‘Write something’, he sent me a message. A few days later, I got another message, ‘stop ignoring, write about something’.
Write about something.. anything.. write about me’, he said.
‘What can I write about you’, I asked.
He was the first newborn as of the second generation in my family. On the day, I being the youngest was left home, as usual, there was no place in the car and a list of never-ending chores were assigned to me. I took responsibility like a soldier dugs entrenchment and moves forward.. it was that serious, for once I wanted my mum and big sister to feel relaxed and proud that day. We were expecting people coming over to congratulate straight away as per custom.
While being engrossed with cleaning and managing the phone rang and I ran to pick it up. It was a mixed confused emotion.. my mother in a much-excited tone congratulated me, ‘it’s a boy’, she said, ‘you are officially a khala’.
I still remember that moment of joy, I wanted to dance, to share my joy with someone..everyone, I wanted to knock every door and shout out loud that I now had a nephew. I tried hard to concentrate and focus on my assigned chores yet it was a big ask now that I had heard the news. I just wanted to see him, to find out how he looked like.
In the evening every one came back after a never-ending wait. I asked many questions as soon as they stepped in, ‘he is cute’ they all said and that his eyes were just like mine, my brother in law joked about it. I in a state of elation felt even proud and relatable.
In a few days time, I finally managed to get a place in the car. We used to have priority seating according to age and I being youngest had the last priority.
It was a great relief to manage to see him. He was very pale, almost yellow and for the first seven days had not opened his eyes. My mother kept his face in the light of the sun coming through windows. On the seventh day, he finally opened his eyes. Everyone was very happy, his father being a paediatrician himself was the happiest man I could find, ‘you see’, he said to me, I told you his eyes were on you’,
Yet this time I didn’t jump for joy. For the eyes were very small and tiny, nothing extraordinary about them.
Very soon he was brought home and I got to see him every now and then. I never left his side and observed him quietly for a long time. He was reserved, he couldn’t talk yet but could sit and every time I put my hands up to pick him up he used to take a few moments to think and then put his arms up to be picked. He always took a moment to decide.
He was not the most clever child I knew, yet he used to listen carefully and follow instructions. I taught him how to draw and colour. He still complains how I made him colour so perfectly, I often thought colouring was the first step to eye and hand coordination, I was of the old school thought and wanted him to have beautiful handwriting and concentration.
He was left-handed, we often played games, sang poems and did fun activities with the rest of his cousin and sibling gang. I was his class teacher at school and also his tutor at home. Before I came back from work he was at home waiting for me to teach him. I used to help him study with my other very capable nephew and my beautiful yet very quiet niece who used to observe me closely all the time.
I must admit I was a firm teacher. I was especially strict with my nephews at school, I wanted them to be perfect, exceptional, outstanding. I always pushed them for excellence. He always took my criticism with a big smile and never complained. It was a bit of bad luck that despite all his hard work he was always second in position, it was hard for me to make a report for him missing the first position by a mark each time. I wanted to see the expression of joy on being first that he so wanted.
One day, I got a call from my sister. He was very upset. He wanted me to come. ‘There is no car, I can’t come’, I said, ‘tell him and he will understand’.
Yet he did not understand despite his humble nature and I rushed on a taxi. He certainly seemed upset. Yet I didn’t ask him why. I knew everyone must have been asking him anyway for no avail. He used to have walls around himself every time he was upset over something.. and I always never asked him but got him busy and occupied. An activity with him always cheered him up and he soon used to come out of his bubble and forget all about it.
I sat with kids and we drew their favourite cartoon characters. We drew them all in one size. His favourite was sheriff woody from toy story and Buzz Lightyear. His favourite movie of all times was lion king but I excused for not being able to draw animals. We made beautiful characters, coloured them with dark colours with great perfection and then pasted them in the middle of the wall in sequence as a wallpaper. It took us an entire day to finish it. In the end, he was more than happy to leave him in that room to sleep.
It was not long when my marriage got arranged. I soon had to leave for abroad. I had given plenty of time to these kids, they were away from their parents and we all tried hard to never see them sad or down. It was great pressure on them. Yet for good schooling, there was not much choice. When I left for the UK I was sure they will be alright.
Few years back he told me, ‘you know uji khala, I never knew I was away from my parents until you got married and moved’.
Yet I missed them in England like anything. How they were studying? who were their friends? were they reading books? Did they learn sportsmanship? I wished they had not learnt abusive terms from one of their spoilt class fellows. I used to keep talking to them and ask them questions.
On my visit to Pakistan I spent less time with my siblings, as they were always busy with work. I and my husband always used to play cricket, table tennis and board games or watch movies with these kids.
Gradually, I realised my nephews were now more fond of my husband than me. I often refused to play cricket as I was occupied or babysitting my own kids. They used to get upset, I had changed they remarked.
Time flew and every year I saw them five growing up and getting wiser and more naughty. It was quite a realisation when one year I found my nephew with his phone and laptop. He and others were big enough to have a solitary ‘me time’ and new freedom with technology.
I being the same old school though did not accept the change at all.
It was a time when my little children were slightly grown up and I wanted to play with them now. Yet they did not have time for me. I often got cross, and they remarked with a cool expression, ‘chill uji khala, all is well’.
Yet the power cut down was the most life-changing time of all. They will all come out of their rooms and come straight to me, ‘so how are you Uji khala, how have you been’? They asked.
‘Go away’, I used to say, ‘now that there is no WiFi you suddenly thought of me’.
I often stayed a guide and support for them over the phone. One thing they expected was a call from me on their result day. I being happy or mad was all dependant on their result.
It was that time when again I had to sit with my eldest nephew. It was regarding a choice for his career. I always knew I would never push them for something they never wanted in life. I could fight with their parents for their interest and here I was trying to convince him for something he didn’t want to do.
‘I wish I see you as a doctor’. I said with a heavy heart. I knew I was being selfish in imposing my choice on him.
‘You too, I always thought you will be on my side, you know I want to play the guitar, I have an artistic side about me and I want to explore that’. He said bluntly.
‘Yes and all I mean to say is that keep it as a hobby, to unwind yourself, to give a treat to yourself after exams and after a tiring academic year.’ It was the time I couldn’t make him busy with colouring, he was taller than me, had great oratory skills and much more conviction in his belief. He knew exactly what he wanted and I couldn’t feel any less proud.
‘You also want me to be a doctor only because my parents are too, and that I have a whole established work office to take over.’ He was shattered I could see.
‘No, only because you are a kind and compassionate person. You feel for others and care about them. Just by sitting with you everyone feels emotionally stronger and well looked after. Imagine the kind of doctor you would be, people will thank you for being their doctor’. I shared my opinion honestly.
‘I can do that with music too’. He was not being serious. He fought a battle and finally decided to go ahead with medicine.
I was so proud to get to hear about his decision. I felt the same excitement that I had on his birth, I couldn’t wait to see a stethoscope around his neck and
him talking to his patients.
Little did I know that this very special child, with very small eyes, will see the world like no one else. He had been my rock, my support, my strength all along. He can listen to my voice on phone and tell me ‘what’s wrong, tell me, are you not well?’ And then he would tell me the reason, the family history, the medication and then a warning to follow his instructions, be it my hay fever and deadly allergy or my mood swings. I feel so proud every time he gives his consultation or looks after my old mum. He is my right hand, my source of spiritual strength and my bag of positivity.
He is the reason I write. He is the first one to read it. He always replies after reading my story, ‘I loved it’ and I publish it straight away.
As much as I pray for this nephew/son of mine, as much as I believe in him, he somehow still believes in me, in my capabilities as an individual. He fights with me like no one, trying to change me back to the person I used to be, cool, calm and collected, in control of every situation in life. With children like him, people like me live a long life.
‘ Abd, I wrote something, this time about you as you always asked. Live a long, happy and blessed life. Uji khala wants to see your small eyes sparkle with big joy all her life. May you stay a humble, kind and caring doctor like you are. So that when we are old, worn out and weak we are always assured that you are not far. I wish you enjoy your profession and never look back on your choice. Enjoy the artistic talented side of yours, explore new horizons and every time you shut yourself in walls like a child, remember to pen down. You have a poet in you and a pen is a great friend. Enjoy life, blessed to have you ❤️
P.S get married soon so that I can enjoy the first wedding as an old aunt. No pressures .. but aunts have their selfish times too. I want to prepare dance and wear formal outfits.. plus I don’t want to look too old, time is clicking you see.. but no pressures again, take a deep breath and hurry up what are you waiting for 🔨🔨