Some Pages from My Life with My Grand Mother
Hamida Begum aka Apa Jan of the Whole Family
Writing from my desk, presently based, in a small town called Bani Gala in the outskirts of the capital city Islamabad Pakistan, I am drifting far away into another world of the happiest and peaceful of times.
Migrating from a land, tormented ripped apart and crushed by a great Two Nation Divide for Freedom , in the Indo Pak Sub continent, I was carried across the border cautiously and secretly by my brave mother Ms Saeeda Begum ,along with my two year old sister, to a newly created state. We traveled for three days and three nights, fearing ambushes by the enemies but we managed to survive by the Grace of Almighty Allah and with the help of some close friends who knew about our coming. How the news reached them is still vague as no one dared to speak about any matter with anyone. No one could be trusted. Once across the border we were in safe hands but still miles away from Father, a serving army medical doctor., who we knew had managed to cross over to Pakistan with a friend. Well, what a beginning to life!
The first living place was the famous Hill Station Murree, at 9000 feet above sea level, fully surrounded by tall pine trees, spersed with fresh water springs and sweet juicy apple trees. Winters were cold and snowy, but Summers were cool.
What a wonderful theme for September. Grand Parents’ stories. This month being a month of changing season, new beginnings, new school year activities and a think back time on sweet and sad memories. ‘Come September’ and along come flashes of sun filled and love filled days.
I was fortunate to spend some years of my childhood with my own Grand Mother Ms Hamida Begum the only sister of four handsome brothers, a native of Kashmir State (now occupied by India) born and brought up in the state of Punjab and lived a short married life in the Northern Areas of Pakistan specially in the towns of Gupis and Gilgit.
I never saw or met my Grand Father Ghulam Qadir Qureshi A gazetted civil officer in the services of pre partition British Indian Government.
Grandmother Hamida Begum became a widow. Two daughters and a son were the survivors with her. When I awakened to Life I found myself very close to my Grand mother. I was in the KG class .Every night my sister and I would snuggle up to her and ask eagerly for ‘stories’ and smilingly laughingly she would recite usually a poem in praise of the Almighty. She knew many stories of the life of saintly and religious people.
I never saw her cry. She had a fine sense of humor.She could bake and cook, surprisingly baking without an oven was a great skill…and she made the sweet flour biscuits the best of all.
Imagine my Grand mother was so fond of reading that she had a magazine subscription from another land as Pakistan did not have the printing facilities in the early 1950s .The magazine had stories of Sufis and saints and were full of miracles. I would be very touched by them and unconsciously my love for the unseen grew with these true anecdotes.
Soon Grand Mother left our house to live with her son who had returned from Saudi Arabia to settle in Pakistan and there came a big time gap. I would miss my grandmothers guidance stories and her baked sweet biscuits called ‘Mathhi ‘ but most of all I missed her prayers and recitals. She would sit calmly on the carpet and sing in a low soft voice…’Oh why did you delay when it was my turn’ a sort of loving complaint which I understood much later in life. She was a great supporter a motivator but very strict regarding socialization when it came to us sisters. ‘ No going out unnecessarily’ Prayers first, cover your head,’ but I think it was all because of our love and protection’
The country was new and our family had migrated from Kashmir and opted for Pakistan. But it was a good time then. Grand Mother would always help me and I missed her when she left.
Grand Mother Apajan was an expert in making ‘Vegetable Pickles’ It was such fun to watch her preparing washing and cutting the green stuff. This would be in the Winters , sitting on a charpoy in the small back yard in the sun.
She passed away after a brief illness in the year 1974. At that time I was married and expecting my second child. Life was so different without her. She was a pillar of strength and I believe that she passed that strength over to my mother.
And now I am myself a Grand Mother. But this life is so different. My life as a grand daughter was simpler with more love, lots of creativity, sewing knitting and cooking early to bed and early to rise’ life style. But times have changed. This is the 21st Century. A digital technological world and a demanding one for a Grand Mother…I must say. My Life with my Grand kids is also full of love fun laughter and much more advanced in learning.
And from hundreds of stories I would like to share one with the readers.
I believe children must have the company of grown ups as they learn and experience life from two ages. Mir Abdul Sami my five year old grandson visited homeland Pakistan in 2012. Coming from UAE he found life much different in Grand parents home. He came with his mother and elder brother. One day I asked him.
‘Sami what are you doing?
‘I am playing, I need cars and Nascar games’ he said
I knitted toy cars for Sami and Abdullah my youngest grandson…Grandma must know how to knit…
‘Mom! Mom where’s my mom, I have to find her, I must find her’ and this was about his mom’ Mom cannot be away for even a minute’. She is preparing some food Sami’.
In food yogurt was the favourite and in vegetables fried ‘lady fingers’, no rice at all.
All play would be in Grand father’s room where he would be resting all day after a heart bypass surgery. Sami was totally fascinated by toy cars,cars all over the bed, under the bed and around the bed…arranging in lines one after the other then racing into each other and sometimes crashing and rolling over…all of them models of Hotwheels Brand
Grandfather would say, ‘enough now close up time’ and all would go in a bag or a box.Sami was a responsible boy and he kept all his toys safe and collected till it was time to take them out again. No outdoor activity attracts him. That was the difference…all the time we would be playing outside the house in the sand around the trees marbles, hopscotch, hide and seek, but what a difference in games..
Our time questions were permissions to play outside and now I as a grand mother am asked ‘Nano can I play a game on your laptop’ Ahan’ Grandma has to be very tech savvy’.
And they are so innocent like angels but very practical too…once my daughter narrated an afternoon anecdote. She woke up from her nap to find a dozen eggs broken against the back wall of the house..the space was all sticky, Oh what happened, ‘Mama our teacher said in our science class that there is a chick in every egg, we were looking for them but there was not even one in any egg’ Oh Dear ‘curiosity killed a dozen’ Mama had to do a lot of cleaning and explaining later.
Children are loving they need care. As a grandma I am an online teacher helper and an emergency standby.I must know how to write letters, short speeches, make lunch for at least a dozen loving famished guests at two hours notice and stay awake all night and never feel tired…I wait for the happy reunion time all the time.