For such a profound conclusion about motherhood, it is a touch sad that the author of the above quote is anonymous. In a lot of ways, the contributions of a mother belong to the same realm: anonymity.
Nimra Bucha, a television artiste and spouse of Pakistan’s internationally celebrated writer and journalist Mohammed Hanif, in her condolence message over my mother’s demise last year stamped this authoritatively.
“What mothers do is not visible to the world,” she wrote.
While we take a lot for granted — smug in the comforting thought of being in their long and apparently secure shadows — life does not quite prepare you for losing your parents.
It’s been just a year, but my heart reels from an indescribable sorrow, hollow as an empty shell. While visiting her last resting place recently, a million random thoughts occupied my mind, but mostly feelings of emptiness and profound loss that cannot be described in a million words.
It took a lot to summon the courage to get back to life and then, too, because now a bit of the responsibilities that my parents selflessly fulfilled to raise us four siblings are now my call for my own family of four. Such is life — no respect for feelings, not even decent time and space for grieving.
My mother was asleep the last time I should have hugged her before departing for Doha, which is now my home away from home, but deluded myself with the assurance that only this time, perhaps there was no need to wake her up for an emotional adieu since I was returning home in a matter of months, for good.
It was not to be.
The last time I saw her alive actually was on a video call on her birthday. Birthdays are not always made up of rainbow colours; in fact, they can be a harbinger of doom. A week later, she was gone. Losing my father was hard enough, but her loss shook the soul and sapped the spirit. Memories are all that one is left with.
Simplicity defined Bushra Rehmat. A mother to the manner born, she selflessly devoted her life to the challenge of raising four of us; three boys and a girl, but it couldn’t have been easier with the modest means. Despite an early marriage, she used every opportunity to learn from her experiences in foreign lands each time my diplomat dad was posted abroad.
In hindsight, winning a swimming medal in Kuwait as a schoolgirl must have set it up for a fulfilling family life later in Tanzania, Sri Lanka and India.
Adept at all household craft, including culinary skills — the legendary Imran Khan, Pakistan’s current prime minister, did testify to that profusely when he came to our place for lunch years ago (and caused a sensation in the neighbourhood), she developed a taste for music, films, reading and cricket.
She was also a Steffi Graf fan as the life-sized poster of the tennis great on her kitchen door proved. The reading included a keen eye for politics and like any other Pakistani, she had an opinion or two about the fare that keeps the nation hooked. Until her debilitating condition took over, she used to regularly read the morning paper, and books, including political works.
The one refrain in all the condolence messages and calls that poured in from all over was predicated on her unassuming, soft spoken nature. One individual after the other spoke of a woman who was content with life no matter what it threw at her, never complaining or speaking ill of — or to — anyone.
She did however, face an amusing ‘identity’ crisis — thanks to her pronounced natural birthmark, a ‘bindi’ (a coloured dot in the centre of the forehead), especially outside Pakistan!
No matter what we accomplish, we’d never be a patch on what our parents did for us, against all odds. And the greatest favour they did us as Facilitators of Good Hope even if they didn’t always agree with our unconventional ideas, was to relent and let us make our own choices. Unbeknownst to many, my mother was that primary mover, quietly making my father agree.
They say time heals all wounds, but then it also wounds all heels meandering for inner peace. Middle age, and the experience of having been here before with my father’s passing away two decades ago, is hardly any solace. At home, I reminisce over a black and white frame and yearn to go back in time with my mother clasping me in her arms! Child or man, that will now never happen.
May Allah rest her soul in eternal peace.
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