.. and now she’s gone to sleep forever. =(
Yesterday morning mum called. “Amma’s had a stroke during her sleep”, she said. “It’s very critcal. She’s in a coma and medically speaking, tommorow morning seems like a miracle.”
We all prayed fervently for a miracle. She’d been taken to the hospital in various stages of emergency over the last four years. I witnessed one when I was there last in ’08. She’ll pull through again just like she did the last time. I was sure of it.
I was wrong. She left us forever this time.
The enigma that she was, is hard to explain in words. As my cousin B would say, “You could just feel it in the way people’s eyes would pop open when you were introduced as ‘Mrs Azra Qamar’s granddaughter’!!”. So dynamic is she. Pardon me, was she.
Mrs Azra Qamar was one of the 6 women of her year to graduate in all of the Indian Subcontinent. When education for women was not only unavailable, but looked down upon, her maternal grandfather moved every rock and stone to make her shine with education. Later, with her husband as her motivational beacon, she pursued her Masters despite having borne 6 children already. As if that was not credible enough, she ran an entire, very reputable Girl’s College of Pakistan as their Principal – a true achievement for a woman of that time.
She was the pivot of our lives but no one was as encaptured by her charm as was my Dada – her husband, Qamar Hasan. For as long as I can remember, and thats for the better part of my well over 20 years, I remember this man proudly doing her laundry and hanging her sarees in his veranda. From a noble family, son of a successful Barrister, a visionary and a businessman, yet, my Daada’s hobby was spoiling my Daadi. He would wake up before her and would make her tea and keep it ready for her by the time she came and sat at her usual spot – right next to the telephone stand. Around the round table, the two of them spent years sitting and reading books, chatting about life, watching their grandchildren and then later, their great grandchildren grow up around them. They both enjoyed gardening and each evening, my Dada would pluck his favorite flowers and bring them inside for her. She would quickly make a bracelet(gajra) out of them and wear them. If she didnt get a chance to make a gajra, she would place them under her pillow before sleeping. Each night before they slept, they would play three games of Scrabble. His eyes would start searching for her, the moment anyone asked his permission to take a picture of him. He would always pull up a seat besides him for her to sit next to him. “My Dear”, was their term of endearment for each other – yes, not today or yesterday, some 2-5 decades ago – in a society where male macho-ness and female prudishness meant everything. In a society where women were supposed to slave over to please their husband, they formed an unrivaled relationship. Together, they celebrated 50 and some, anniversaries.
Is it any wonder, she lost all hope and motivation in her life when he left her six years ago? His departure disbalanced her bouyance. She carried on in her regality, with her usual smirk, but the shine in her eyes were gone. She kept herself soooo well composed, we would get frustrated and wonder why she won’t share her memories of Abba with us. A woman who once ran a girls college, restricted her social life to her sunroom. She would rarely ever go out.
My daadi was spoilt and surrounded with love. Such was her character, she demanded instinctive respect and love. We would often joke that my dad, youngest of 6, was her overgrown baby. Having had a lay off, he had finally found some prospectives when my Dada’s health fell. Despite the golden opportunity, he left everything here and went to take care of him. Each morning, he would go over and sit with them before he left for work, and would again go over and visit them before he came home after work. He would often eat with her before coming home. Last year, when we visited my parents, we would tease that he’s gone to his “Maika” – a term used to refer to a bride’s maternal home. He doted on his parents. He would move the world to spare them the slightest of inconvenience – not just in their last days, but during their entire life. When we lived in Pakistan, we were required to visit them atleast 4-5 times a week – if only for 5 minutes – a habit I carry on with my children today.
I would sometimes get mad at my Dad and ask him teasingly, how dared he take my mum away from Canada (and therefore me) for the sake of being with his mum? He would reply with tears in his eyes: “You can’t imagine the dua’as I get from my mom each day. I am everything I am because of her dua’as”. I could never argue that. He’s not a rich man, but he is indeed a very blessed, fulfilled and content man. Today, he is shattered.
He was not the only one. Blessed were her two other daughters. They served her and took care of her in a way, that I can only wish and pray my children could come close to. Her 3 other children visited her constantly and loved her to bits. She gave each one of us plenty of opportunities to gain ajr(reward) through her.
For her grandchildren, she was a role model. A family full of girls, she inspired and motivated each of us to exceed and excel in whatever path we chose to follow. With 6 children and their 6 spouses, 18 granddaughters, 3 grandsons, 15 grand son in laws, 1 grand daughter inlaw, 21 great grandchildren, she was on top of all our lives mashaAllah. Anyone could ask her about any oneof us and she would know what we were upto these days. She had a way of connecting with us despite the generation gaps. There was no way any of us could get away without calling her every other week. She would connect with Eesa and Hana (four generations her junior!) and would often call them badmaash and tun-mun.
Four of us granddaughters exclusively spent alot of time with Amma. Shaima and I were one of them. She taught us our quran. She rocked us to sleep when we were babies. I could go on and on…
As her funeral unraveled and people came to visit, many of us realized how intertwined our lives were. I’m told that on the day of her funeral, people were pouring out of the house. People were sitting on the staircase, bedrooms, verandah, garden etc. It seemed as though she had touched each and everyone’s life in some way or the other. The mosque was full, including the garden and car park. May Allah swt accept each and everyone’s prayers. Ameen.
Amma and Abba lived a very fulfilled life. Alhamdolillah. But their death has left a very gaping hole in our lives and a legacy that can never be forgotten.