Remembering My Beloved Mother
By C. Naseer Ahmad

You and me against the world
Sometimes it seems like you and me against the world
When all the others turn their backs and walked away
You can count on me to stay

Helen Reddy’s popular song in 1974 captured the deeply spiritual mother-child relationship. It certainly captured my attention and I remember how fondly my beloved mother responded to my letter – about this song - from USA back then.
Every mother is protective of her child and likewise every child needs a mother to help survive birth, infancy and the formative years. My beloved mother, Hamida Aziz, who was born on September 17, 1931 and died on June 8, 2005, was that kind of mother whose love and care enable me to learn to read and write and to be whatever I am today.
I remember the day when she recorded my first “Azan” – call to prayers - on a brand new Grundig tape recorder my late father had brought from Germany. Through that experience I learned to discover the world of technology from a housewife with just elementary school education. I remember the joy on her face on the day I finished the reading of the Holy Qur’an.
Remember when the circus came to town
How you were frightened by the clown
Wasn't it nice to be around someone that you knew
Someone who was big and strong and looking out for
Through life’s journey, which sometimes seemed like a circus, I remember facing many clowns. None of them scared me more than the ride from Kharian to Multan – which back then seemed to me the longest journey in life to visit my father in Mailsi, where he worked on an engineering project. The scary beggars – with their distorted bodies - who peeped through windows of cars terrified me. I remember how calmly my mother handled them.
In 1963 when my father was transitioning from the army to work in the private sector, we lived in Kharian for a year. I remember the day when President Kennedy was shot my mother was preparing breakfast for me. She taught me about the world that existed beyond the walls of the kitchen. During Ramadan when all my friends would fast, my mother would not want me to observe fast since I was asthmatic needing medication during the day. There I learned that one could be deeply spiritual without being fanatically religious.
After learning how to operate (and dismember a tape recorder), I discovered how to fidget with the mosque loud speaker. Every morning, I would race to the mosque to make the call for prayers (Azan), before the designated muezzin could reach the mosque. My unbridled enthusiasm and fast feet beat his age and guile every time. Naturally, he would complain about me. Since, my mother and my grandfather were forgiving, he tried his luck with my grandmother. Among my other crimes were also jumping on people’s rooftops and scheming other mischief. I had given her some reason to lend him sympathetic ears, because the night before I made her scream with my mark of “Zorro” costume. Tired of my antics, my grandmother pulled me aside and said, “Think about gaining a useful skill.” I actually did think it over and found that I was pretty skillful in creating trouble and I found gaining notoriety to be a worthy occupation then.
The prayers of villagers in Kharian were answered when my father came to take me to Lahore in 1964. Perhaps, it was my father’s disciplining or just a revelation that going to school was not so bad after all. My energies now were channeled towards more constructive activities like participating in community service.
At college, I served as a vice-president of an inter-collegiate student body. The leadership meetings would often bring me to my friend Pervaiz Minhas’ house for evening tea, it helped me cope with asthma.
My friend’s house was close to “Alliance Francais” which offered evening classes in French. Just to keep life interesting, I decided to enroll in those classes in addition to full time college studies and other activities. Late at night after taking care of her other children and my father, my mother would come to the dining table with a cup of hot tea for me. As I worked on learning French, my mother joined me too. By the time I was done with the course, my mother and I could speak a few sentences in French.
I remember how happy my mother felt when our first trip outside of Pakistan took us to Paris. We felt that we had an edge over the rest of the family members. Whenever she wanted to say something privately, she would use her limited knowledge of French to confide in me. In fact, until recently when I visited her at the National Hospital in Lahore, she would crack a few lines in French when she did not want to let the nurses know what was on her mind.
And when one of us is gone
And one is left alone to carry on
Then remembering will have to do
Memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you
You and me against the world

Such are my memories of my loving and forgiving mother and I am sure such is the story of the mother-child relationships in the world.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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