We are in that phase of your life right now, where at 8 years old, you want to know more and more about your mother. You keep asking for stories, for pictures for funny incidents from her life. As time goes on, and our memories get weaker, we're afraid we wont remember as much. Which is why, we're writing a multiple - letters - series (because I'm not quite sure how many letters this will actually go into) with some of the stories that quite defined your Mommy and the life that she led. Of course, these stories barely scratch the surface, but we've got our whole lives ahead of us to recollect the rest :)
So here are our top 3 stories for you for the first part of this series (in no particular order). Go grab your hot chocolate, read on and have fun! :)
The Little Joys of Life
During our early school years, Nana owned a little green Bajaj scooter. He would use this scooter to drop Mommy and me to school. Over the years, Mommy had developed a strange love for this particular scooter. So much so that she even had a name for it. She called it Ballerina. She’d wish Ballerina “Good Morning” every day. Mommy strongly believed that she could tell Ballerina what to do. Like sometimes, she could just say “Come on Ballerina, time to go to school – you’ve got to start” and Ballerina would “magically” just start! I think part of her love for Ballerina stemmed from the fact that it helped her reach her most favourite place – school! One of Nana’s most distinct memories of Mommy is how she used to sometimes stand in front of him on Ballerina while he rode it. At some point in the ride, Mommy would fall off to sleep while standing. Nana would have to wrap his legs around Mommy and ride the whole time to make sure she didn’t fall over!
Mommy as a little girl
Prefects Day - Her last day in school, as a 10th grader, and her first time in a saree! Did she pull that off well or what??
Really Armeen, Mommy’s life was made up of such small, seemingly insignificant things. She always had a way of finding happiness in everything and spreading that joy to everyone around her. Today, she's remembered as the girl with the brightest smile and the shiniest eyes. Even while fighting her disease, she did so gloriously. Somehow, she managed to find a rainbow amidst all the gloom when during one of our conversations she told me, “At least this way, I know how I’m going to go”. That conversation and that day will be etched in my memory forever. She took me to a sheesha parlor in Cleveland (as an attempt to get me to try all my favorite things, on her turf). That day she spoke to me about everything that had gone on in her life and I told her about mine. I don’t think we spoke to each other that much through our lives as we did during those few hours, me enjoying my sheesha and she sipping on her coffee, after teaching me how to do smoke rings ;) Little did I know back then, that the next time I’d visit her, it would be to say goodbye
Mommy - How we will always remember her <3
Mommy and her cousin, Zeeshu Mamu, were the crazy duo of the house that drove the family up the wall when they were together! Case in point being the time when they decided to sell nimbu paani (lemonade) to everyone at home. It was around 11 pm one night when Mommy and Mamu, both around 11 years old at the time, realized they needed to start earning their own money. They came up with the idea of a grand business venture – a lemonade stall operating straight out of our kitchen! The business went into operation that minute itself. Together, they grabbed the lemons from the refrigerator and made a few litres of lemonade. They poured it out into glasses and sold it to the family at a small price (5 or 10 rupees per glass). During one of these “speedy” deliveries to their loyal customers, some amount of lemonade spilled onto the floor. On one of the round trips from living room / bedroom to kitchen, mommy slipped on the spilled lemonade and hit her head against some furniture in the living room. She had a deep cut right above her eye and was bleeding heavily. Nana and nani quickly rushed her to the nearest hospital where they got the skin on her forehead stitched up. Needless to say, the lemonade stall was up and running the next day! From then on, she wore that scar proudly on her forehead and you never fail to point it out when you look at her pictures! Armeen, the only other scars your mom ever had in her life were when she gave birth to you and then 3 years later, when she was operated for her Cancer - both the instances that changed her life forever, in their own separate ways.
Zeeshu Mamu & Mommy
Armeen, this past year, you’ve had a number of falls yourself (and a dog bite ;)). Every time you would speak to us about your accidents, we could always sense a bit of bravado in your voice – like you were proud of having gone through those experiences and coming out of them stronger. I know of no better way to deal with challenges in life. All the experiences that life will throw at you should make you a bigger, better, stronger person. We saw that happen with your mother. The strength she had when she was faced with the biggest challenge of her life was remarkable. She went around her regular business with a smile on her face. She never wanted anyone to look at her differently or feel sorry for her. She organized my entire trip to America to visit her for a few weeks. She met me at the airport with a box of my favourite donuts. She took me shopping even when she was at her lowest. She bought gifts for everyone back home even when all she needed to do at that time was just take a nap. She made sure she’d take me to the best restaurants and that her refrigerator would be well stocked while I was staying with her. She laid out her plans and made sure everyone was well looked after even when things got really bad. She made it a point to smile at each of us before she took her last breath and hold your hand and squeeze it tight to let you know that she would still be looking over you. That is the strength of the woman you are born to. Her strength, coupled with your dads, makes you nothing short of a warrior.
Mommy and you - forever obsessed with each other!
A Sister In Need, Is A Sister Indeed…..Or Is She???
I was around 7 years old and mommy 10 when this incident that scarred me for a long time took place, much to your mother’s amusement of course. Nani used to take us to swimming lessons every other day of the week. While mommy took to the pool from day 1 just like a fish to water, I was petrified of the deep end of the pool. Months of training did nothing to dampen my fears until one day I think my instructors got fed up. They took me out of the pool, walked me to the deep end and one of them grabbed my arms, the other caught hold of my legs while I was wailing away. I knew what their plan was and my only hope was that my loving, kind, older sister who was chilling in the deep end of the pool would come to my rescue. I looked over at her from the ledge with pleading eyes only to see her laughing her head off while the instructors swung me back and forth. Before I knew it, I was flung into the pool. As I went under the water, I grabbed hold of a head that I thought belonged to mommy, screaming but knowing that if I’m going down I’m taking my sister with me. The next thing I knew, my head was above the water with this random girl screaming at me for almost drowning her! Confused, I looked behind her and saw mommy in a raging fit of laughter – she was standing on the sidelines all that time watching the madness unfold and thoroughly enjoying herself! She later came up to me and said – “Congratulations loser, you can now swim!” Knowing her, she was probably even taking credit for it!
From L-R: Gazu Maasi, Mommy (exasperated as usual by my wailing), Me (obviously), Nigar Maasi
When I look back at the incident now, I’m glad mommy never came to my rescue that day by asking the instructors to cut me some slack. She knew she could have, but she also knew she’d be just around the corner if things got out of hand. I needed to learn how to fight my fears. Given the sheltered life I had led all along, it was necessary for me to be thrown into the deep end and learn how to navigate the waters. It all seems pretty prophetic now. We were thrown into the deepest end of our lives 5 years ago when Mommy took off on a journey of her own. We did learn to swim slowly and steadily, in fact we still are learning and the process may never stop, but we know that she's always around the corner to lift our heads above the water in case we start to drown. And that’s something you must always remember too.
Mommy and Me at our favourite family get-away at Panchghani (she would be so mad at me for uploading this picture!!)
Armeen, we miss mommy every single day (some days more than the others), but you already know that. I hope that by the time you read this letter, I’ve found the courage to watch your baby videos featuring mommy with you. Till then, you have these stories and these experiences from her life that will hopefully help you to know your mother a little better. We all wish that you had got to spend more time with her but just know that she's always around. In your heart, in your soul and in your being. When you begin to look for answers to things you don’t understand, just remember that it is a blessing to be born to two people as positive, inspiring and courageous as your parents. Use these attributes that have passed on from them to you to stride through life, gracefully and with your head held high. When all else fails, just look within. Place your hand on your heart and you will have all the answers you need right there.