driver nuts by telling him to honk every other minute. The driver has my clear instructions not to use the horn, while Lala tells him otherwise when he is sitting in the front seat. Lala smilingly revels in any opportunity to do so. My driver remains confused who to listen to.

I have always found honking terribly offensive. On roads in home country I’m particularly terrified of bus horns. Their sound is highly grating, loud and irritating on ears. One of my close friend J lost her husband to heart attack brought on by the honking of bus drivers.



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But You Never Came Back

My dearest mother, I find it strange writing to you. I never wrote you a letter before. Honestly it never entered my mind. Even if It had, you no longer had an address to write to.

I have grown up without you. I have never known you as a person. Tell me when you were turning your back on us, did you wonder how we were going to fare without you in our life? You left without saying goodbye.

My memory is of the day you finally left home. Father had reached home during your last night. He was sitting in the Hujra (outside living rooms for menfolk)  with men relatives, and neighbors sitting with him. You were laid outside on a bed in the courtyard. Women sat near you. You quietly lay without moving.

I came to sit beside you, and tried to wake you up. You didn’t open your eyes. They remained closed. As I hugged myself to you, I found you cold, and hard. You were no longer warm, and soft. Then the awful realization struck that you might be ill. I touched your face, and you weren’t responding, and that’s when I started shouting, and crying to make you get up.

Lala (elder brother) swooped down on me, and picked me up. He tried to stop me from crying. I wouldn’t stop, so he took me to the Hujra. Father held me in his lap, and told me not to cry. As more guests came, and father got up, I came back inside. I sat beside you mother, and cried, and cried. My cries had no effect on you, but it made Lala come back, and took me to father again.

The second time I made it back inside I sat on the verandah steps, and watched you from there. With the fear of Lala taking me away from you, I was crying soundlessly.

Then the menfolk came inside, and women left your side. Lala held me to his chest, and told me you were being taken away to the hospital. Once you were well enough, you would come back home.

But you never came back.


Dear Mom

Write a letter to your mom. Tell her something you’ve always wanted to say, but haven’t been able to. 

My Apa

Cousin It
by Ben Huberman
We all have that one eccentric relative who always says and does the strangest things. In your family, who’s that person, and what is it that earned him/her that reputation?


I do have one, and she is my sister-in-law married to my elder brother Lala. I don’t call her by name, and as a mark of respect call her Apa.

She has strange habits, and one of them is washing her hands continuously. Meanwhile the water keeps running. She washes — examines her hands — washes — examines, and the cycle goes on. Maybe some speck of dirt keeps on hanging.

Another one is using an old shoulder bag. My sister, and I had the misguided notion that if we gifted her enough bags, she would stop using the old one. No such luck. The old yellow one is always in use. Some day if I can find enough bravery in myself to sneak into her home to throw out the old bag, I may do the deed.

When we (my late husband R, and I) would visit Lala’s place, Apa would sit down with us. Lala would do the running around to serve us tea, or soft drinks, and I would try to dissuade him from serving us, or help him.

R as usual would be irked by Apa’s manners. Going back home, he would say, “why does your brother puts up with his wife? Or why doesn’t he get another one?”

Thank God, Apa wasn’t there to hear it, otherwise her mental image of a good guy would have been destroyed.

Washing, cooking, cleaning, everything is done by Lala. He washes Apa’s clothes, and irons them for her too. The irony is that Lala is not well, and has landed in Intensive Care Unit several times. He is diabetic, having a heart condition.

I sometimes wonder what’s going to happen, when Lala is no longer there for her.


Kashmiri Chai

Kashmiri Chai means Tea from Kashmir. When Pakistan and India got Independence from old British Raj in August 1947, Kashmir got divided too. Actually Kashmir was predominantly Muslim in population. As per decision it should have been acceded to Pakistan, but the Hindu Raja called the Indian Army and it took over Kashmir by Force. Same was the case with Hyderabad Deccan. To this day Muslims are slaughtered in Kashmir, and the Indian Army keeps sway over Kashmir.

The Kashmiri families who migrated to Pakistan brought with them——what? Of course the Art of Kashmiri Chai. (Tea) Once you drink it you are hooked for Life. It’s beautiful in pink color. It’s Gorgeous with a capital G. The taste is Sublime and you keep on asking for more. You can never have enough.

I loved it the first time I had it. I didn’t know how it was made. I knew it was made with green tea, but it is a special kind of green tea. You don’t get the same result with the ordinary green tea. I was delighted when I got the recipe from F (a friend of mine) who is by birth Kashmiri. Here is the recipe.

Take 3 cups of water. Add 3 tea spoons of Kashmiri tea. Keep on boiling it till it reduces to one cup. Add a cup of cold water and five cardamoms to it. Whisk it to bring out the color. Some people, to bring out the color add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda to it. Whisk again. Heat two cups of milk separately. Strain the tea. Add milk and bring it to a boil. Have ready half a cup of chopped Pistachios. When you pour your Kashmiri Chai into cups sprinkle Pistachios over it. Oh! You are now ready to have your First Sip of Kashmiri Chai. Heavenly isn’t it? Oh..Oh…Oh…I forgot the sugar, the amount you like or no sugar at all. Many people like it with salt and no sugar. So you can salt to taste.

Two years before I badly wanted a cup. Suddenly I had yen for it. Dragged my poor husband to the Bazar with me in search for the required green tea. One shopkeeper hoodwinked us with our purchase. My whole morning was spent in cajoling out the color. Poor Me! There was no color no taste. Wasted my morning. Could have done another million things. Give up, disappointed.

Elder brother (Lala) visited. I mentioned the failure over tea. Lala was adamant in his Belief that Poor SM (that’s Me) is a moron with a capital M and doesn’t know anything. (Though cooking for years now) He literally dragged me to the kitchen amid my Protestations that the tea was no good. It was to no avail. Whatever I said fell over deaf ears. He added tea and water and started the boil, all the while giving me oodles of instructions. The result was the same and again a waste of time.

Another Kashmiri friend gave me a gift of green tea. I was excited to know from where she bought it. She said she will tell me. Till now she hasn’t. My stash is almost finished. It’s Time to remind her.


My Idea Of Heaven

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.