to My Soul Mate
I am not given to write about my family and
close friends in these pages. I beg your indulgence
as I pay tribute to my dear friend and soul
mate Dottie who was my life partner for 38-years.
She died on December 2, 2006.
It was 42 years ago that our paths - that
of a student nurse from Chelsea, Michigan
and that of a surgery resident from Peshawar,
Pakistan - crossed at Maumee Valley Hospital
in Toledo. It wasn’t the proverbial
love at first sight. On the contrary, it was
the battle of the minds and principles that
defined our friendship. She was an idealistic
young nurse who placed her profession and
its integrity ahead of all other considerations.
And I, as an impatient young man was incapable
of distinguishing between ideal patient care
and insubordination. In my Pakistani mind
doctors gave orders and nurses carried them
out. For that irrepressible girl things were
not that cut and dry. A few years later the
man from Mars and the girl from Venus decided
to tie the knot.
There could not have been two more incompatible
people starting a life into the unknown. It
was a match most certainly not made in heaven.
In due course however our religious and cultural
differences gave way to mutual love, respect
and admiration. That remained the mainstay
of our life together and in that milieu we
would raise a daughter Natasha and two sons
Waqaar (Qarie) and Osman (Monie).
It was with considerable apprehension that
she moved back to Pakistan with me in 1970.
After all when the news of our marriage reached
Peshawar the family had mourned and friends
and neighbors had come to offer their condolences.
It took no time before the family welcomed
and accepted the new bride into the clan.
On her part Dottie lived the traditions and
played the part and in the process established
deep bonds with the family that endured the
rest of her life. Knowing my deep emotional
attachment to the city of my birth she spent
the rest of her life nurturing my yearning
for that place and helped me with score of
educational and literary projects for the
She joined me on many of my foreign trips
and when she would not or could not travel
she took care of the home and hearth and waited
for my return. At times she was apprehensive
when I took our boys on difficult expeditions
to explore the Indus River but she never wavered
in her support of what I wanted to do.
It was however not the big or glamorous stuff
that highlighted our life journey. The mundane
little things of everyday life defined her
life and accented our marriage; soccer games,
piano recitals, school plays, parent-teacher
conferences, daily pick up of our granddaughter
Hannah from school and above all the gathering
of the family around the table at dinner time.
Nursing was her passion and she excelled at
it. So it was startling when in 1996 at the
age of 52 she decided to call it a day. She
had made an error in calculating the dose
of a medication but had caught herself in
time. That misstep affected her deeply and
she decided to bow out while she was still
on top. In her book there was no room for
acts of omission or commission. No persuasion
on my part could make her change her mind.
She was an idealist and also very stubborn.
It was difficult for her in the early years
of our marriage to understand the very parochial
and Pushtun concept of unfettered hospitality.
But once she got the hang of it she turned
it into a fine art and practiced it no matter
where we lived. She was nicknamed the Inn
Keeper by our children.
As the relentless march of ovarian cancer
took its toll she wished to visit Peshawar
just one more time to say farewell to the
family. But it was not meant to be. In the
end she accepted death with the same quiet
dignity as she had embraced life.
On her passing there was a flow of family
friends, relatives and even strangers to our
ancestral home in Peshawar. This time they
came to pay respect to the American girl who
was able to narrow the East-West gap. She
had lived seamlessly in two disparate worlds
and in the process touched many people with
her grace. Rudyard Kipling, The creator of
The Ballad of East and West would have been
surprised. As Ezra Pond said, the quality
of affection, in the end, is in the trace
it leaves in the mind. There was plenty of
it in Peshawar and Toledo these past four
Throughout history the prophets, sages and
wise men have tried, mostly in vain, to unravel
the mysteries of life and death, and fell
short of explaining the stubborn ‘why?’
One could rely on science to understand the
cannibalistic orgy of cancer consuming the
body or playing havoc with the delicate biochemical
symphony that makes music we call life. But
there is really no good explanation. Prayers
cannot alter what God wills.
‘I have no more words, said Rumi, the
great 13th century Turkish poet, ‘let
the soul speak with the silent articulation
Thank you for listening.