Today is the 25th of July 2013, the birth date of my gracious respectful and loving Mother. This day millions of memories are flooding my heart soul and mind, and I say ‘Changes tell us the Time.’ So much has changed, so much has been lost, so much which I called ‘mine’, was never meant for me; gone are the days of talking by fences and standing ‘in line’…and yet there are others for whom we keep and show our love and respect for what we got. Now we need to return. They need it now, some lines that touch and strike, jingle and create ripples in the barrel of thoughts, lying cool and precious, are there, only to be opened on special occasions.
This was one special occasion….
Father’s first posting was as the Staff Surgeon in the Combined Military Hospital of a hill station called Murree. At 9,000 feet above sea level Murree was cool in summers but extremely chilly in snowy Winters, ‘The uniform takes days to dry and the coal iron is smoky and heavy’. The year was 1953. Pakistan the newly created state was struggling at many fronts but the hearts and spirits were joyful and happy, Mother heaved a deep sigh and kept on pressing the heavy iron. She must be missing her own home which she had to leave forever when the family had to migrate to Pakistan.
Mother had to work in hard conditions, such areas are called hard areas and sometimes an army officer has to live without his family as some stations are marked non-family stations. Communication is hardly possible, the letters could travel though, but it took the postman many days to deliver.
Dear Readers ‘A gift of courage, support, trust and affection, a gift of words for the comfort of all.’ I recall how mother coped with life after migration, reaching safer grounds after a journey of three days and fearful nights in an army truck, in a convoy often threatened by ambush and shooting. I remember too the days were long and hot and humid in July, which is usual in this part of the world (the Indo Pak subcontinent), making it depressive at times
Life too is strange, horrifying, tragic, yet with flashes of joy, happiness and fun. At times one may laugh at its twists and turns, its alleys and avenues, through which one has to walk, rush and tread heavily, worriedly or happily. Isn’t there a fresh canvas every twenty four hours?
To be prepared for a vision, comforting our minds in meditation, developing a dream illustrating the images of our colorful worlds from the inside.
Why should we cease to enjoy the heavenly glory the manifestation of truth in nature. To look at the tall trees,the solid brown trunks cracked cut and chipped, but clasping the depths of the nutritious mother Earth with faith, rooted with purpose, waiting for the advent of Spring and the music of myriad of creations crawling, curling, creeping or flying amid reawakening of the changing season. Some branches are sprouting some are still bare reflecting a strange loneliness. This reminds me of the lines ‘sadness and sorrow fill my heart, when I see the leaves silently leave the tree….’
Mama left quietly silently for Heaven without a sigh, without a tear, a gigantic monument of patience courage and acceptance. Winning a battle I would say, not losing it against the continuously silent corrosive cancer. Not a morsel could she touch for months.
Seasons surrendered. Time crept by, I wept secretly and slept cautiously. From the ITC (intensive care) to the special room, from the Oncology Department to the scan center, from the agonizing spells of chemotherapy to the uncertain hours of unconsciousness. I prayed for inner strength. ’O Almighty Allah please forgive me. You are most merciful, most gracious. Please keep my mama in peace and out of pain’. Some people pass away without any so why do others have to suffer so much?
A frosty November Sunday evening, my last moments by the bedside, the tender sensation of the last touch of her hand on my cheek, the wordless, voiceless, hushed and helpless goodbye.
It seemed as if it were yesterday, when there was hope, when I held tightly to the wheelchair’ “Ammiji, would you like to go inside the room now?” The room was not the comfortable room of home, where in winters the first job after morning prayers was to fill kerosene oil in the room heater and then go the kitchen to prepare breakfast. The gas cylinder kept the stove burning.
Breakfast of tea and toast was to be prepared for a child unable to do anything for himself. Since birth it was like that. It all started thirty years ago when the mental condition was confirmed. He would never ever be back with a sane and healthy mind. He would walk but would not be able to talk, nor find his way back if ever he got lost or moved far away from home.” Mother once said, ‘I have accepted him as he is. It’s no use trying to find a good doctor.’ And then, why should I ignore my other blessings, my daughters, they need me. They are my treasure.’
This was the courage that Mother inculcated in her soul and spirit. She made sure that life should be as normal as possible with cooking, school, needle work, and loving care. I used to accompany her for shopping. I looked forward to the ride in the bright red Omni bus though the basket would be slightly heavy on the way back, Still, it was fun.
This room was the fateful No 8 of the VIP Ward, same old verandah same wooden pillars, the netted fly proof doors, the 18th Century ambiance as though suddenly a masked rider would emerge from nowhere shrouded in mystery, speeding to save someone’s life. Many years ago father was 2nd in Command, on duty in this very hospital. It was clean, smelling of antiseptic lotion.
‘Take me around for a little while more’ Mother asked. I gathered my reserves of energy and turned the trembling wheelchair. The rubber lining of the left wheel was hanging loose. The seat cover was torn. Thank God at least the chair is there. I started to push. That Saturday morning it was my day off from college, as I pushed the chair all I saw was a tall three-storied dull and depressive structure the Old VIP Ward. The words stood out against the creamy shabbiness of the wall. What happened to the spread of lush green lawn, bubbling with joy. I had romped and jumped around on the soft grass. Allah had sent us a baby brother, how beautiful he looked as he slept in the cot. His dark long curled eyelashes were so striking. Right then the sudden sound of the siren interrupted my thoughts, an ambulance rushed in. ‘Oh another suffering one’ My grip on the handle of the wheel chair tightened.
Ammi ji, would you like to go inside now?’ Softly I asked my suffering Mama what thoughts touched her mind? No one would know. Thirty-five years ago my father was a commanding officer of this hospital. It used to be so clean smelling of antiseptic, the floors shinning, and lively with smartly dressed nurses and other officers. Above all the atmosphere was comforting atmosphere, but this year a water shortage had troubled the citizens and summers were unusually hot. I remembered the 60s were much cooler. The ice cream evenings were special occasions as the bucket handle was turned by all who could. Mama would pour salt over the crushed ice filling the sides of it. The fresh fruit flavoring lingered for long.
The trial of life was living with an abnormal child and keeping the other side hale and hearty and happy and the hardships of the army life, of sacrifice as father served the nation in the hospital.
But courage, prayer and inner strength prevailed. Only Mother knew what her soul and spirit felt like. She gave everyone her love and care but finally . . . maybe she could not take it anymore.
May she rest in peace in heaven. Amen.
© 2018, memoir and photograph, Anjum Wasim Dar